(NOTE: All Scripture verses are taken from the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.)
FOCUS: What will be the sign of Jesus’ coming and of the end of the age?
KEY SCRIPTURE: Matthew 24:3-31
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’
“Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“‘Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all the nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world, and then the end will come.
“‘So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,” spoken of through the prophet Daniel — let the reader understand [cf. Daniel 9:27]– then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened….
“‘IMMEDIATELY AFTER the distress of those days
“‘”the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” [cf. Isaiah 13:10, 34:4 and Revelation 6:12-14]
“AT THAT TIME the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.‘”
PROPHECY CONNECTIONS IN DANIEL:
Daniel 9:27 — “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’ [seven years]. 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.”
Daniel 12:11-12 gives a specific time frame for “set up” of the abomination in the temple — “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination is set up, there will be 1,290 days [3 years, 7 months using the 30-day month used by Jews]. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of 1,335 days.”
LINKS IN GOD’S WORD: When we connect the information found in Jesus’ statements and Daniel’s prophecies, we discover that a future ruler will set up an “abomination” on a wing of the (rebuilt) temple. This will happen 1,290 days after this ruler abolishes the ritual of daily sacrifice, which will apparently be reinstated by devout Jews. The rituals of sacrifice and offering performed in the temple will be “put to an end” about 3 1/2 years after the future ruler confirms “a [seven-year] covenant with many.”
PROPHECY CONNECTIONS IN ISAIAH AND JOEL:
Isaiah 13:10is one of several similar prophecies foretelling an unprecedented sign in the heavens — “See, the day of the Lord is coming — a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger — to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.”
Isaiah 34:4 — “All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky will roll up like a scroll [cf: Revelation 6:14]; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.”
Joel 2:31 gives a similar description concerning “the day of the Lord” — “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
MORE LINKS IN GOD’S WORD: Now notice the similarities between the descriptions in Isaiah and Joel compared with what happens when the Lamb — Jesus — opens the sixth seal . . .
PROPHECY CONNECTIONS IN REVELATION:
Revelation 6:12-14 — [John speaking] “I watched as the Lamb opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black as sackcloth made of goathair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree. The sky receeded like a scroll rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.”
Revelation 6:15-17 sounds like it may be describing what will be happening on earth when mankind witnesses this unprecedented sign from heaven and suddenly comprehends that the great day of His wrath has come — “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'”
THINK ABOUT IT . . .
This time period in future history — beginning with the appearance of the abomination that causes desolation — was described by Jesus as a time of “great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world” (Mt. 24:21). But He promised that “FOR THE SAKE OF THE ELECT THOSE DAYS WILL BE SHORTENED” (Mt. 24:22), and “he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mt. 24:13).
Notice that Jesus used the term “THE ELECT” concerning three separate events. First, He promised to shorten the days of unprecedented distress “for the sake of THE ELECT” (Mt. 24:22). Second, He warned that after the temple has been defiled, false Christs and false prophets will try even harder to deceive everyone, “even THE ELECT” (Mt. 24:24). Then, He promised to send His angels “to gather THE ELECT” (Mt. 24:31).
Jesus said to His disciples — those closest to Him — that He would return for them AFTER the “abomination” appears on a wing of the temple; and AFTER the unprecedented “great distress” that will rock the world; and AFTER the heavenly sign foretold by the prophets appears in the skies over Jerusalem?
Why does it matter? Because Christians who are convinced that Jesus will rapture them BEFORE the “seven-year tribulation” begins (a term coined by pre-trib. theologists), may not be fully prepared mentally or emotionally for the great distress that Jesus foretold.