151 - The Beginning of Labor Pains [b]
Click to access the Different Dispensational Interpretations of Matthew 24 that Dr. Dean referenced in this class.
Dr. Steve Austin's article entitled: Are Earthquakes Signs of the End Times?Gordon Franz's article entitled Earthquakes: On the Increase? or Warning of Judgment to Come?
The Beginning of Labor Pains
Matthew Lesson #151
January 22, 2017
“Father, we’re thankful we have this time together. We’re thankful we can focus on Your Word, that it is alive and powerful and that it is Your Word that pierces into our souls to expose that which is from the sin nature, that which is wrong, that which is evil, to expose the false ideas, the false concepts that we have, that we might have our thinking transformed by Your Word, that You might use that in Your purpose to conform us in terms of our character and our persons to the image of Jesus Christ.
“Father, our purpose here is to be prepared for service, to be prepared to be witnesses, to be prepared to live our spiritual life, to face the various issues and challenges, both intellectual as well as personal, that we confront on a daily basis, that we may think as You think and that we may reflect that in our actions, our views, our opinions, the things that we do.
“Father, pray that You would challenge us from Your Word today. Help us to understand these things. In Christ’s name, amen.”
We’re in Matthew 24. We’re continuing our study of the Olivet Discourse, which is the most extensive teaching and instruction that our Lord Jesus Christ gave on future things—what is known theologically as eschatology, from the Greek word ESCHATOS, meaning “last things” and LOGOS for the study of or knowledge or the words about something.
Eschatology is the focus here, and there’s quite a bit here in these two chapters of the Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24 and Matthew 25. We’re going to spend probably two or three more weeks on the first part of Matthew 25 because of its significance as Jesus’ message. It gives a framework for understanding Revelation, understanding much of biblical prophecy.
Starting down in verse 32, we’re going to shift gears, and one of the significant aspects of that, I believe, it is still talking about future things, it’s still talking about what will take place in the Tribulation. It is still focused upon the Jewish people and Jewish believers and the warning there.
But there are many dispensationalists, and there are many Christians who think that aspects of that relate to the Bema Seat, the Judgment Seat of Christ and Church Age believers today. We need to spend some time understanding what the issues are there because that causes a lot of problems and a lot of confusion.
Part of the responsibility of the pastor in his teaching is to help the congregation understand how to read the Bible, so that when you’re reading your Bible through once a year that you can read intelligently, and you can correlate passages from Old Testament and New Testament to what you know.
None of us know all these things thoroughly. I certainly don’t, and I’ve spent a little more time on this than y’all have. But it’s important for you to understand what the issues are, so that red flags will pop up—well maybe they won’t pop, maybe they’ll just sort of wiggle a little bit. Hopefully, they’ll pop more for some of you than others, but that’s the goal.
This morning as we’re moving along, we’re going to look at this first section in Matthew 24:4–8, and this is defined at the end of verse 8 as “the beginning of sorrows”—an important phrase that we have to understand: that this is the beginning of sorrows.
The word there actually isn’t the word for sorrow; it’s the word for labor pains. It’s often “birth pangs,” but I find that term to be a little bit antiquated; it’s labor pains. Labor pains don’t take place during the entire period of pregnancy.
I know most women are very grateful for that. They only come at the end as an immediate sign that the birth is going to happen very soon, at least compared to the other nine months.
In terms of the context, Jesus has left the temple where He has announced judgment upon the temple: that no stone would be left upon another. He walks across the Kidron Valley and takes a seated position on the far side, which is the position a rabbi would take when he was going to teach.
I don’t know where we lost that idea, but sometimes I think that would be nice just to be able to sit and not to stand through the message. Although, I think that standing gives you a little more energy than just sitting.
Matthew 24:3, “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying”—and we read in Mark this morning that it was specifically four that came and spoke to Him: James and John, Peter and Andrew. And they said, “ ‘tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?’ ”
We’ve looked at that this in the last couple of weeks and said that this actually is two questions. The first is, “When will these things be?” The “these things” there relates back to the destruction of the temple.
