Continuing Jesus’ Teaching in Matthew – Mt 24:9-15
Continuing on in Mt. 24, we see that there will be a persecution of believers. Mt. 24:9-10 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other”. It will not be easy being a Christian during the End Times. Christians will be handed over to the authorities and put to death. Christians will be hated by all nations. Here in the United States, we currently live in a secular society that is changing against Christianity. We see more hatred and anger against Christianity, at least those who hold up Jesus and moral values. There are Christians in some other nations who face severe persecution; some have even been killed for their faith. There are areas in some Arab countries where most Christians have moved out because of the persecution. As bad as this is, it is just a sample of that will be seen during the Great Tribulation. This passage indicates that many Christians will turn away from Jesus because they cannot take the persecution and hatred. They will not only turn away from their faith in Christ, but they will hate others who cling to their faith and will betray them to the authorities so that other believers will be persecuted and killed.
People who believe in the Pretribulation Rapture say that these persecuted Christians are not Christians of today, because we will have been caught up in the Rapture. The people that Jesus is talking about here are people who come to faith after the Rapture. Because after the Rapture occurs, then they realize that Jesus is true, so they come to a salvation; but it is too late for them to make the Rapture. However, the contexts of these passages we have been going through in Matthew do not support this. Jesus did not say that many people will come to faith and then have to die for their belief. Also think about this, if these persecuted believers just came to faith after the rapture because they realize they are in the End Times, why would so many of them turn away from the faith just as fast to avoid persecution? They came to faith knowing that they are in the End Times and they would be persecuted. Jesus is just going through some of the birth pang signs in this passage in saying that believers will be persecuted and put to death. Jesus did not indicate anywhere here about the End Times beginning with the Rapture of believers; instead, He starts with birth pangs. This indicates that people who believed in Jesus before the Tribulation begins are the same people who will have to suffer as well. As I said before, I am hoping for the Pre-tribulation Rapture, but I don’t depend upon it happening because I want to be ready in case I have to go through the Tribulation. I would rather have the understanding that I might have to go through some or all of the Tribulation period and suffer for my faith than to think that I am going to be raptured, only to be disappointed to find out that I have to suffer and possibly be killed for my Christian faith.
Here is a concern I have. 2 Th. 2:3 (NASB) says: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction”. Before the Antichrist appears, a great apostasy will occur. That is, people who call themselves Christians will walk away from their faith in droves. There is a lot of bad teaching by those who call themselves Christians. But this apostasy could in part happen because a lot of Christians have been disillusioned by modern Christian teaching that Christians will not have to go through the hard times and that we will be carried away in the Rapture before the Tribulation Period. My thought being, if Christians believe they are going to be raptured, but then find out they are being rounded up as enemies of the state for their faith, many will be
disillusioned and walk away from their faith. There could be many weak Christians who have their hope set in the Lord always protecting them and providing for them who could lose their trust in God when they find out they have to go through hard times. Most people do not want to go through true persecution. So if it is a difference of being persecuted or turning away from the Lord, they might turn away. Many Christians have good teaching to warn us of possible persecution, but many Christians do not have that solid teaching. Look at the weak teachings of so many TV preachers like Joel Osteen; that God just wants for us to be blessed. This is all the Christianity that some people get.
Mind you, persecution happening is no excuse in God’s eyes to deny Jesus just to avoid persecution. If people deny Jesus, they should not still expect to still make it into heaven. Jesus stated in Mt 10:33 “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” No matter how much persecution we have to endure, we cannot reject Jesus and still make it to heaven. Jesus died for us so we can make it to heaven; we need to be able to do the same for Him. He never promised that it would be easy for us to follow Him; that is why He said to take up our cross. The cross was a cruel, slow death in those days, and that was the way that Romans executed criminals. While Jesus was on the Via Dolorosa, the road that led Him to the cross, He warned that those who follow Him will be persecuted as well. Many people have lost their lives for the Lord, and by that, they have gained eternal life, because they did not deny the Lord who was crucified for them.
