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Are We There Yet?

Join us as we look at Jesus' teaching on the end of the age and his second coming.

Written by Mike Biolsi on .

Notes

‌At the end of chapter 23, Jesus made a statement that he would come again. In the beginning of chapter 24 he stated that the temple would be utterly destroyed. ​

Matthew 24:3 CSB
3 While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

The disciples want to know WHEN these events will take place. From their question, they seem to perceive  the second coming of Jesus (parousia) and the end of the age (last days) as two distinct events. 

If I was one of the disciples back then, I would want Jesus’ answer to be a singular timeline that I can follow, or even better, just tell me the date so I can put it on my calendar!

QUESTION: IF you knew when the end of the world would be, how might it affect the way you live? What if that day was 200 years away from now? What if that day was 2 weeks from now?

Verses 4-14 tell us about things that will take place but will NOT be the end of the ages. They are things that will make it seem like the end, but it will not be. 

This week, we will look at the next set of verses that give some insight into the events the disciples asked about: the end of the age and the second coming. 

Signs of Things to Come.

‌My brain thinks of time in a very linear fashion. THIS takes place and then THAT takes place. Perhaps it is genetics, maybe it is education, but I think most of us are linear thinkers. 

If I was asking the question, “when will these things take place?” I would hope for at least a timeline of events in a linear order. That would be helpful!

Jesus KINDA does that. While there is some structure to the responses, there is also a very Jewish line of thinking in this passage. What do I mean by that? 

As you study the Bible you often find that prophetic events can carry with them more than one fulfillment. It is not uncommon to speak of an event as something past, present and future. 

For instance: The prophet Elijah.

Elijah lived on the earth and his ministry was recorded in 1 & 2 Kings. In 2 Kings 2:11 he was taken up to heaven and did not die. 

‌The last book of the OT, Malachi, the last 2 verses say this:

Malachi 4:5–6 CSB
5 Look, I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

‌God already did send Elijah, right? But he is going to send him again. 

Matthew 11:13–14 CSB
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you’re willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come.

‌Jesus said that John was the Elijah that was to come, right? But is that the end of it?

Matthew 17:10–13 CSB
10 So the disciples asked him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 “Elijah is coming and will restore everything,” he replied. 12 “But I tell you: Elijah has already come, and they didn’t recognize him. On the contrary, they did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

‌Jesus declared that John was Elijah. But he also declared that Elijah IS COMING and will restore everything. So John was the Elijah that was predicted, but there is yet another Elijah that will come at the end of the age. 

So we have an Elijah past, present (John) and future. All are different events referred to as the coming of Elijah.

The Signs of the End. 

‌This same type of prophetic timeline is used by Jesus in the events that are named in Matthew 24. Jesus referenced a past event that had a fulfillment and also talked about events and fulfillment that will take place in the days the disciples are on earth, and the same events point to an ultimate fulfillment at the end of the age. 

Verses 15-35 are a series of teachings on what will be end times events.

Matthew Literary Context

Jesus describes first the destruction of Jerusalem and instructs his followers what to do when it comes. But he is also proleptically anticipating the events that will precede the eschaton.‌

Let’s read them together. As we read them, keep in mind that some of what is stated will take place during the life of the disciples and other things will take place later - and Jesus can make one statement that refers to both. 

‌Matthew 24:15–35 CSB
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand), 16 “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 A man on the housetop must not come down to get things out of his house, 18 and a man in the field must not go back to get his coat. 19 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days! 20 Pray that your escape may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For at that time there will be great distress, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again. 22 Unless those days were cut short, no one would be saved. But those days will be cut short because of the elect. 23 “If anyone tells you then, ‘See, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Over here!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Take note: I have told you in advance. 26 So if they tell you, ‘See, he’s in the wilderness!’ don’t go out; or, ‘See, he’s in the storerooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the carcass is, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. 32 “Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that he is near—at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Abomination of Desolation.

‌OK, David gave me the privilege of covering this topic, so I will. There are two words used: abomination and desolation. ‌

Abomination: this is a detestable or abhorrent thing. 