Question number one is, “when is the temple going to be destroyed, when is that going to be fulfilled—this prophecy You just gave?” That’s the near fulfillment, as I taught, to authenticate Jesus’ prophecy, according to standards in Deuteronomy 13, Deuteronomy 18.
The second question, “What will be THE sign?” It’s got an article there, and it’s a singular, it’s not “the signs of the times”— something you often hear and read too much by people who don’t pay attention to the details of the text. It is THE sign of Your coming.
As I pointed out last time, this really relates further on to Matthew 24:30. The sign of Your coming and the end of the age are linked tightly together by the grammar. They’re not synonymous. It’s not a Granville Sharp Rule, for those of you who understand that. It is linking them though in a very tight association, so that one results in the other.
His coming brings about the end of the age. In Jewish thought there was this present age, and then there was the future Messianic Age, and so they are thinking in terms of the Kingdom.
Now what is the message of Matthew? It’s the kingdom. You’ve got to keep your eye on that ball. I think this is one of the reasons you have so many different opinions about Matthew 24 is that we get our eye off the ball: that Matthew is writing in relation to his thesis.
If you’ve ever written a master’s thesis—if you’ve ever just in seventh or eighth grade had to write a short paper that had a topical sentence, you’re supposed to only present information related to your topical sentence or related to your thesis. Anything else is superfluous and unnecessary.
So writers of Scripture stick to their thesis. In some cases they state their theses more specifically than in others, but Matthew is clearly the gospel related to the Kingdom and the presentation of the King, and so all of this must be understood in terms of that purpose.
So they’re asking for the sign. In verse 30 Jesus says, “Then”—and we’re going to see that this is an important word, the word “then.” It indicates some progression in time—“THEN the sign”—so it’s following other things that He has said—“Then THE sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven.” That’s the sign: it is what appears in the heavens. It’s not all of these other things that lead up to it contextually. They’re not referred to as signs.
Of these two questions then, Matthew and Mark answer the second. They don’t address the first. They don’t give details about the near fulfillment, which is the destruction of the Temple which occurred in AD 70 when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.
The reason Matthew doesn’t address that is that doesn’t have anything to do with, what? The Kingdom. It’s superfluous information. He wants to focus on that which is important which brings about the coming the Kingdom. He tells us a lot more than any of the other Gospel writers what Jesus said in relationship to His coming, which will establish the Kingdom. So that’s our framework for understanding that.
Now as a foundation for this, we have to understand—and I have added a fourth point here—to understand the background.
1. Jesus is talking to them as Jews about Jewish prophecy.
He’s not talking to them as Church Age believers because it’s not the Church Age yet; it is still the Age of Israel. There has been no instruction whatsoever up to this point about the church.
In fact, I think there’s only one place in Matthew where EKKLESIA is used technically to refer to the church. Generally, it’s a word that refers to assembly. So when Matthew was talking about when there are problems, somebody offends you, take it to the assembly, he’s not talking about the church. That’s just a general word, and I think in that context, it is talking about the synagogue.
But when He is talking to Peter and says, “Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am?” Peter says, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus says, “On this rock I will build My church.” That’s the only technical term.
What did He tell them about the church at that point? Only that a) it’s future because it’s a future tense verb, and b) Jesus is going to build it, not them. That’s all they know.
Other than that, they’re just kind of going, “What’s this?” It’s not clear. There’s no content that’s been given to the disciples yet about the church.
2. The Olivet Discourse then is the last thing Jesus says to the Jews about Israel.
He isn’t saying anything about the church.
3. Nothing in the Olivet Discourse is about Church Age believers or has direct application to Church Age believers.
But it has implications for us to understand the plan and purposes of God in terms of future things.
Fourth—this is what I added this week:
4. All living Church Age believers will be raptured …
We won’t be here during these events that are described in Matthew 24 or 25. It does not have the church in view because we are taken to Heaven in the event that is known as the Rapture, and we will be taken in an instant, in the blink of an eye. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, “… and we will be with the Lord.”
A couple different verses are important here:
1 Thessalonians 4:15–18, Paul says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain”—who is he talking about, the dead or those who are alive? Very simple. He is talking about living Church Age believers—“that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.”
