Why is it important to study Bible prophecy in the Church Age? Listen to this lesson to hear several reasons including that it gives us confident hope, endurance, and motivation to walk by the Holy Spirit. Learn about the five major discourses of Jesus in Matthew which all involve the coming Kingdom. See that Jesus’ last instruction was that His words were to be taught to all believers. When you study prophecy you come to understand that we do not have to be shaken or fearful or worried at all because God is always in control.
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 Seal Judgments and the Birth Pangs
Matthew Lesson #152
January 29, 2017
“Father, we’re thankful for Your Word. We’re thankful for all it provides for us, all that it reveals to us. And it is remarkable as we contemplate its significance that we cannot fathom all that we learn from it. Again and again, as we read it, we see new things and learn new things and You teach us new things through God the Holy Spirit, Who indwells us and illuminates our thinking to the truth.
“Father, as we study in this particular chapter, there is much to understand, there is much to correlate with other sections and passages of Scripture and we pray that we might come to understand why this is so important and significant in our lives.
“That You have taken the time to reveal to us that which will come, and that it is important for us to learn about the things to come because of the way it impacts today and helps us to understand the purposes, the reasons things are going on in our spiritual lives in the world around us, as we prepare eventually for the scenario revealed in Your Word.
“Father, we pray that You would guide and direct our thinking. Help us to understand. We pray in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 24. We will continue our study. I’m going to review a few things, back up a little bit, go over some things while I still have a chance. As I study each week, as I referred to in the prayer, it’s amazing how many things you start to correlate and build up, and I want to review a couple of things.
One of the things I wanted to point out is last week when I was talking about this, I pointed out that there are various disagreements among people with whom we mostly agree, among those who would be classified as Futurist Dispensationalists. That means that they believe that Matthew 24 and 25 and that Revelation 4 and following to the end of Revelation, that these are prophetic.
They’re talking about events that are to be fulfilled in the future. I mentioned that there are some who interpret these as having already taken place in the past, related to the all related to AD 70. Those are called Preterists for a Latin word meaning “past.”
Those who think that these events sort of span out over the entire present Church Age are called Historicists. This is important to understand that vocabulary. It’s strange for a lot of people; they don’t use it very regularly. So I’m trying to remind you of this.
Historicism has really dominated the interpretation of prophecy for many, many centuries until you get into the early part of the 1800s, and then due to several historical events, not the least of which was Napoleon’s invasion of the Middle East, people began to think, “Well, wait a minute! We have this conqueror of Europe who’s invading into Egypt and going up through Palestine, and does this have something to do with God’s end time scenario?”
These historical events were used by God as sort of a catalyst to get people to think in terms of these prophetic passages as not yet being fulfilled, that they were in the future.
So futurism sort of came into its own in the 19th century, and its most clear expression was in the dispensational theology that was developed by a British theologian: former lawyer—trained as a lawyer—turned Anglican priest, then turned against the Anglican Church as he became more biblical, by the name of John Nelson Darby.
That became futurism as we understand it, and it’s a characterized by a number of different things, but for our purposes that these passages are to be understood in the future.
Dispensationalists who followed Darby were still influenced by the culture, the background of theology, and many of them still had sort of a historicist holdover. So they would look at current events and try to see if there was something there that meant that we were getting closer and closer to the return of Christ.
They would look at wars, they would look at earthquakes, that’s been very popular. We’ll talk about that a little more this morning, so that’s all part of that background.
As I went through the various different dispensational futurists and their different positions last week, somebody approached me after class and said, “Well, I think I’m really confused now.” I think that’s great. Confusion is the front door to understanding truth.
You think about it, in anything that we’ve ever tried to learn, we always started off looking at a bunch of facts, and we were somewhat confused by all the data, and then as we focused and concentrated, it began to make sense, and we began to learn something new.
That’s exactly what I face. I’m just as confused or was just as confused as you might be because I’ve heard all those men that I talked about last time. I have sat under their ministries. I have read their books. They have been my professors. You would hear these slightly different views.
For example, the view that verses 4 down through 14 are all sort of trends of the present Church Age as exemplified by men we all respect very much: Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dr. John Walvoord—who was His successor and president of Dallas Seminary—Pastor Thieme, Hal Lindsey. I’ve studied under all of those men.
Then you had people like Harry Ironside. Now I was never a great fan of Harry Ironside. Ironside didn’t agree with them. Then Fruchtenbaum disagreed with his view, and then Toussaint didn’t agree with Fruchtenbaum’s view.
Then Dr. Ryrie—who I got to be friends with personally when I was at Dallas Seminary—had a much more consistent view. He was truly a consistent futurist in all of this. Those others that I mentioned took this as somewhat related to the present age, which I don’t think is viable at all. Ryrie took the view that it was all that way.