I am Italian. Making Lasagna with American cheese is an abomination 😁 

In much of the Old Testament, this word is an adjective describing idols. It is also used to describe actions that are unthinkable:

‌Isaiah 66:3 CSB
3 One person slaughters an ox, another kills a person; one person sacrifices a lamb, another breaks a dog’s neck; one person offers a grain offering, another offers pig’s blood; one person offers incense, another praises an idol—all these have chosen their ways and delight in their abhorrent practices.

‌The phrase “abhorrent practices” is the word for “abominations”. Your version might read, “disgusting practices”, “detestable things”  or something along those lines, but that verse gives a pretty good context of what is meant by something that is an abomination - it is an unthinkable, horrible, act that is an affront to God and all He values.

‌Desolation: means deserted, abandoned, destroyed - to make uninhabitable. It is also translated in our bibles as overcome with dismay or appalled. ‌

The three major views are that this “Abomination of Desolation” is a being, thing or event that will be so filthy in God’s eyes that will be bring about utter destruction. 

This phrase, “the abomination of desolation” is mentioned in this passage, the parallel in Mark and then 3 times in the book of Daniel. So, Matthew refers back to a set of 3 announcements given to Daniel in a vision. Those visions speak of an event when a particular pagan ruler will decimate and desecrate the temple and setup some type of object that will be a mockery to Yahweh, the God of gods. 

Jesus referred to the writings of Daniel with a parenthetical “(let the reader understand)”. So lets look at the 3 references to the Abomination of Desolation and see if we can understand:

Daniel 9:26–27 CSB
26 After those sixty-two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the coming ruler will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations are decreed. 27 He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”

‌Daniel predicted that a ruler will come in a level Jerusalem and the temple and will place this “abomination of desolation” on a wing of the temple. From this we at least can deduce that THIS particular abomination is a thing - not an event or person. 

‌Daniel 11:31 CSB
31 His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress. They will abolish the regular sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation.

‌Daniel 11 speaks of the ongoing battle between two kings: the king of the north and the king of the south. In verse 31, the king of the North conquers the south and desecrates the temple, abolishes temple sacrifice and sets of the abomination of desolation. 

Daniel 12:8–13 CSB
8 I heard but did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go on your way, Daniel, for the words are secret and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. 11 From the time the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Happy is the one who waits for and reaches 1,335 days. 13 But as for you, go on your way to the end; you will rest, and then you will stand to receive your allotted inheritance at the end of the days.”

‌OK, so there you have it - three very obscure prophecies about this abomination. Is that much clearer now? 😖 Not really. 

Daniel was in Exile, taken by the Babylonians. When Daniel was taken captive, the temple was still standing. However, during his time in captivity, the temple was destroyed. So the vision that Daniel had was partially fulfilled in his lifetime. 

‌Daniel’s writings took place in the late 500’s BC. There was a more complete fulfillment of this in 167 BC.

‌Matthew Explanation of the Text
So the “desolating sacrilege” is that which is first of all “detestable, abominable” to God and his people (often of idolatry, as here) and second, it “lays waste” or “devastates” the worship of God. This phrase is drawn from Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11, where it is commonly understood as a prediction of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the Syrian king who in 167 BC slaughtered a pig on the altar of burnt offering and erected an idol of Olympian Zeus on the altar in the temple (see 1 Macc 1:54; 2 Macc 6:1–5, 8:17; Josephus, Ant. 18.3.1; 18.8.2–9).

So, by the time Jesus was speaking about the Abomination, there was already a fulfillment. Yet Jesus mentioned there would be another fulfillment. 

‌Many scholars say that this prediction is of Rome. Matthew’s gospel was written around 60 AD, only a few years after this, there was a revolt of the Jewish people against Rome and Rome’s response was to crush the Jews and destroy the temple (second temple) in 70 AD. 