Now he brings in those who are dead in Christ or maybe they’re asleep in Christ, like some on the back row. “Asleep” is just a euphemism for believers who have died. It’s not talking about soul sleep—that’s a heretical doctrine from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Then he’s going to explain the dynamics of this in verse 16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven ...”
Three things happen: There’s a shout, there’s the voice of the archangel, and there’s the trumpet of God. So there are sound effects, and instantly “the dead in Christ will rise first”—that’s those who are asleep.
Technically, that’s not the Rapture. You’ve heard that by probably a lot of people who didn’t pay enough attention to the text. The dead in Christ will rise first. That’s not the word for Rapture. That’s the word for resurrection.
Then a subsequent event separated by a nanosecond, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds.”
There is the verb HARPAZO, which was translated into the Latin Vulgate with the word from which we get our English word “rapture.” There’ll be somebody you’ll hear say, “Rapture is not in the Bible anywhere,” and you’ll say, “Well, you’re reading the wrong Bible, wrong language. Go read the Latin, and you will find the Latin word for ‘rapture’ in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.”
Those who are HARPAZO-ed are those who are alive and remain. So technically the Rapture just refers to those who are still alive at the time. The others are resurrected. “We who are alive are HARPAZO-ed together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” So even though it subsequent, it’s such a minute amount of time that they can be spoken of as happening together. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Now some people think, “Well, all this eschatology stuff is just … that’s off in the distance. I got problems in my life right now. I got to deal with what’s going on in my life, and let prophecy take care of itself.”
The problem is the very next verse says, “… comfort one another with these words.” Eschatology is designed to be a comfort to all of us, so that we can understand what’s going to happen when we die, and what future things are going to be, and whether or not we’re going to be here for some of the horrific things that are described in prophecy.
Another verse that we should be reminded of is in Revelation 3:10, just the second part. I’ve gone through this. You can go back and listen to the lesson on it, but that “because” clause at the beginning of verse 10 grammatically in Greek belongs to the previous verse. Unfortunately, they split the verses at the wrong spot, and it doesn’t belong to the second.
Jesus isn’t saying to John, “I also will keep you out of the hour of trial because you kept My command.” That’s not what He is saying. That “because you kept My command” phrase is related to the previous verse. So the period should come there at the end, after “persevere”—end of sentence.
Then the next sentence reads, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.”
In the Book of Revelation, as we studied, the term “earth dweller”—those who dwell on the earth—is a reference to the unbelievers who are left on the earth after the Rapture. Those who continue in negative volition and don’t accept the Gospel, stay as earth dwellers.
Those who accept the Gospel become believers. This is a test that comes upon the whole world, but there are those Church Age believers who are kept from that hour of trial.
As we look at this then, we realize Jesus is answering this second question, “What’s the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?” And He’s going to build to it. He’s going to give additional information. He doesn’t just jump down to verse 30, He gives background information as to what else is going on.
This is when we get into some interesting things related to understanding and interpreting prophecy. Last time I went over this, and I said that there are three broad views, historically, as to how to interpret prophecy. These are fancy words for past, present, and future.
We don’t need to talk about Preterism. That means that they basically believe all of Matthew 24 and most of Revelation 4–20 was fulfilled in AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed.
But historicism has been a very, very popular dominant way of interpreting these prophetic passages all through the Church Age. And the idea was that you could look out at different times in history and see certain things taking place and say, “Ah! That’s Revelation 8, that’s Revelation 9, that’s Revelation 10!”
Historically, when dispensationalism began to be organized, systematized, and thought through, first by John Nelson Darby from the 1830s to the 1880s. Later by other prophecy teachers in the late 19th century and into the 20th century—most notably people like William Blackstone in his book Jesus is Coming who was the figure behind what was known as the Blackstone Memorial, which was signed by all the major industry names: Rockefeller, Carnegie, many, many others, all the members of Congress, and the Senate all signed this.
It was a document that said, “We affirm that the Jews have a right to be returned to their historic homeland in Israel.” This preceded Theodore Herzl, the father of Jewish Zionism, by about eight or ten years, so that it is thought by some that he was a real founder of modern Zionism, not Herzl.
