When I was in my late teens during the end of the 70’s and the early 1980’s, there was a great deal of interest in end-time events. I remember going with my girlfriend, who then became my wife, to various churches, so that we could watch the various Thief in the Night movies. By doing this, we ended up watching all four of the movies in the series: A Thief in the Night (1972), A Distant Thunder (1978), Image of the Beast (1981), and The Prodigal Planet (1983).
WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR PASSION FOR HIS RETURN?
But when I look at the dominant American church today, I don’t see the same desire and interest in end-time events any more. Instead of any passionate interest in the Lord’s return, I see many churches focusing on the false “Health, Wealth & Prosperity Gospel,” and/or on learning how they can Live Their Best Life Now. As a believer, I certainly hope that this life is NOT my best life now since heaven and the Lord’s coming Kingdom is supposed to be where I live my best life. My life here is supposed to be dedicated to me living my life in service to my King and His Kingdom, not spending all my time worrying about my own needs and wants.
WHERE ARE WE ON THE PROPHETIC CLOCK?
But in looking at the prophetic clock and the events given and described in Matthew 24, where are we today? The signs are all around us that we are closer now than we’ve ever been before, but the days ahead are not going to be getting better, but instead, they are going to be getting much darker for everyone, particularly the true believers in Yeshua (Jesus). In explaining this, let’s look at Matthew 24.
After prophesying about the destruction of the Temple, His disciples come to Him, and they ask Him, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3) He then responds, by saying,
Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And you shall hear of wars and rumor of wars: and see that you are not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24: 4-8)
In the first part of His description, the focus of the events are global, and deal with international conflicts. And these verses have been read and discussed now for decades, but in the second half of His description of events, the focus changes. The focus is no longer global in scope, but individual, and how His followers would be treated by others.
And although I am not sure how many people have taken note, it is evident that we are now past this first segment of verses and are now in the second half of the events that Yeshua (Jesus) gives to describe what events will lead up to the time when, He says, “and then shall the end come.” So let’s examine these events where we now find ourselves.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9)
Although we are just in the beginning stages of us being hated for His name’s sake in the United States, there are many countries in the world where all of these elements of this verse are already a dominant reality for most believers. There are many stories of Christians who have been beaten up, imprisoned, tortured, whipped, raped, set on fire, beheaded, or even crucified for their faith. In comparison to these brothers and sisters, we, in the United States, really don’t know what persecution like this is like, but I have a feeling that the tide in the U.S. may be soon changing.
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (Matthew 24:10)
In the United States, the first phrase of this verse has already become a glaring reality. As far as U.S. culture is concerned, the “biggest sin” we can commit today is “offending” someone. Notice that after this, Yeshua (Jesus) said that we will experience betrayal and hatred. The Lord recently shared with us that there’s coming a time when our family members will betray us and turn us in to the authorities, so that they will be able to get food and live. Once this happens, this we too may be experiencing the affliction, torture, and death as our brothers and sisters in other countries. Now is the time to prepare. We don’t want to continue to put it off until it’s too late for us to study the Scriptures and get as much of them into our hearts as possible.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. (Matthew 24:11)
Although there have been many false religious leaders who have deceived many people, I don’t believe this verse is referring to them. I believe this is yet to happen. I believe that the coming wave of deception is going to be so pervasive and so convincing that, as the Bible says, “If it were possible, even the very elect would be deceived” (Matthew 24:24).
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:12)
It’s extremely important that we note the negative correlation Yeshua (Jesus) makes here between “iniquity” and love. The more iniquity (or sin) increases, the more love decreases. But what is “iniquity”? In the Greek, this is the English translation of the Greek word, anomia.
And it is this same Greek word anomia that is used in I John 3:4, “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (Gk. anomia).” In this verse, the phrase “the transgression of the law” is used to translate the Greek word anomia, the exact same word that’s used here in Matthew 24:12. So since the Bible identifies the word “iniquity” as “the transgression of the law,” let me substitute John’s definition into the Matthew passage:
And because [the transgression of the law] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
How many pastors, Bible teachers, and TV evangelists have been erroneously preaching that “Yeshua (Jesus) has freed us from the law,” that “the law is bondage and legalism,” and the more the church has turned away from it, the colder they have become to God.
God says, “If you love Me, you will keep the commandments,” but these Christian leaders are teaching, “because we love God, we don’t follow these commandments any more.” Anyone with even a surface-level knowledge of the Bible would realize that these men are teaching in direct opposition to God’s own instructions and teachings. Obviously, then, for a believer to turn his or her back on the commandments of God, they are only embracing iniquity and will result in experiencing a gradual decrease of their love for God and for others.
Therefore, for any minister or Bible teacher to encourage believers to ignore or turn away from God’s commandments in the “Old Testament” (or Hebrew Scriptures) is only promoting iniquity and leading the people away from God and onto the road that leads to destruction.
But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)
But notice God’s promise here. It will be those who “shall endure to the end” who “shall be saved.” Yeshua (Jesus) didn’t say that He would air lift us out of the world during this time, but that those who “endure” through it would be the ones who would be saved.
And this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)
And finally, while all hell is breaking out on the earth, the gospel of the Kingdom shall still go forth. The threat or reality of imprisonment, persecution, torture, and even death will not prevent the message from going around the world today, no more than it did in the first century, A.D., when the Apostles and the disciples who lived at that time were likewise persecuted for His name’s sake. May He be praised forever and ever! And may we be bold during these coming days and hold to our confession of faith! Amen!