‌The passage in Daniel 11 seems to point to times that correspond with the Messiah and the coming of Christ, and would then also match up with the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 AD. So this future prediction of the Abomination of Desolation would have been fulfilled during the lifetime of the disciples:

‌Matthew Explanation of the Text
Everyone agrees that he is predicting the destruction of the temple. In this sense the sacrilege would have occurred when the Zealots went into the Most Holy Place (see previous footnote) and when the Romans leveled the temple and its sanctuary. Nolland describes the event as the temple lay in flames, how the Roman army brought its standards into the temple court opposite the eastern gate, made sacrifices to the gods, and declared Titus imperator (Josephus, J.W. 6.316).

However, Jesus also talks about events that will take place “at the end of the age”. There are events that are mentioned in Daniel and later in the New Testament, that did not take place by AD 70 and that will usher in the end. 

In Daniel 11 there is a description of the king of the North that I want to read to you because it shows that there has not been a final or complete fulfillment of these events yet:

​Daniel 11:36–39 CSB
36 “Then the king will do whatever he wants. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and he will say outrageous things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, because what has been decreed will be accomplished. 37 He will not show regard for the gods of his ancestors, the god desired by women, or for any other god, because he will magnify himself above all. 38 Instead, he will honor a god of fortresses—a god his ancestors did not know—with gold, silver, precious stones, and riches. 39 He will deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. He will greatly honor those who acknowledge him, making them rulers over many and distributing land as a reward.

Now, let’s go to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 where the Apostle Paul shares signs of the “end of the age” or the “day of Yahweh/the Lord” (which is another great past/present/future thread to follow).

2 Thessalonians 2:1–4 CSB
1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God.

‌So, Paul and Daniel both seem to point to yet another fulfillment of these future events. When the final abomination will take place and this “king of the north” / “man of lawlessness” will sit in the temple and proclaim himself God. In this sense, the abomination of desolation seems to be a person and an event - thus rounding out the three major views. 

So when we read Matt 24:15 “15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand)”, we should recognize that there is a past event that the reader would know about, a near future event that  will take place in their lifetime, and a distant future event that will take place at the end of the ages. 

Just like Elijah had come, came and will come. 

The real struggle is trying to figure out HOW MANY fulfillments their might be! 

‌DOES THAT MAKE SENSE or did I just make things muddier?

An accounting of the events

Rather than predict the times, the remainder of our time would be best spent looking at the implications and applications of what will take place. 

Matthew 24:15–22 CSB
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand), 16 “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 A man on the housetop must not come down to get things out of his house, 18 and a man in the field must not go back to get his coat. 19 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days! 20 Pray that your escape may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For at that time there will be great distress, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again. 22 Unless those days were cut short, no one would be saved. But those days will be cut short because of the elect.

‌When that abomination is in the temple, those in Judah must flee. There will be an urgency to leave to a place of refuge - out of the city and into the mountains. Whether this is the conquest of Rome, or referring to the last days, the city with its walls will NOT be the refuge that will protect the people. Refuge will come in the mountains. 

The Thread of Hope

As David mentioned, there is thread of hope that continues throughout these chapters. Though this time will be more terrible than anything they had or ever will see again, the days or distress will be cut short to make sure there will be a remnant, a people for God to call his own at the end of the age. Even in the distress of the end days, God will be faithful to preserve a remnant on the earth. This has been God’s way with his rebellious people from the time he called Abraham. 

The Parousia

In Bible circles you may hear the word, “parousia”  as a title for the second coming of Jesus. That is the Greek word for “coming”. How fancy is that?

Matthew 24:23–28 CSB
23 “If anyone tells you then, ‘See, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Over here!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Take note: I have told you in advance. 26 So if they tell you, ‘See, he’s in the wilderness!’ don’t go out; or, ‘See, he’s in the storerooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the carcass is, there the vultures will gather.

‌This passage talks of the return of Jesus, which will be at the end of the age. There will be many false reports, but the day will come and it will be sudden. Peter puts it this way:

2 Peter 3:10 CSB
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed.

‌Jesus said he would return, but did not give a time. He also said it would be without much notice, like lightning. It will come, at the appointed time and it will be visible and something you will not miss - just like lightning lighting up the entire sky from one end to the other. 

At this point, Jesus DID answer the disciples question from verse three, “what will be the sign of your coming?”.