Which is always a surprise when I tell my Jewish friends that because they’ve never heard of Blackstone. They have never heard a Christian Zionism; they’ve only heard about Herzl. But that gets off into another subject.
What happened with the rise of dispensationalism is they begin to recognize that these things were all future. This shift to futurism began to occur in the 1700s, realizing all this is future. We’re not living within the period of Matthew 24 or within the period of Revelation 4–19. But unfortunately, that dominated all of the literature.
People who came along like Scofield and Chafer and later Walvoord in the early years of Dallas Seminary. You had a lot of people who when they would go read anything on the Olivet Discourse or on Revelation, they read a lot of stuff that was historicist in its implications.
Sort of like somebody crawling out of a mud pit with their waders on, they still had a lot of that gunk stuck to their waders. So as you go through the last 150 years, you can trace a gradual development in our understanding of these prophetic passages that gets away from trying to identify certain events as “signs of the times.”
We still have these very popular prophecy teachers in radio Bible classes, people like Hal Lindsey, and to some degree, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, and any number of others who look out on the scene, and when they see wars or they see the rise of diseases like HIV and AIDS, or they see some massive earthquake, they say, “These are signs of the times. Jesus is getting closer.”
What’s happened here is they are still influenced to some degree by historicism, but this is typical. I have put a summary for you on the website that will be linked on the little panel with this lesson in it, so that you can see the differences here. It’s really kind of interesting. I’m not going to go through all of them this morning. I don’t think Sunday morning is the right place to do that.
But what you find is a certain number of people—theologians—who will look at what happens here—Jesus’ description from Matthew 24:4–14—and they will say that represents the trends in the Church Age. That was Chafer’s view; that was Walvoord’s view; his students like Hal Lindsey, Pastor Thieme, and a number of others followed that view.
They tended to put the seals, trumpets, and bowls judgments into the second half of the Tribulation. And they said, “Well, these wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes, you see that all through the Church Age.”
My question is, didn’t you see those all through the Old Testament as well? There were earthquakes, massive earthquakes in the Old Testament period. There were diseases, there were wars: all these things have all gone on through history.
So how do you distinguish the kinds of wars today or earthquakes or pestilences from those of the period before Christ? “Well, they are reported more.” Well, that’s not what this is talking about. We have instruments that can measure earthquakes.
They’re more sensitive, so we have more earthquakes. No, we don’t. I’ll give you some data before we get done. I’ve also posted a couple of papers with this that are in-depth studies of earthquake frequency in the 20th century, one of which was written by Steve Austin who knows something about both dispensationalism and geology and does a great job demonstrating that, so we will look at that.
This is what’s happened, and as we go through this, just as a graphic, historicism sees fulfillment all through the Church Age. Dispensationalists have been influenced to some degree from that, and those people I just mentioned were influenced that way. I’ll talk about that a little bit more.
We are futurists, and I try to be as consistent a futurist as I possibly can be because consistency isn’t the hobgoblin of little minds, it’s the key to accurate interpretation.
When we get into understanding what Jesus is talking about here, He is talking about that period which we know as the Tribulation. It is also known as Daniel’s 70 Weeks. So I’m going to put this up here—it’s just a timeframe—that it’s a seven-year period.
Daniel had a prophecy that there would be 70 periods of seven decreed as a timeline for his people from the time that they were decreed: given a decree to go back and rebuild the city, rebuild its fortifications. We can date that to the time of Artaxerxes in Nehemiah and from that time until the cutting off of Messiah would be seven years before the end. So that would be 483 years.
You take the 70 periods of seven, that’s was actually 490 years, and you lop off seven, the Messiah is cut off after the 483rd year, and the 483rd year ended just when Jesus entered into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday.
Then there’s an interval clearly in the text, that the Messiah appears after the end of that 483rd, and then it picks up again talking about the last seven-year period. It’s indicated by the coming prince who signs a covenant with Israel, and it ends with the return of the Messiah. Daniel indicates that there is a period there, at the midpoint, where the prince who is to come will desecrate the temple.
Another way that we can divide this: Daniel’s 70 weeks is also referred to in Jeremiah 30:7 as the time of Jacob’s trouble. The fact that it’s Jacob’s trouble indicates its primary purpose is for Israel. It’s not a time designated where the primary purpose is for the Gentiles. It’s primary for what God is doing in bringing the Jewish nation to recognize the Messiah.