We cannot take for granted the teaching from someone who calls themselves a Christian Pastor or Teacher. We need to know enough of the Bible in order to test their teaching. Jesus warned us that false prophets will arise and lead many people away. Many people will be lead into a false belief about Jesus. They will believe some nice talking preacher or evangelist who is saying what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. (2 Tim 2:3, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”) So these people will not have true salvation, even if they felt they had. We cannot get to God however we think we can, nor can we make up our own beliefs about God. We must stick to what is true and that is what God teaches us about Himself in the Bible. Many more people will lose hope in the God of all creation because they are not getting their own way. The culture we live in today is leaning more toward a ‘me first’ mentality. Many Christians have that kind of mentality too. They think God should bless them and meet their wants as well as their needs. Some ‘Christians’ will walk away from the Lord because things are not happening the way they expect them. Like Ted Turner, the media mogul who started CNN, TNT, TBS and many other stations and companies. He turned away from any faith in Christ because his sister died of cancer many years ago. Some people, like him, think that since God is not stopping people dying from cancer from happening that God must not exist or He must not be good. They think that God is a God of love, so they wonder how a God of love can let bad things happen to people. Yes, God is a God of love, and that is why He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. Sin is in the world; so we must live with its consequences. People still get sick and die; God allows this to happen. God gives men their free will to do what they want to do. God allows us to go through various types of tests.
Matthew 24 verses 13 and 14 give us more good promises; “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The person who endures these persecutions and stays true to God will be saved; they will make it to their eternal reward in heaven. Jesus also promised that the end will not come until everyone in the world has a chance to hear about Him. God does not want anyone to die in their sins and go to Hell, but He will give everyone a chance to hear about Him and make that decision to follow Him. This promise is given in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God is loving and merciful so He will give everyone a chance; but it is up to each individual to make the right decision. It will be difficult for people to make a decision for Christ in these times, but the opportunity will be there. Christians will see lawlessness abounding in these times; so to remain a Christian in these times will be difficult. But for those who do remain in Christ, God has promised to give them the endurance to make it through the difficult times.
Abomination of Desolation and the Temple
Just to touch on one more important point in Mt. 24. Verse 15 says “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand”. This abomination of desolation is spoken about in Dan. 9:27. It talks about how the Antichrist will cause this abomination half way through the 70th week. This is understood by many scholars as someone who desecrates the Temple of God. This was actually done by Antiochus Epiphanes around 167 B.C. He erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed pigs there. He not only desecrated the Temple by putting the statue there, but he also sacrificed animals there which were not kosher because the Jews were not allowed to eat them. Whereas some scholars believe that this is the abomination that Daniel prophesied, many Christians believe that was just a precursor. The prophesied abomination that Daniel mentioned will occur halfway through the 70th Week, Dan 9:27 “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” This shows another sign of the End Times: the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. The Temple can only be built in one location; that is the Temple mount in Jerusalem. Currently that is where the Dome of the Rock is at, which is the 3rd holiest place in Islam. Muslims are in control of this area and won’t let the Jews build another Temple there. The Dome of the Rock would somehow have to be removed before the Temple could be rebuilt there. It might get destroyed by some war or some other explosion. We do know that there is going to be a false peace right before the End Times. It is speculated that the Antichrist might broker a deal to allow the Jews to rebuild the Temple. Some people say that the Dome of the Rock might not have to be removed, as the actual Temple sight is actually right beside it.
Regardless of what circumstances will allow the Temple to be rebuilt, some faithful Jews are prepared for this to happen. This was found in Time Magazine in Oct. 1989, “Two Talmudic schools located near the Western Wall are teaching nearly two hundred students the elaborate details to Temple service. Other groups are researching the family lines of Jewish priests who alone may conduct sacrifices. Former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who heads another Temple Mount organization, believes his research has fixed location on the ancient Holy of Holies so that Jews can enter the Mount without sacrilege. No group is more zealous than the Temple Institute, whose spiritual leader, fifty-year-old Rabbi Israel Ariel, was one of the first Israeli paratroopers to reach the Mount in 1967. “Our task,” states the institute’s American- born director, Zev Golan, “is to advance the cause of the Temple and prepare for its establishment, not just talk about it.” Not only have men been trained as priests to do the work in the Temple per the law written by Moses, but they have also built the instruments found in the Old Testament for use in the Temple. The Temple Institute has these on their website, http://www.templeinstitute.org. Men are looking for a Red Heifer that is needed to sanctify the priests for service. They believe when a red heifer appears, this could be a sign to rebuild the Temple. As circumstances might have the Temple be rebuilt quickly, these Jews are already prepared to make this transition go smoothly by being ready to use it as the Mosaic Law specifies.