Peter has a little more to day about the parousia - an encouragement for you and me:

2 Peter 3:8–9 CSB
8 Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

‌I believe the encouragement here is to not become weary in waiting for his return. Every day the return of Jesus is delayed is another day for his kingdom people to be ambassadors for reconciliation.  In other word, God has not sent Jesus back to earth yet because he wants more people to have the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news that Jesus died for their sins. You and I are his instruments to carry out his plan on earth as it is in heaven - helping people know him through faith in Jesus. 

Watch for the Signs

Matthew 24:32–35 CSB
32 “Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that he is near—at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

‌This passage presents a challenge with the phrase “this generation”.  Remembering that prophetic events could be in the near future or the distant future (as well as relate to a past fulfillment), to read that this generation will not pass away before seeing these things could mean a few things:

  • a) that some of the birth pains, wars, abomination, fleeing, etc will take place during the lifetime of some of the people in Jesus’ time on earth. 
  • b) that “this generation” - the new generation of followers of Jesus through faith as opposed to the Law - will be the group that sees these events though it would be at least a few thousand years before the end of the age. 

Watching for the signs should not be a distraction, but a constant reminder that Jesus is coming back. 

‌Those are the signs to look for.  

When Will These Things Take Place?

The questions where WHEN and WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE. Jesus just answered what it would look like. NOW, the shift will go to the WHEN. We did not get the exact date, did we? As a matter of fact, we are told:

Matthew 24:36 CSB

36 “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels of heaven nor the Son—except the Father alone.

Last week, David gave us some illustrations of people who predicted, falsely, when Jesus would return. Something to think about -> If the Father did not even tell the Son, and the Son did not know, why would any human think they would know the time?

I know I can approach this passage of scripture expecting that I will NOT get an exact date or time.  

Let’s keep reading...

Matthew 24:36–44 CSB
36 “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels of heaven nor the Son—except the Father alone. 37 As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. 39 They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. This is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding grain with a hand mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this: If the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and not let his house be broken into. 44 This is why you are also to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

‌You do not now, you will not know. Period. People will be surprised by it for sure!

These verses were the basis for a few movies in the 1970s and 80s. I remember watching one and being terrified! I would wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I was left behind! Of course, there is a newer series of books called, “Left Behind” and a movie series to go with it. 

In this case, being ready does not mean having your bags packed, your coat on and staff in your hand like the Passover meal, but it means having that relationship with Jesus. The return of Jesus has been prolonged so you can know Jesus - and when he does return it will be sudden enough that there will be no more time to choose to know him. 

I think our encouragement here is that we have the opportunity TODAY to know Jesus and be adopted and accepted by our Father God who created us. We should not wait because you may not get another opportunity, but then again, why would we want to wait to know the God who formed us? 

Matthew 24:45–51 CSB
45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and starts to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 that servant’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

‌For those of us who DO know God personally through Jesus, we are encouraged to be faithful in our service to him knowing he can return at any moment. Don’t delay doing good to others. 

‌ASK: do you believe we are in the last days? Jesus said we are. Do you believe Jesus will come again? Jesus said he would. 

Let me go back to that question from the beginning: If you know when Jesus was going to come again, how would it affect the way you live?

If you knew he was coming next week would you be more generous with what you have knowing you will not need it? Would you make time for those who do not know him yet?

The disciples wanted to know WHEN these things would take place. Jesus intentionally did not give them a date or time, instead he gave them an encouragement to be living faithfully while they wait for these things to take place. For you and me I think that is the lesson we are meant to grab onto. 

If you love learning about end time events, that is cool. There is a LOT that you could spend hundreds of hours on just in verses being referenced by Jesus in Matthew 24. But make sure that your studies do not deter you from living out the calling you have from the Father. 

Live each day as a gift from God and as if it was the day Jesus is coming back and you will meet your Father in heaven. 

The ends of the age, the coming of Jesus and the end times events should not scare us, nor should they consume us with trying to figure out when. What they should do is motivate us to live with the end in mind and make the most of each day:

Hebrews 10:23–25 CSB
23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, 25 not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.


Are We There Yet?