The first part in Matthew 24:8 is described as “the beginning of labor pains ...” That’s really important when you read through this. When He talks about wars and rumors of wars, He is not talking about the Napoleonic wars, He’s not talking about the Civil War, He’s not talking about the Spanish-American War and World War I and World War II, and Operation Desert Storm. He’s talking about global catastrophic wars that occur at the first part of the Tribulation.
These are signs. Those other wars don’t distinguish themselves at all from any other wars going all the way back into the Old Testament. For it to be a sign, it’s unique, a true global war. Even World War II wasn’t a truly global war in the sense that these are going to be truly global wars and other events. But Jesus says these are only the beginning of the labor pains.
Now that term for labor pains is really important from the Old Testament because it’s connected to something called “the Day of the Lord.” We will reference some passages related to “the Day of the Lord,” and maybe I’ll get a chance to talk about that. “The Day of the Lord” is an Old Testament term for a visitation of divine judgment, but many of the passages relate to this end-time judgment.
Jesus says after He talks about the first part, He says then the end will come. Matthew 24:6, “… the end is not yet,” then there’s increase in labor pains—the second half—“… and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14.
So there’s this first part, but the end isn’t yet. In the second part, there are increased labor pains, then the end will come. So it’s clearly making a distinction there, and that tells us that both the first part and second part relate to this Tribulation.
Then we get to Matthew 24:15 and we read, “Therefore when you see …”—and that’s really marked off in the text. The vocabulary indicates a real shift in the drawing of a conclusion—“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place …” So that’s clearly talking about the second half of the Tribulation.
Now what we see, if you look at the document that I posted, is a number of people—quite a few—will take this as a marker that from Matthew 24:15 on we’re talking about the second half of the Tribulation. That’s true; but then they say what we covered before that is the first half of the Tribulation.
It’s sort of interesting how that goes. You have those I mentioned earlier, and they’ll take Matthew 24:4–14 as referring to general signs that go through all of the present Church Age, and then it sort of narrows.
Harry Ironside, who was the pastor of Moody Memorial Church in the 1930s and 1940s in Chicago, was also a Bible teacher at Dallas Seminary, and he said only Matthew 24:4–8 represent general signs that are in the Church Age, but Matthew 24:9–14 are specific events that occur within the Tribulation. So that narrows a little bit.
Then you have people like Arnold Fruchtenbaum and Stan Toussaint who will take only Matthew 24:4–6—that’s their dividing point as general signs—and then Matthew 24:7 on as specific signs within the Tribulation. They have slightly different views.
Fruchtenbaum attempts to identify the signs with World War I and World War II and various other things. See, that’s the influence of historicism. Toussaint comes along, he’s much more consistent with the argument because he actually wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Kingdom as the argument for Matthew, and he’s done more work on that issue than anyone else, but he too has a view where he sees certain general signs in Matthew 24:4–6 that relate to the Church Age.
Then when it comes to pure futurist interpretations, there is one view—this was Dr. Ryrie’s view—that all of Matthew 24:4–14 are futurist—that’s the first half—and then the second half starts in Matthew 24:15, where I’m saying, “No, that’s wrong.”
And I’m not the only one who says that. People like Dwight Pentecost; Lou Barbieri in his commentary on Matthew in the Bible Knowledge Commentary set; Renald Showers, who wrote the theology and doctrine articles for Israel My Glory for many years (who sadly now has Alzheimer’s. They just released a book that he had done or that somebody completed for him on the Olivet Discourse); John Hart, who retired from Moody, all take the same view that I’m taking here. I think it’s the one that’s most consistent with the language.
This is the view that sees:
1. The first 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week are being described in Matthew 4:4–8. This is the beginning of sorrows.
This is talking about unique circumstances in the Church Age.
2. The second 3½ years is then described in Matthew 4:9–14.
Notice verse 9 begins very significantly with the word “Then they will deliver YOU up to Tribulation.” Who’s the “you?” Jesus is talking to the disciples as Jews. The first half of the Tribulation Israel is in a peace treaty with the Antichrist. They’re not being persecuted yet. It’s not until the abomination of desolation halfway through that it all starts to break loose.