Increase in Lawlessness II Tim 3:1-7
Paul also warned Timothy in this passage that people will be getting a lot worse and farther away from God during the End Times. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Look at the way mankind is today. We have major problems with pornography, drugs, drunkenness, gangs, terrorism, homosexuality and other vices. Look at our mainstream entertainment, movies, music and TV. You see a lot of adultery in those, and they make it look natural. There is hardly a sitcom on TV without a homosexual person; making that look like a normal lifestyle. Gangsta rap is a very popular kind of music; it glorifies a violent life. One of the most dangerous circumstance for police officers are domestic disputes, police have to expect anything to happen when they are called to these. Many people have a ‘me first’ mentality. Ever have anybody cut you off while driving? Many people believe in evolution, so they think that we are animals that are driven by their lusts, justifying their fornication lifestyle. Here in the U.S., and in many other countries, we are into our money so we spend a lot of it on ourselves; houses, cars, TV’s, furniture, etc. Many people would rather spend their money on going places, whether on day trips or vacations, than giving a portion of their money as tithes and offerings to the kingdom of God. As for ‘brutal’, who could forget that April 22, 1999, when two students killed 12 fellow students, 1 teacher, and directly injured 21 others before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Colorado? Or how about April 16, 2007, when one man killed 32 people and injured several others before killing himself at Virginia Tech? And it’s not just happening in the United States. On December 31, 2009, a gunman killed his ex-girlfriend and 4 workers before killing himself at a suburban shopping mall near Helsinki, Finland. We see this kind of thing happening throughout the world. As for terrorists, it is well known that they will strap bombs to themselves and blow up themselves as well as innocent people. I read on 2/4/10 in worldnetdaily.com that they have found out that now terrorists can give woman explosive breast implants, and in men they can insert it in the appendix area or the buttock. It’s a small amount, but enough to put a considerable hole in a plane. These could not be found by usual airport scanning machines. As for people turning away from God, how many kids have been reprimanded by the media and other people for praying or quoting a friendly scripture during a High School graduation? For a country in which we have constitutionally given freedom of religion, any form of Christianity is put on a backburner to non-Christian ways in many public settings. As for always learning, most people are literate. We have free public education for our kids; several trade schools, colleges and universities to attend. We have more knowledge today of how to use our resources than ever before. That is why we have so many gadgets. We have all this knowledge, but we are not using wisdom and in so we are getting farther away from God. We see the stage set for people being meaner and farther away from God now than they have been before.
VISIONS OF EMPIRES
The Bible does get specific about some nations and empires that will be major participants in End Time events. To see them we have to look in a few different books of the bible. There is not one nice convenient place to find them all. But by looking at these nations it will help to give us a better idea about when End Time events could be taking place. To see if these nations that the Bible mentions are still around and see if they are still players in today’s world. If we see some correlation, that would help to give us a better understanding about the possibility that we could be at the beginning stage, or the birth pains, at the present time.
God is a God who can use anybody; believer and un-believer alike. He even revealed the chain of major world kingdoms in a dream to an ancient king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. This includes the kingdom of the End Times. The king didn’t understand the dream; and it perplexed him. He called for all the enchanters, magicians, sorcerers and astrologers of his kingdom to come and interpret the dream for him. But he had a major catch; they also had to tell the king what the dream was or else they would be cut in pieces and their houses torn down. Of course, none of these people could tell him what the dream was. This infuriated the king. So he was going to have all of the wise men of the kingdom put to death; including Daniel who was not consulted. But when Daniel, a faithful Israeli who had been brought into Babylon by captivity and was being trained as a wise man, found out about this, he went into the king and asked for time so that he might be able to interpret the dream for Nebuchadnezzar. So Daniel got three of his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, (also known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,) to go in earnest prayer so that he may know and interpret the dream. God answered the prayer of the four faithful men and gave Daniel the dream and the interpretation of the dream.
It was a large statue that Nebuchadnezzar had seen. It had a head of gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and thigh of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay. What an odd looking statue! But that was not all. He saw a rock, which was not cut with human hands, smash into the feet of this statue to cause the statue to crash down. The entire statue then fell into such small pieces that they were blown away by the wind. Then that rock became a large mountain. No wonder the king was so perplexed at this and wanted an interpretation of it!