In the chart that I put up last week, I mentioned that that’s pretty much the view that Dr. Tommy Ice took, who you know is one of my good friends—and he’ll be here covering for me when I’m gone to Kiev.
Tommy wrote a 38-part series on the Sermon on the Mount for the Pre-Trib Perspectives Newsletter. Thirty-eight parts! He was really drilling down to the roots—he was getting granular. He did a lot of excellent work, but he took the view that all of this, verses 4 through 14, was all the first half of the Tribulation. It’s all future, first half of the Tribulation.
However, as a result of the study that I’ve done, and study that Pastor Jeremy Thomas at Fredericksburg Bible Church has done, we’ve convinced Tommy. As he said to me just the day before yesterday, “I’m committed to your position. I think you’re absolutely right.”
That’s what happens in the process of studying the Scripture. We move, we change; we come, in maturity, to understand these things better and better and to try to be more and more consistent.
The view that I’m taking was the view that Dr. Dwight Pentecost took 50 years ago. And most of these guys studied under Dr. Walvoord; some of them also studied under Dr. Chafer. Yet they came to different positions as they worked these things out. All of these men were solid students of the Word, and we respect them even though there are these disagreements. That’s how progress occurs.
As I looked at this, coming back to it, I want to finish up what I started last week and add a few more things. We’re looking at how the seal judgments in Revelation 6 relate to the birth pangs, that this is the beginning of the birth pangs. That means it’s at the beginning, not the end. It’s the beginning half of the Tribulation.
Just in terms of context, this is the question the disciples asked Jesus on the Mount of Olives, and He crosses over. Now think about this: we’ve seen the picture. I don’t have the picture up here today, but Jesus comes out of the temple.
What’s He been doing before this? Matthew 20, 21, 22: He has gone through this series of interactions, negative interactions, hostile interactions with the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Herodians. Specifically on this day He has interacted with the Pharisees, and then He criticized them. He just lowers the boom, and we have this series of seven woes that He announces.
This is judgments against the Pharisees. When He finished, He announces that there’s going be judgment on the temple. The temple’s going to be destroyed. No stone is going to be left on top of another in terms of the temple buildings.
Then He walks out the east gate, He walks across the Kidron Valley, and He walks up the Mount of Olives. Does that remind anybody of anything? This is exactly what is described by Ezekiel in his visions: when the Shekinah, the dwelling presence of God, left the first Temple, goes through the gate, crosses the Kidron Valley, goes up to the Mount of Olives, and ascends to Heaven.
Jesus follows that same path again when He leaves and ascends to Heaven, as described in Acts 1. So this is a scenario that is significant and ripe with meaning.
He goes over to the Mount of Olives, He sits down like a rabbi would sit down to teach, and the disciples ask Him these two questions: When will these things be, that is, when is the temple going to be destroyed? Second, what’s going to be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?
He’s then going to start two chapters of instruction to His disciples. He’s just talking to His disciples. Now know this is the fifth and the last major discourse. That’s how it’s usually described, the Olivet Discourse. This is the fifth and last discourse.
A discourse is an instruction time where Jesus is teaching His disciples about something, and it’s helpful for us to see how this fits, and there’s a point why I’m doing this.
There are five major discourses or teaching or instruction periods of Jesus that are related by Matthew. These are the major ones. Now there are some other times when Jesus does a lot of talking, but they’re not considered one of the major discourses.
For example, from Matthew 20–22 where He’s interacting with the hostile religious leaders. Those chapters are not discourses where He is giving instruction or teaching. We ask the question: “Why is it important?”
Why is it that Matthew has written this way, where he has these five discourses, where Jesus is in each one of them teaching not the masses but His disciples? Why is that important and significant? I’m going to tell you why.
First I want to review this, but when you come to the end of Matthew, Matthew records the fullest statement of Jesus’ commissions, called “The Great Commission”, Jesus’ mission statement to the disciples.
Matthew 28:19, “Go, therefore, and make disciples”—that is, students—“of all the nations.” To be a student, what you have to do? You have to be someone willing to be instructed or taught. So it’s loaded with this terminology—“make students of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Then you have two participles that are instrumental. It should be “by teaching them, to observe all the things that I commanded you.” So the two keywords there are “teaching” and “command.” They are to teach. That’s the mission given to us, to teach all believers everything that Jesus commanded.
In context that really goes back to paying attention to these five discourses. They are important. So when we come to two chapters of prophecy, which is off in the ‘who knows how far distant future’, a lot of people say, “Well, I’ve got all these present problems in my life. Why do I need to study prophecy?” Because God says it is important, is the simple answer.
Because it’s part of God’s Word, so we need to understand that, but it impacts us in some significant ways. So this is what we’re commanded to do, is to teach, what did He say? “Teach them to observe some of what I said.” Is that what He said? No. It’s all. That includes the Olivet Discourse. So let’s just review these pretty quickly.