The treaty is broken by the Antichrist, and the Jews are persecuted. Daniel says he stops the daily sacrifices. So starting from Matthew 4:9-14 we have a negative description of the persecution that will come upon the Jews.
The second 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week covers Matthew 4:9-12 and that’s increased persecution of Jews after the antichrist breaks his covenant.
Then in Matthew 4:15 we have a “therefore.” You say, “Well Robby, what it says there is ‘then the abomination of desolation.’ That’s halfway through; why do you say that the halfway point occurred in verse 9?”
Because if you remember the way Jewish history is written in a narrative, they often give you the overview: like in Genesis 1 you cover the first seven days, and then Moses comes back, and in Genesis 2 he describes what happens on the sixth day. It gets more specific.
This fits Jewish narrative style. Jesus summarizes the whole period, the first 3½ years, a second 3½ years; and then He comes back. Starting in verse 15, He’s going to tell them how they can avoid—what they need to do to avoid—that persecution in the first half.
So this whole period is described as the “Day of the Lord”. Zechariah 14 is one passage. There are some others, so let me just point out some structural things that you need to pay attention to.
First of all, several times in the passage you have the English word “then.” It’s added in the New King James a couple places. For example, in Matthew 24:11 it says, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” There’s no “then” in the Greek text, so you can just draw a line through that. But this word “then” shows progression of time, that Jesus is talking chronologically through this period of time.
Matthew 24:4 He begins describing the first half. He says, “Take heed that no one deceives you. All these”—that is, everything He describes between Matthew 24:4–8—“are the beginning of sorrows.”
Next in Matthew 24:9–11, He says, “Then they will deliver you”—that word “then” indicates the next step in time—“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. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
Where do false prophets come from? The United States of America? We’re in the Church Age. You don’t have prophets. “Prophets” is an Old Testament term. This is talking to Jews as Jews. “False prophets” isn’t talking about Benny Hinn. “False prophets” is talking about false prophets in a Jewish context. That always has a Jewish overtone. We’re talking to Jews as Jews.
They are not going understand false prophets as somebody going to Greece or going to Egypt or going someplace else. They’re talking about what will happen in Israel in the second half of the Tribulation. You have the rise of these false prophets and false messiahs. And who’s going to end up there? The Antichrist and the false prophet are the chief among many.
Matthew 24:11 just says, “And many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
That’s the significance of this word TOTE in the Greek, translated “then.” BDAG, the Greek Lexicon, says it is used to introduce that which follows in time. It’s a chronological marker.
What happens after that, Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you up to Tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations.”
He’s talking to them as Jews. The Gentiles are going to hate you. Anti-Semitism is going to go off on steroids, and it’s going to make the contemporary Moslems and the Nazis look like wannabes. It’s going to be “open season” on Jews in the second half of the Tribulation.
Jesus describes it, Matthew 24:10, 14, “Then many will be offended, will betray one another and will hate one another. 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.”
I’ll get to this next time: “gospel of the Kingdom” isn’t the gospel of Jesus Christ. It includes it, but it goes back to that the gospel of the Kingdom was:
What John the Baptist preached: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,”
His disciples, “Repent for the kingdom is at hand.”
It’s an announcement of the Kingdom. Now that includes trusting in Jesus as Messiah who died for your sins, but it’s more than that. It is because the Kingdom is about to come.
Then He says in Matthew 24:16, “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” The important word there is to track the chronology that comes after that.
“Then there will be great Tribulation,” as mentioned in Matthew 24:21. This is in the details that are given on the second half of the Tribulation—“will be great Tribulation.”
Now I’m telling you, Dr. Walvoord also taught and has influenced many to say that the Great Tribulation is a technical term for the second half. I don’t think it’s used as a technical term here. Jesus is just saying then it is going to intensify. The Tribulation is going to get worse.
The term is used one other time. It’s in Revelation 7, and it’s talking about the mass of martyrs who are killed in the first seal judgments, and the angel says, “These are those who came out of the Great Tribulation.” If “Great Tribulation” means the second half … see Walvoord made that error. That’s why he threw all three judgments—seal, trumpet, and bowls—into the second half is because of a bad exegetical decision, which has confused many.