Daniel showed to the king how this dream was from God, and that God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the plans for major kingdoms that would rise and fall before the End of the Ages. I am sure that Nebuchadnezzar was glad to hear that this head of gold was him and his kingdom of Babylon. God ordains governments, whether they are good or bad. It is God who gives governments this authority. And God had given this authority to Nebuchadnezzar, so his was this first kingdom mentioned. But his kingdom would not be a lasting one. It would fall and be replaced by another one.
This fall didn’t happen in Nebuchadnezzar’s lifetime; but it did happen in the lifetime of his son, Belshazzar, as found in Daniel Ch. 5. This new king had a great feast for his noblemen. Belshazzar decided to use the gold and silver goblets that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem for this feast. These were holy instruments only to be used in service to God in the temple. So this did not please the God of all the earth. This is when the king saw human fingers write something on a wall. That was: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin”. Daniel once again gave the interpretation of this. “Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Sometimes God doesn’t take very long until His Word comes to pass. That very night, the leader of the Mede-Persian Empire, Darius, overtook Babylon and killed Belshazzar. The Medo-Persian Empire is the second empire mentioned in this vision; it was the chest and arms of silver.
The third empire in this vision, signified by the belly and thigh of bronze, is Greece. During the reign of Belshazzar, Daniel had received a vision which helps to clarify this, as recorded in Daniel 8. In this vision Daniel saw a great 2 horned ram, pushing its way westward, northward and southward, so that no beast could stand before it. Then he saw a one horned goat come out of the west. This goat charged the ram with all it had and hit the ram, breaking both of its horns. The ram then had no power and was trampled by the goat. The goat was very great. Then its single horn was broken, and in its place rose up 4 notable horns toward the 4 winds. In verse 21 the goat is identified as Greece, with the first horn being its first king. History bears witness to the accuracy of this prophecy. Alexander the Great lead the Grecian army toward the east and conquered every army in his path. This includes leading his army against the major empire of that time, the Medo-Persian Empire. The Medo-Persian Empire had the superior weapons of its day with its chariots, they had a larger army. Yet Alexander’s army was able to break the Medo-Persian army and win the battle. Alexander did not have any children. So when he died an early death at the age of 32, his empire was divided to his 4 generals: Egypt with Ptolemy, Syria with Seleucus, Macedonia went to Cassander, and Thrace went to Lysimachus. This is all a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel; one king rose up and defeated Media-Persia, and after his death four generals rose up and divided this new kingdom into four.
Going back to Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue, the legs were of iron. This is the fourth vision. This was fulfilled in the Roman Empire. It was like iron, it crushed everything in its path. This Empire grew much larger than any of the other ones, overtaking every nation that it wanted to, including the previous three nations. It also lasted for the longest time. Founded in about 753 BC, and ended in the 6th Century AD. This empire was so strong there was even a period of about 200 years that is called the “Pax Romana”, when there were no major wars.
The 5th Empire in the vision is the feet made partly of iron and partly of clay. This is a mixture that cannot mix well together for a solid substance. This is a vision of the Revived Roman Empire, the empire that the Antichrist will lead. The mixture shows the strength of the mighty nations mixed together with weaker nations to make a larger empire. This Empire will be big, and it will have its strengths, but since it is mixed with clay, this structure cannot stand for long.
The 6th Empire this vision speaks about is the rock that is cut not by human hands, that is, the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will come and destroy these other kingdoms and set up the eternal kingdom that will never die.
There is one more vision that God gave Daniel to give us more insight into the kingdoms and the Revived Roman Empire from which the Antichrist will come.
Dan 7:2-8 Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts
In the first year of Belshazzar’s rule, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Daniel himself had a dream that was about the End Times. This is what he saw.
– (7:4) A lion with the wings of an eagle: this is the Babylonian Empire which was prophesied in Jeremiah 4 that would destroy Judah if it did not repent. Jeremiah uses these same images of the strength of a lion and swiftness of an eagle in chapter 4, verses 7 and 13.