What you see when you study through these is that each one of these discourses ends with a sentence or statement, such as “and when Jesus had finished.” That’s what you’re going to see each time, “and when Jesus had finished.”
The first time we see this is the verse of the bottom of the slide, Matthew 7:28, “And so it was when Jesus had ended these sayings …” That comes at the end of what we call the Sermon on the Mount, and that is where Jesus instructed His disciples on the mountain. That’s why it’s called the Sermon on the Mount.
What does He do in Matthew 5–7? He instructs His disciples about the kind of righteousness which should characterize those who are prepared for the Kingdom. I want you to understand the Kingdom emphasis there:
John the Baptist has been preaching, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus has been preaching, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
This is how people should live who have repented; that is, they have turned, changed their mind, and they are preparing for what could be imminent, and that is the coming of the Kingdom. He instructs them as to the kind of righteousness which should characterize those who are prepared for the Kingdom. It’s about the Kingdom.
The second instruction—we read our statement in Matthew 11:1, “Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His disciples …”—when Jesus had finished. So that ends the second discourse, and that’s Matthew 10:1–11:1, where He gives instructions to the disciples to go out.
He sends them out, but He’s not sending them out to the whole world. He is only sending them to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. He instructs His disciples to take the gospel of the Kingdom. See, once again, it’s about the Kingdom.
It’s about the coming Kingdom! He says you’re to go to the house of Israel and the house of Judah and tell them about the coming Kingdom. They are to have the same message, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He says only to go to the house of Israel, they’re prohibited from going to the Gentiles.
The third time we see this same phrase, in Matthew 13:53, we read, “Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables …”
That comes at the end of Chapter 13—a very well-known passage, we’ve studied this—after He is rejected as the Messiah by the religious leadership in Matthew 12. They have committed the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit which is irreversible, and the Kingdom is going to be taken from them. Jesus begins to teach His disciples by way of parable, so that those who are negative can’t understand what He is saying.
Here Jesus instructs His disciples on previously unrevealed information about the Kingdom. It’s called the “mysteries of the Kingdom.” It’s not a mystery kingdom, its mysteries are previously unrevealed information about the Kingdom: that it’s going to be postponed, and there will be an interval between His time and the coming of the Kingdom. He’s describing this interim period and that’s the parables in Matthew 13.
The fourth time that we see this phrase, in Matthew 19:1, “Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings …”
We studied that in depth in Matthew 18, and that was where Jesus was instructing His disciples on humility and forgiveness and leadership with reference to the future Kingdom.
There’s no mention of the church anywhere in that passage other than if someone offends you, Jesus said take it to the EKKLESIA, the assembly. It is a general term. It is not used in the technical sense there of the church, because they don’t know anything about the church at that point. Nothing’s been said to them.
So it’s not addressed to the church. That information is related to the kind of character that is to be developed in someone who will be a leader in the future Kingdom when it comes. This is the fourth discourse. It’s all about the Kingdom.
Then we come to this fifth discourse. Matthew 26:1 ends it, where read, “Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all the sayings that He said to His disciples …”
So this covers Matthew 24:4–25:1, where Jesus instructs His disciples about His coming to establish His Kingdom: the events that immediately precede it and the judgments that will follow.
When we understand the structure and the framework here in Matthew, we see that it’s all about the Kingdom. That is so important! That is one of the reasons that especially among non-futurists—non-dispensationalists—that they misinterpret this.
But it’s even true among dispensationalists because there are many who take elements of this and apply it to the church. They missed the point. These are the last words of Jesus to Israel. His first words to the church come the next night in the upper room discourse that’s recorded in John 13 through John 16.
Now I’m reminding you that the reason these are important is because of the Great Commission, that we are commissioned to teach, to take the gospel to the whole world, to make students of all the nations. That’s why we teach in church rather than have homilies or devotions, or just hortatory messages of encouragement, is that’s the mission given to pastors.
That’s why they’re called pastor–teacher, they are not called pastor–exhorters, they’re not called pastor–devotionalists. They are called pastor–teachers because the way that they pastor or lead is through instruction. And that’s what Jesus did with His disciples, He instructed them, He taught them. We are to follow that example.
We’re to teach them everything. That includes prophecy. Why is prophecy important? A couple of things, just simply, there’s a lot of things I could say here.
First of all, 27% of the Bible, that’s somewhere between ¼ and ⅓ of the Bible, was originally prophetic when it was given. 27% of the Bible was prophetic when it was given, and about 17% of it is still unfulfilled. That’s about one out of every five verses that is unfulfilled prophecy.
There are a lot of people today that say, “Well, I think prophecy is divisive. So let’s not talk about prophecy.” Well, so you are just going to take your razor blade out and cut 1/5 of the Bible out because you think it might be divisive?