So that’s the first point, we have to pay attention to the chronology within the text.
Second, the “for” in verse 7 is important. I mentioned that both—although they take slightly different positions—both Arnold Fruchtenbaum and Stan Toussaint (who by the way, had a bad stroke just right after the last Pre-Trib Conference.
He can’t speak. He’s doing better, but we need to continue to pray for Dr. Toussaint. He was one of my favorite professors at Dallas. He has held the line. He is a great guy and really struggling. He had polio as a child, and it was coming back on him as post-polio syndrome, and in recent years, I tried to get him to come as a speaker, but he had to quit going out to speak because of that, but we need to pray for him.)
Anyway, both of those men, who are great scholars, divided between verse 6 and verse 7, when they said that verses 4 through 6 is general trends of the Church Age, verse 7 and on is not. The problem with that is verse 7 begins with this word “for.” In the Greek it’s GAR, and it is explaining the verse before.
So you can’t put verse 6 to describe one thing and verse 7 to describe something else, when verse 7 is an explanation of verse 6. So verse 6 is about wars and rumors of wars, and Matthew 24:7 explains what they’re going to be like, “nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom.” and then adds additional information, “And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”
These are famines, pestilences, and earthquakes unlike any we have ever seen. Both Daniel and in this passage in Matthew, describe the Tribulation as this “Day of the Lord” as unlike any period in human history. We can’t even imagine the horrors of this.
So the third thing to point out when you read this, is the phrase in Matthew 24:6, “but the end is not yet,” indicating that He is talking about something close to the end, but it’s not yet.
Matthew 24:8 says that, “… these are the beginning of sorrows …” Not the beginning of the Church Age, but the beginning of sorrows—the beginning of the labor pains. Labor pains come at the end. Matthew 24:9, “Then they will”—the “then” there is in the Greek—“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you.” So that tells us that there’s a period before where Israel is safe, and then the period that comes after.
We see here under point #4 that Matthew 24:4–8 describes the first half of the Tribulation and Matthew 24:9–14 describes the second half of the Tribulation. The second half focuses on the intensified hostility toward Jews in Israel during that second half of the Tribulation. It’s going to get really bad. That’s when the Antichrist desecrates the temple, everybody has to worship him, and this is when Jesus is going to warn them.
He describes in Matthew 24:9–14 all the horrors and then in Matthew 24:15–16 He says how to get away from it: “When you see this happen, you immediately flee to the mountains.”
That’s point #5.
A hard break occurs there at 24:15 when Jesus says, “Therefore, when.” He’s going back and giving a different approach to that second half than what He gave in verses 9 through 14. He’s providing the solution for Israeli-based—not for some Jewish believers living in Houston, Texas. Doesn’t say when you see the signs flee to the mountains.
It’s a long way to the mountains unless you’re over on E. Mount Houston Rd. I’m still trying to find the mountain that’s there. This is talking about Jews living in Jerusalem and Judea. It’s very clear. “When you see these things happen, get out of Dodge.”
Let’s run through these verses quickly. We’ve understood most of it. Jesus answered and said to them, Matthew 24:4, “Take heed that no one deceives you.”
The word for “take heed” is a Greek word BLEPO, which means to watch, to pay attention to something, to stay alert. “Be careful to watch for these things.” He’s warning them. He says, “… that no one deceives you.” There’s going to be massive deception through all of the Tribulation period.
Matthew 24:45, He repeats this; He says, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.”
He’s talking to them as Jews. This is going to happen in Israel. May happen in other parts of the world, but He’s not talking about that. This is specifically targeting Israel and Jews.
Matthew 24:11, in the second half of the Tribulation, this intensifies and “many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” They will actually cause many to follow them.
Matthew 24:24, “For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
They are real signs and wonders. They’re not coming from God. See, the Bible clearly says that through the power of Satan, false prophets can heal. The Antichrist will heal. He will perform real miracles, but they are not from God. That’s why you can’t follow after people who claim to heal, even if they did heal somebody.