– (7:5) A bear raised up on one side with 3 ribs in its mouth: this is the Medo-Persian Empire, raised up on one side because the Persians were the superior people in the Empire. The 3 ribs likely refer to the 3 conquests of the Empire in taking over the spoils of Lydia, Babylon and Egypt.
– (7:6) A leopard with 4 wings on its back and 4 heads: this is the Grecian Empire initially under Alexander the Great, which quickly conquered the then known world, as shown by the wings. But after his death, at an untimely early age of 32, his empire was divided between his 4 generals – which signified by the 4 heads.
– (7:7) A terrifying beast with iron teeth and 10 horns: this is the Revived Roman Empire, and the last of all the Beasts shown to Daniel. The iron teeth correspond to the iron legs that Nebuchadnezzar saw, and the 10 horns correspond with the 10 nations depicted as the iron mixed with clay toes of the statue. From these 10 horns arose another smaller one which spoke boasting words and which was judged directly by God through destruction and being cast into the burning river of fire that was before God’s throne (7:10-11).
This Revived Roman Empire will come from a confederacy of 10 nations. The Antichrist will overthrow three of these nations and then lead the entire confederacy; but more about him later. This Empire consists of several nations that band together to form a strong union. We can look back on history and see the first three kingdoms, but can’t see this terrifying beast kingdom. It looks like it is still in the future from us. Could this prophecy be being fulfilled in our time? Let’s look at some possibilities.
Since this is a revival of an ancient empire, it must have common roots with the past empire. Ancient Rome had much of Europe, the western part of the Middle East and the northern edge of Africa. That is why several people have been looking at the European Union, as it is in the correct geographical area. The European Union started out in 1958 with 6 nations; Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It wanted to bring about economic unity integration and had the name European Economic Community. This community kept growing in nations and unity; then in 1993 it formed the basis of the European Union, which now has 27 member nations, mostly in Europe. This is an international association that has formed a single market with standardized laws in each of the member nations. They have a common currency, the Euro, which can be used in 16 of the nations. A citizen of one EU country doesn’t need a passport to enter another EU country. They have created policies for the free movement of people, goods, services and capital (money). They have many treaties which help to combine them in a legal system, foreign relations, limited military capabilities, humanitarian aid, agriculture, and in many other ways. The EU has a President and other leaders as well as having representatives at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G8 and the G-20.
Could the European Union be the Revived Roman Empire? Possibly, but no one can say for sure. Many of the member nations are in the area of the northern portion of the old Roman Empire. This includes Italy, which was the seat of the ancient Roman Empire. It has combined many nations into a commonwealth, thereby increasing its financial and military capabilities. They have leadership which unites them in many decisions that affect all of them. They have set a standard by providing a currency that can be used in many member nations. Many nations have socialist leanings, meaning that the government is in control of many aspects of life, like their health care. They are a leader of many socialist ideas, which they disguise as Global Agreements. Their leader’s think that big government is the answer to the world’s problems and that they should be in control of all aspects of life. That is why their citizens pay a lot of taxes. They are really helping to set the pattern for a global government. Even the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, is trying to incorporate many of their socialist ideas to use them here and is having some success.
But one problem with the theory that the European Union will become the Revived Roman Empire from which the Antichrist comes is that there are way more than 10 nations. Currently there are 27 nations, there are also several other nations who have applied for membership. So even though they have many things going for them which could make them the Revived Roman Empire, there are just too many nations in the European Union (EU) to fulfil Bible prophecy. One of two things would have to occur in order for the Revived Roman Empire to come from the EU. 1) Several nations would have to combine to become single nation, thereby reducing the total number of nations. This would be like East Germany and West Germany did in October 1990. I have a friend who knows someone from the EU. He said that this is in the works with some nations to combine themselves to become one nation. 2) Several nations would have to break off from the European Union to start a new commonwealth of some kind. This could be a possibility because of nations like Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain harm the currency of the EU because of their large debts. Stronger nations, like Germany, have to keep financing them to keep them afloat. There have been rumors that some of the weaker nations might be kicked out.
We do not know for sure that this is where the Revived Roman Empire will come from. There are teachers who have speculated that the Revived Roman Empire could come out of Middle Eastern nations.
Regardless of where this Revived Roman Empire comes from, we need to be on the lookout for nations in the territory of the ancient Roman Empire to rise up as one with a strong leader.
Much of this was written before I kept track of the source.