Let me see, the deity of Christ, you think that’s divisive? The infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, you think that’s divisive? Jesus is the only way to Heaven, think that’s divisive? There are a lot of things that are divisive in Scripture—a lot more divisive than prophecy.
The reason a lot of people don’t like to study prophecy is it makes their little brain cells tired, because I believe it is the most difficult of the areas of systematic theology to understand. You really have to master all of the other areas before you can start bringing this together and truly understand these 17% verses.
Second reason is that it’s tied to hope. Hope is a present conviction of a future reality. We live today in light of eternity. We have a certain conviction of where we’re headed that goes beyond history. We understand God’s plan and purpose, and we’re living in light of that purpose.
In Romans 5:3–5, which I commend you to read, talks about this progression related to suffering and perseverance, and perseverance develops character, and character develops hope, and that is the end result of mature Christianity, is we live on the basis of hope.
Romans 12:12, Paul says, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation …”—enduring in suffering.
How do you think these believers who are enduring the horrors—not Church Age believers, but the Tribulation saints? We think we have it rough. Let me tell you, we haven’t even begun to think about suffering.
Maybe some of those folks who are in northern Syria, some of the Christians who are in Africa, in Muslim countries where they have been slaughtered and tortured and all sorts of unspeakable things have been done to them, maybe they have an understanding that we don’t have of what it will be like during the Tribulation.
But what will give them endurance in tribulation is preceded here by being able to rejoice in hope, that confident expectation. We can learn that, even though our suffering is not—on a scale of 1 to 10, at the level of 10, our suffering even on our worst days is about 1.5—we can learn principles from this: that this is how we go through those tough times.
Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before”—that’s talking about Old Testament Scripture—“were written for our learning.” Once again, an emphasis on teaching instruction, learning, studying. They were “written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of Scriptures might have hope.”
So we study the Scripture. The Scripture teaches about the plan and purpose of God. We get a firm understanding of where God is taking us, in the direction we’re going, and that gives us a confident expectation which is hope.
It’s a certainty. It’s not, “Well, I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow,” or “I hope it snows in the mountains because I’m going skiing,” and it’s sort of wishful optimism. That’s not the biblical idea. The biblical idea is a certainty—an absolute conviction—that things are going to be a certain way in the future.
Another thing that hope does is hope purifies us. As we become more and more oriented to God’s plan and purpose—where He’s taking us in terms of preparing us for our future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in that coming Kingdom—then that is to motivate us and it purifies us.
It is a hope that purifies. That’s what 1 John 3:3 says, “… everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” It teaches us to walk in the light, teaches us to walk in fellowship and walk by the Holy Spirit. That helps us to understand what’s going on here.
Now just to remind us of what we must assume, as we look at any passage like this, is that Jesus is talking to the disciples just as He has in the other four discourses. He’s talking to them as Jews, as Jewish believers who are still in the Old Testament dispensation. They are still under the Law. They don’t have the Holy Spirit. They don’t have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
They are not Church Age believers, and He is talking to them in light of what they already know, which is Jewish prophecy, so that the Olivet Discourse is the last thing Jesus said to the Jews about Israel.
Third, nothing in the Olivet Discourse is about Church Age believers or has direct application to Church Age believers. It has implications for us, just as Old Testament stories about how Abraham trusted God, how David trusted God, how all the heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11 from the Old Testament trusted God. We learn from their example. But that’s not the same thing as being directly applicable because it’s not written to us, it is written to them, but it has implications for us in direct application.
We won’t be here during the Tribulation. All living Church Age believers will be raptured and taken to Heaven before the beginning of the Tribulation. But we can learn principles of application anyway, principles that impact how we think. Suffering is suffering. It may not be as intense as they will go through, but the principles are the same.
We looked at the background for understanding this first part, from verse 4 down to verse 28, that this is the Old Testament pattern of the period of 70 weeks that starts with the coming prince. This is the Antichrist who signs a peace treaty with Israel. That’s what starts the Tribulation period; that’s what starts the countdown, not the Rapture.
The Rapture just takes the church out of here, and then some time is going to go by. We don’t know how long, but it’s when the Antichrist, that’s what Daniel 9:27 says, when the prince who is to come enters into that peace treaty with Israel.
Then it ends with the return of Messiah, and the midpoint is marked out as the Abomination of Desolation, when the Antichrist desecrates the temple.
The first part in the context here is identified in Matthew 24:4–8 as the beginning of labor pains, but in verse 6, Jesus says, “… but the end is not yet.” When you see these things, they must come to pass; that is, prophecy must be fulfilled, but the end is not yet. Why? Because you’ve got another 3½ years to go. There will be increased labor pains in the second half, and He says “… then the end will come” in Matthew 24:14.