What does Deuteronomy 13 say? Even if the false prophet signs come true, they’re given to you to test whether you will obey the Lord your God. Are you going to put the Word of God over experience?
So you go to Benny Hinn and he, you know, waves his magic wand, and you jump up and walk out, or you see somebody jump up and walk out of their wheelchair, and maybe they really do. I had one lady swear up and down that she was cured from cancer.
I said great. Went to Deuteronomy 13. Jesus gave you that experience to see if you’re going to believe the experience over His Word. His Word says that’s not what you think it is. She didn’t care, like most people today. They prefer experience over the truth of God’s Word.
Then we have this important phrase here that this is the beginning of labor pains. That relates it in Isaiah 13:6–13, which you can read later, or Jeremiah 30:6–7, that’s the passage that talks about the time of Jacob’s Trouble. Those are connected contextually to “the Day of the Lord.”
That tells us something important, that the whole seven-year period of the Tribulation is identified intertextually with “the Day of the Lord”. That’s very important to understand. We will come back and tie a knot on that later. This fits with what Jesus is teaching; it fits with Jewish expectations of time.
Raphael Patai, what was probably his doctoral dissertation and a work called “The Messianic Texts” where he goes through all sorts of intertestamental Jewish documents, concludes, “The idea (that is in ancient Judaism) became entrenched that the coming of the Messiah will be preceded by greatly increased suffering. This will last seven years. And then, unexpectedly, the Messiah will come.” That idea was already there.
Another author, Millar Burrows, wrote about this early period and Jewish eschatology, said, “A prominent feature of Jewish eschatology, as represented by the rabbinic literature, was the time of trouble preceding Messiah’s coming. It was called ‘the birth pangs of the Messiah,’ sometimes more briefly translated ‘the Messianic woes.’ ”
So there’s obviously a time of expectation in the intertestamental period and an understanding of certain facets of the future that were correct.
Isaiah 13:8 talks about this phrase, “the beginning of birth pangs,” and says, “people will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows”—that’s labor pains—“and sorrows will take hold of them. They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth. They will be amazed at one another. Their faces will be like flames.”
This will be a horrific time, terrible time, only way to escape it is to trust in Christ as Savior. We will avoid that. That doesn’t mean we, as Church Age believers, avoid all suffering or all persecution.
Certainly, church history has witnessed horrific examples of the persecution of believers. We can go back to the Protestant Reformation, you can go to the Reformation in England, and the hundreds that were burned alive at the stake by Mary Tudor, who was referred to as Bloody Mary.
You can go right now to northern Syria and northern Iraq and tens of thousands of Christians are being slaughtered for their faith, and they’re being tortured for their faith. So the Rapture is not an escape from tribulation and suffering. It is to tell us that we will not be the recipients of the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of God during the time of Daniel’s 70th week.
Next time we will come back, we will go a little further, talk a little bit more about some of these other things, get a little bit further down the road into the second half of the Tribulation Period.
“Father, we’re thankful for Your grace toward us, that there is grace before judgment throughout all of history. Noah preached for 120 years before the waters of the flood came.
“There have been many other examples in the Old Testament, as You continue to send your prophets to Israel and then to Judah to warn them, to call them back, to turn back to You, and to forsake their idolatry.
“Grace always precedes judgment. The Church Age is a lengthy period of grace, Gospel preaching, to the lost, preceding this horrific judgment of the seven-year period.
“Father, there are many implications of this for our own thinking, as we work through what Jesus is saying. But we are reminded that we have been saved for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to proclaim the truth of the gospel to those who are lost.
“And when we understand what could happen—that the Rapture could occur tomorrow, those left behind would go through the Tribulation—that it adds an urgency to our own need to explain the Gospel to those who don’t understand it and those who are lost.
“Father, give us a heart, a desire, to witness to others. Give us the words that we need. Help us to be trained and to think biblically, that we can give an answer for the hope that is within us.
“Father, we pray that anyone listening to this message would realize that the only solution is to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to reform your life. It is simply a matter, the Bible says, of believing that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins and you will have eternal life.
“Father, we thank You for the revelation of Your Word that we have. We pray that we might be encouraged and strengthened by it, in Christ’s name, amen.”