Some might think that discussing events surrounding the return of Christ is a pointless exercise, that last-days topics are useless speculation providing no help for our daily Christian walk. But Jesus, and for that matter Paul, John and Peter, all thought differently. Each took time to teach about these things. Amazingly, Paul included last days doctrine in the material he taught brand new converts (2Th 2:5). And Jesus felt the subject important enough to give the Apostle John a vision containing detailed explanations while John was still confined on a prison island (Rev 1:9-16). So there must be important benefits to knowing the signs of Christs return.
On the Tuesday after Palm Sunday, the same day they passed the withered fig tree (Mk 11:20), Peter and James and John and Andrew (Mk 13:3) sat with Jesus on the Mt. of Olives looking back across the Kidron Valley to the great temple. Jesus had just said something that caught their attention. He said that temple would be totally destroyed. Now alone with Him, they asked when this would happen and what signs they could watch for that would tell them He was about to take His place as Lord of the earth. He actually answered both questions in His full reply. Luke includes His explanation as to when the temple would fall (Lk 21:20-24), but Matthew (24:1-35) and Mark (13:1-33) record His answer to the second part of their question,
what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? (Mt 24:3). In less than 40 years the temple would be torn down (AD 70), but the Lords return would wait for thousands of years.
A. What are the signs the Lord wants us to watch for? (Mt 24:4-35)
1. Birth pangs (vs 5-8)
a) As the arrival of the antichrist draws near that spirit will pop-up in numerous men claiming to be a divinely-empowered savior.
b) International political turmoil will accelerate particularly when the antichrist begins the process of conquering his kingdom (Da 7:7, 8, 23, 24)
c) Agriculture will be damaged and food distribution disrupted. Ecological problems will grow as well.
d) Massive earthquakes will bring devastation.
2. Tribulation (of the saints) (vs 9-14)
a) Violent religious persecution
b) Apostasy: many will abandon their faith to save their lives.
c) False prophets will mislead believers, probably comforting them as they turn away from Christ.
d) Global evangelism will continue.
3. Abomination of Desolation (v 15)
- 3 1/2 years after permitting the Jews to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem the antichrist will break his promise of peace with them and enter their temple and declare himself divine (Da 9:27; 11:31, 36; 12:11).
4. Great Tribulation
a) A genocidal persecution of Jews and Christians (vs 16-22)
b) Great deception (vs 23-27)
- The antichrist will be confirmed by demonic miracles and set up his own religious system.
- Those who have rejected Christ will be deceived and worship the antichrist (2Th 2:9-12)
5. Gods Intervention (v 29)
- God interrupts the persecution of believers by throwing the antichrists kingdom into turmoil through cataclysmic natural events.
6. Christs Return (v 30)
- Jesus will suddenly appear in the sky shining with a brilliant light.
- Rapture: believers dead and alive will be instantly resurrected and rise into the sky or come with Jesus from heaven to join His return to earth.
- Armageddon: an enormous army amassed by the antichrist will be destroyed by some catastrophe as Jesus simply speaks the word (v 28; Rev 19:11-21).
7. Fig Tree (vs 32-35)
- Once these signs begin to appear everything will take place quickly in less than a generation.
B. Why does He want us to watch for these signs?
1. So when these troubles arise well not think the enemys winning.
2. So well not follow a false Messiah just because he can do amazing miracles.
3. So well not deny the Lord if we are persecuted.
4. So well know when to run and hide.
5. So well know God will fight to protect us and how Hell do it.
6. So well know how the real Jesus will return.
7. So well be encouraged when these things start to happen.
C. How should we respond to these prophetic warnings?
1. Be grateful we live in a time and place when we can still freely work for Christ without this level of persecution.
2. Work earnestly for Him while we still can.
3. Know the Word so well not be deceived.
4. Learn to find spiritual strength by myself (closet) and in small groups.
5. Acknowledge and embrace now the danger that might come with following Jesus Christ.
6. Dont cling to a world thats passing away (age, things
7. Be optimistic: the gospel will spread even more rapidly in the years ahead, the evil of this age is only temporary, Jesus wins and we spend forever with Him.
1. If you knew for certain Jesus was coming in the next 10 years how would you adjust your lifestyle?
2. Do you see any of the signs Jesus pointed to beginning to happen today? What are they?
3. Why do you think Jesus waited so long to come again? (Hint: 2Pe 3:3-9).