So we divide this:
- The first section, Matthew 24:4–8, talks about the first half, called the beginning of sorrows
- Then Matthew 24:9–14 talks about the second half of the Tribulation.
We will get into that. The first 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week are the beginning of sorrows, and then the second 3½ years are the last part, the intensified part of when the Jews are being persecuted by the Antichrist.
As we saw last time, Jesus begins by telling them to be careful: Watch out; keep your eyes open. Stay alert that no one deceives you because there will be much deception in this time. As He warns, there will be those who come saying that they are the Messiah. Don’t be deceived by that.
He defines this as the beginning of labor pains. I covered a little bit of this last week, and if you want to read some passages that correlate to this:
Isaiah 13:6–13, Zephaniah—that’s a book you probably read regularly for devotions—Zephaniah 1:14–18. You might need to use your Table of Contents to find it. Jeremiah 30:6–7, this is the passage that identifies the Tribulation as the time of Jacob’s trouble related specifically to Israel.
The New Testament passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:2–3, we read, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord …” Now I just mentioned it last time; I will probably review it in the next week or two. “… the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night.” This is a term that relates to the entire seven-year period.
Paul says, “For when they say, ‘peace and safety’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.” That is, Paul is taking this imagery from the Old Testament from the Olivet Discourse and is applying that to the seven-year Tribulation period: the Day of the Lord.
I gave you this quote last week to show that in Judaism, in rabbinical Judaism, as they studied the text, they came to an understanding of many of these things that we teach. Ralphael Patai in his doctoral dissertation—it’s published as “The Messianic Texts”—goes through numerous intertestamental works, and he says, “The idea in ancient Judaism became entrenched that the coming of the Messiah will be preceded by greatly increased suffering.”
Where would they get that? They would get that from passages in Daniel, passages in Isaiah, and passages in Jeremiah. It says “greatly increased suffering,” and that it would last seven years. Where they get that? Daniel 9.
“This will last seven years and then unexpectedly the Messiah will come.” Even though they understood there would be signs, it would still be unexpected. That’s important. We will come back to that later on in our study.
We think, “How would it be unexpected? We’ve got all these things that Jesus talks about.” Aah! The people who rejected the truth are living in a fantasy world, and they’re not properly understanding what’s going on, and they are going to be taken by surprise.
Another quote—I didn’t have the attribution up here last week—this is from Millar Burrows. “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 as ‘the Messianic woes.’ ”
Millar Burrows was a significant figure in the 50s after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was one of the most significant authorities. I have a huge book that is a combination of two books he wrote, The Dead Sea Scrolls and More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
He was the head of the Bible and Theology department at Yale in the 40s and 50s. He was one of the chief translators of the Revised Standard Version, so he is a notable scholar. Not necessarily a conservative scholar, but he is a notable scholar. Because of his knowledge of the intertestamental period, the Dead Sea Scrolls, he discovered this from his reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Not only had the intertestamental period of rabbinical theology developed this idea that it would be seven years, it would be referred to as the Messianic woes or the birth pangs, that they identified these on the basis of Ezekiel 14:21.
Ezekiel 14:21 is talking about the first destruction of the temple, the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of the first temple. “For thus says the Lord God: How much more it shall be when I send my four severe judgments on Jerusalem …” What are those four severe judgments? Sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence. So they looked at that as a paradigm for understanding what the woes of the Messiah would be like.
Ezekiel 14:21 isn’t talking about the Messiah coming and the judgments preceding His coming. It’s talking about what happened in 586 BC. But some of the rabbis understood that that pattern would be repeated in that seven-year period. Doesn’t that sound pretty familiar to what Jesus outlines here in Matthew 24:4–8? Interesting.
Renald Showers, who for years has been the theologian in residence and written in Israel My Glory for “Friends of Israel Ministry,” and he writes in his book, The Sign of His Coming:
“Ancient Judaism taught that the birth pangs of the Messiah will take place during the seven years prior to the Messiah’s coming to usher in the Messianic Age. It also taught that these birth pangs will involve the sword (war), famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. It is interesting that ancient Judaism’s concept corresponds to the beginning of birth pangs and the first four seal judgments.”
What I’m pointing out here is there is tremendous evidence that when Jesus describes these events in Matthew 24:4–8, He’s not talking about things that are going on now. He’s talking about these unique and distinct events that will take place prior to the establishment of the Kingdom: the birth pangs, the seven-year period outlined by Daniel.
When we look at Matthew 24:4–8, we can summarize the beginning of birth pains. False Messiahs will arise.
Then Jesus warns them against deception because many will be deceived by them. They will be entrapped. In fact, He’ll use the word that means to be caught in a trap. They will be entrapped by this deception. So many will be deceived by the false Messiahs into thinking the end has arrived.
This will likely be directed at the Jewish people—this opposition. The fact that they’re talked about, false Christs, is significant. In the Church Age; that is, from the time of the first century to the present, if you look up “false Christs” or “false Messiahs” in Wikipedia, you’ll see a whole list. They say “Jewish False Christs” and “Christian False Christs” and “Muslim False Christs.”
But if you look at those lists, there are really only a few, maybe three or four, and in the early period, that claim to be the Messiah. The most famous of which was Bar Kokhba who led the second Jewish revolt in about AD 135. But most of these were, “I’m Jesus’ younger brother,” “I’m the reincarnation of Jesus,” “I’m a forerunner of Jesus.”
It’s really debatable whether most of these people actually claim to be the Messiah. The term “a false Messiah” is particularly Jewish. It’s not really what happens with the Gentiles. This is related to Jews as Jews living in the last seven years that God decreed for the Jewish people.
The hostility here is going to be directed against the Jews, so there’s going to be an increasing anti-Semitism, which fits with what we’ve seen in passages like Revelation 12 and other passages in Revelation.
Then in Matthew 24:6, there will be wars and rumors of war. “See that you are not troubled”—that you don’t become anxious or obsessed or stressed out—and I think that this is happening in Israel. Why? Because in Israel they’re under a peace treaty with the Antichrist. So they’re not at war for the first 3½ years. They’re at peace.
What’s going on in the rest the world? We will see that in a minute; they’re at war. The Antichrist is on the scene. He is consolidating His power. As we read in Daniel 7, the 10 kings arise and then he comes up, and then he rips three of those horns, representing three of the kingdoms, out by the roots.
Israel will be an island of peace and stability because of this covenant with the Antichrist. They’re going to hear of wars and rumors of wars, but don’t be worried—not yet. Then He says there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes develop.
This is very similar to what we see described in Revelation 6 as the seal judgments. If you remember in our study of Revelation, there are three consecutive series of judgments that take place during the Tribulation period. There are seven seal judgments. Jesus is the Lamb who is qualified to take the scroll from God the Father on the throne. That’s described in Revelation 5.
He takes the scroll, which represents the title deed to the earth, and to open the scroll—typically, a title deed like this would be written on the inside and the outside. To see what’s written in there, He has to open it, which means He has to take the seals off, one after the other: those are the seal judgments.
He pops the seventh seal judgment and it reveals seven trumpet judgments. Then He gets to the seventh trumpet judgment and it includes seven bowl judgments, the last of which is His return, the Campaign of Armageddon and the establishment of His Kingdom.
The Rapture of the church takes place, and then in the first 21 months of the Tribulation, because you see, the first thing Jesus does after He gets the seal is He starts to open the seal. So this is a waiting—as Dr. Walvoord postulated—this is a waiting to the second half of the Tribulation. You may have heard people say, “Well, the first half is peaceful because of the covenant with Israel.” No, it’s peaceful for Israel because of the covenant with Israel.
It’s not peaceful for the rest of the world. That was, I think, an error made in the understanding of this. So the first 21 months is the beginning when Jesus opens that first seal, and it’s a conquest going forth, going forth to conquer. And that’s a little bit different from the second seal, which is the red horse that is where there’s going to be peace taken from the earth.
That will be followed by the black horse, the third seal which is famine. And that will bring the fourth seal, which is the ashen horse, which is death. Then there will be martyrdom. There will be an incredible number of believers who are martyred during this time because millions are going to be saved in those first 21 months. There are millions of people on the earth.
Every now and then I hear people say, “Well, I don’t think people who turn their back on the gospel today can be saved in the Tribulation because they’ve rejected the gospel.” I really don’t want to even validate that by answering it. In my opinion, it’s a pretty silly question from people who don’t understand grace. The average person, from what studies have shown, I don’t know that’s actually true, the average person hears the gospel seven or eight times before they finally respond to it.
That means some people hear it more, some people may respond in a little less, but the average is six or seven times. So what they’re saying is somebody’s heard the gospel one time, but the Rapture occurs the next day. “Well, too bad you don’t get your second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth opportunity to respond to the gospel.” God is gracious, and there are too many people who just want to be judgmental. I just think it’s horrible.
There will be a lot of Jews and a lot of Gentiles who have heard the gospel from you and me and from many, many others, and they may even get on the Internet and start listening to Bible teaching. Who knows?—if there’s still an Internet. We don’t know how much the interval period is between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, but there will be, I believe, millions and millions, from what Scripture says, who believe in the gospel, and they will be martyred.
The sixth seal is these incredible physical disturbances and cosmic disturbances, and then the seventh seal is the seven trumpet judgments. That’s all in the first half.
What we see here is that false Messiahs will mislead many. In Matthew 24:5 Jesus said, “For many will come in My name, saying ‘I’m the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”
William Kelly. Now, why am I quoting William Kelly? Who in the world is William Kelly? William Kelly was an early dispensationalist. We’re talking Darby’s best friend. The guy who wrote Darby’s material—much of his material, the guy who organized his material. So when you buy the many, many multi-volume set called The Works of John Nelson Darby, William Kelly edited that. He was very close to Darby.
Here’s this early dispensationalist who says, “In the epistles of Paul, it is never exactly such a thought as warning persons against false Christs.”
What he’s saying is Jesus is warning them to not be deceived by false Messiahs. Some people take that as a trend in the Church Age. However, the epistles, which are written to Church Age believers never warn you about false Christs. They warn you about what? False teachers. But they don’t warning us about false Christs or false prophets.
This tells us once again this is talking about what’s going to happen when things shift back to Israel in the second half of the Tribulation. So he says, “For there—that is in Paul’s epistles—the Holy Ghost addresses us as Christians; and a Christian could not be deceived by man’s pretensions to be Christ. It is most appropriate here because the disciples are viewed in this chapter as representatives, not of us Christians now, but of future godly Jews.”
Bingo! Great observation from an early dispensationalist.
Robert Gundry, who is a contemporary theologian—I’m not sure if he is still alive or not—says in his commentary on Matthew, “The lack of evidence that anyone claimed Messiahship between Jesus and Bar-Kokhba 100 years later militates against our seeing the discourse as a vaticinium ex eventu [that means a prophecy of an event] concerning the first Jewish revolt. False prophets figured in that revolt … but one did not have to claim Messiahship to be a false prophet.” Good point.
In Revelation 6:1 we read, “And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with the voice of thunder, ‘Come.’ ”
“And I looked and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him; and he went out conquering and to conquer.”
This is conquest. Some people interpret this as like cold war; it may involve that, but I think that this is a reflection of what is described in Daniel 7, which we read this this morning, “and the ten horns that were on its head”—that’s the fourth beast—“and the other horn”—that’s the little horn, so it’s an 11th horn—“which came up, before which three fell …” He is going to somehow conquer three of them. “… namely, that horn which had eyes”—this is the little horn—“… and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than His fellow.”
Daniel says in Daniel 7:21, “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them.” That’s Tribulation saints, Tribulation believers.
Matthew 24:6–7, in our passage Jesus says, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled.” I think that part of it relates to what is going on as the Antichrist is beginning to gain power and consolidate his power.
The rest of it: Jesus isn’t giving an exposition, a tight analysis in relation to the seven seal judgments, but we see a similarity. In verse 7 He says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” That sort of summarizes it.
Matthew 24:7 starts getting into the second seal, where a red horse shows up, and the rider will take peace from the earth. That clearly means a worldwide war at this time, whereas the conquering, I think, of the first seal is more related to the Antichrist’s consolidation of power with the ten nations. They kill one another; there will be a great sword, blood, and death.
Revelation 6:4, “Another horse, fiery red, went out, and was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”
Violence all over the world: it’s worldwide. Every country, every nation, every body. Not like World War II. World War II was simple, easy, nice, sweet, peaceful. It didn’t touch our shores. It didn’t touch the South American shores. It didn’t touch Canadian shores. It didn’t touch a lot of places in Africa, except indirectly. This is going to be violence everywhere.
Daniel 7:23–24 describes this fourth kingdom, that it’s different. “… and shall devour the whole earth, trample it, and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings.” I think that subduing is part of that first seal.
Third, there are going be famines, Jesus said; in Matthew 24:7, “And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”
Slides 37, 38
This is the third seal judgments that’s indicated by economic collapse and the high price for bread, as described in in Revelation 6:5–6, “…a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.”
Verse 6 he says, “I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius. And three quarts of barley for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil of the wine.’ ” A denarius was about a day’s pay. So a day’s pay will buy just a quart of wheat.
Fourth, there’s going to be death through pestilences, and earthquakes, as described in Matthew 24:7.
The fourth horse, the fourth seal judgment, describes the coming of death through disease. One fourth of the earth is killed. It’s killed with the sword, famine, pestilences, and wild beasts.
That’s described in verse 8, “So I looked, and behold, a pale horse and the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over one fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”
Sounds like Ezekiel doesn’t it? Sounds like the rabbis in the intertestamental period. You’d think they’d figured some of this out. It’s not in the Church Age; it’s in that first part of the Tribulation.
The sixth seal: the sixth seal is comprised of a great earthquake—unbelievable earthquake.
“The sun became black as sackcloth, the moon became like blood.”
“And the stars fall to the earth—like an asteroid shower that’s massive, worldwide.”
“And the sky was split apart like a scroll … mountains and islands were moved out of their places.” That’s a description of the earthquake.
John describes it this way, in Revelation 6:12, “… behold, there was a great earthquake”—not like anything ever seen before—“and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” This has cosmic correlations.
“The stars of heaven fell to the earth,” in Revelation 6:13, “as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.”
“And the sky will be split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island we’re moved out of the places.”
That’s quite a description of this earthquake. Every mountain and island is shaken.
What’s the response from the earth dwellers? Well they just shake their fists at God, they try to hide and pull the caves and the rocks over them, and they call upon the rocks to “fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne.”
I put these papers up on the website, so you can download them and read them, but Gordon Franz and his paper on earthquakes and the signs of the times says,
“The Book of Revelation, written about AD 95, mentions at least five earthquakes (Revelation 6:12–17; Revelation 8:5, Revelation 11:13, 19, and then the last greatest earthquake of all time in Revelation 16:16–21). The final earthquake, mentioned in the seventh bowl of wrath, is described as ‘a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.’ Now the great city [that’s Babylon] was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered by God to give her the cup of wine of the fierceness of His wrath.”
It’s been popular from popularists in teaching prophecy that we’ve had a lot more earthquakes. Hal Lindsey does this, John Hagee does this, a number of other ones. Tim LaHaye did it to some degree. They’d say, “See, we’ve had more and more earthquakes.” But we haven’t had more earthquakes.
We have many, many more instruments, and they are much more sensitive, so we have greater reporting of earthquakes, greater knowledge of earthquakes, but they haven’t increased, and yet what you will hear, because that’s an easy metric to get is, these popularists who will say, “We’ve had increased earthquakes.”
See that’s a historicist’s idea that I can look at my times right now and see evidence of the nearness of Jesus. You can’t do that. I don’t care how close you think it is. Dr. Walvoord thought it was close. Dr. Chafer thought it was close. Everybody who’s written about prophecy over the last 150 years thought it was in their generation. Oops! We can’t look at current events, and the same is true with this.
One of the geologists from the USGS wrote—who must’ve had some knowledge about what some religious leaders are saying—wrote in 1969:
“One notices with some amusement that certain religious groups have picked this rather unfortunate time to insist that the number of earthquakes is increasing. In part they are misled by the increasing number of small earthquakes that are being catalogued and listed by newer, more sensitive stations throughout the world. It is worth remarking that the number of great earthquakes from 1896 to 1906, which is about 25, was greater than in any ten-year interval since.”
Goes on to say:
“In the last twenty years, we have definitely had an increase in the number of earthquakes we’ve been able to locate each year. This is because of the tremendous increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and the many improvements in global communications. In 1931, there were about 350 stations operating in the world; today, there are more than 4,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by telex, computer, and satellite.
“This increase in the number of stations and the more timely receipt of data has allowed us and other seismological centers to locate many more small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years, and we are able to locate earthquakes more rapidly.”
Matthew 24:8, Jesus concludes and says, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Now just a little application. As I was reading this I was reminded of a Bible chorus that we sang when I was young. Haven’t heard it in many, many years and I looked it up. I remembered these words. I looked it up, and it was written by a man name Wendell P. Loveless, who lived from 1892 to 1987; he wrote a number of Bible choruses. The words to this were somewhat interesting. The words to this chorus were:
“What though wars may come,
With marching feet and beat of the drum,
For I have Christ in my heart;
What though nations rage,
As we approach the end of the age,
For I have Christ in my heart.
“God is still on the throne, Almighty God is He;
And He cares for His own through all eternity.
So let come what may, whatever it is, I only say
That I have Christ in my heart,
I have Christ in my heart.”
Now I changed that chorus to “I have Christ as my rock.” I got that idea from Dr. Toussaint. “I have Christ as my rock.” It’s interesting that he’s not writing that, he did not write that because he read Matthew 24. He wrote that in 1940. Guess what he was thinking about?
World War II had begun and he was taking a principle: that no matter how bad things look in the world around us, as Christians because we have Christ, because we have the truth of Scripture, we should not be shaken, fearful, worried about these things at all. And I would say because God is our refuge, our fortress, and He is our Rock of Ages.
“Father, thank You for this time to study, to reflect, to learn about what You’ve revealed prophetically and how clear it is as we have studied it and studied what others have said about it and the clarity that it brings to our thinking.
“We are reminded that these things are future, but nevertheless, as Jesus said, we will still have Tribulation in this life and the solution is to trust in You. First and foremost, we should trust in Christ as Savior, so if there’s any who’ve never trusted in Christ, never believed in Him, have no certainty or assurance of salvation whatsoever because they’ve never learned or believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, we pray that they might understand this gospel, that it’s simple, anyone can do it.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Believe that He is the promised Messiah, the One who died on the Cross, paid the penalty for our sins, and that by faith in Him and Him alone, we have eternal life.
“Father, we pray that we might be mindful of what we learned, that it will challenge us, that we would live today in light of our future destiny.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”