In the Fulness of Time/Part 137

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2011
The extended section of this chapter, 24:4-31, deals with the answer to the disciples’ question about “the end of the age” and of Christ’s coming. Because of the terms used, this answer must be related to Daniel 9:24-27. Christ spoke of “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8), “he that shall endure unto the end” (v. 13), “the abomination spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (v. 15); “great tribulation” (v. 21) and “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (v. 31).

Previous Article

Answers of Jesus Concerning the Future of Israel Matt. 24:4-31

The End of the Age (Israel’s 70th “Week”). 24:4-28

The First Half of the 70th Week. 24:4-14

Beginning of Sorrows; or First Birth Pangs. 24:4-8

Mt. 24:4-8 “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be 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 various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

The extended section of this chapter, 24:4-31, deals with the answer to the disciples’ question about “the end of the age” and of Christ’s coming. Because of the terms used, this answer must be related to Daniel 9:24-27. Christ spoke of “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8), “he that shall endure unto the end” (v. 13), “the abomination spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (v. 15); “great tribulation” (v. 21) and “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (v. 31).

As far back as 10:16-23 similar language is used as here in 24:4-31. In that exposition it was noted that many of the persecutions and events mentioned were not fulfilled in that first evangelistic tour of the disciples, nor even in their later experiences in the book of Acts. The conclusion was that 10:16-23 is a prophecy of future persecutions. Note that in 10:22 the exact phrase of 24:13 is used: “he that endureth unto the end shall be saved.” Both passages end with a prophecy of the “coming of the Son of man” (10:23 and 24:24, 30).

In this first paragraph (24:4-8) then, “the beginning of sorrows” is explained as that which initiates the first part of the future period of trouble for the Jews. The more recent writers have called attention to the word odinon, translated “sorrows” in the King James Version, which more accurately translated refers to the “birth pangs” of a woman about to give birth, and which is used “in reference to the dire calamities which the Jews supposed would precede the advent of Messiah” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, p. 679). Certainly the Jewish rabbis who taught this must have included Jeremiah 30:6-7 in their thinking: “Ask now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, like a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas, for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”

So it was that Christ spoke in 24:4-8 of the “beginning” of birth pangs which will include the following: false Christs (24:4-5), wars (24:6-7a), famines and pestilences and earthquakes, with many deaths (24:7b-8). Again, as many have noted, these things compare closely with the first four seals of Revelation 6:1-8. The first seal depicts a false Messiah (6:1-2), the second predicts peace taken from the earth (6:3-4), which results in many deaths through war, the third speaks of famine (6:5-6) and the fourth of death by the sword, hunger and wild beasts (6:7-8).

Persecution: Hatred, tribulation and martyrdom. Mt. 24:9-10

Mt. 24:9-10 “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nation for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended and shall betray one another and shall hate one another.”

After describing the birth pangs which shall come upon the world generally, Jesus then turned to more specific persecutions and martyrdoms to be suffered for His name’s sake. Lenski, who is an amillennialist, makes an interesting observation here: “The adverb, ‘then’ here and in verse 10, is not ‘thereafter’ but then at the time the first birth pangs appear” (Lenski, R.C.H., Matthew, pp. 909-910). From our premillennial standpoint, this supports the interpretation that Jesus is still speaking of the first half of the seven years of Tribulation in 24:9-14. It would also be in accord with the fifth seal of Revelation 6:9-11 where souls of those already martyred are waiting for a little season before being united with others yet to be slain during the time of the “seals.”

Such treatment is the result of hatred, and Jesus added that these believers “shall continue to be hated (misoumenoi, a present participle) “of all nations for my name’s sake.” The fact that true believers will stand firm for the Name of Christ will be the basic cause of this universal hatred. At the same time, many shall be “offended.” This word tends to associate those in verse 10 with those of verse 9; however, the word is skandalisthesontai, which refers to a stick-trap used to catch animals. Such entrapped persons could hardly be classed as true believers; rather, they are exactly like the seed which fell on stony ground in 13:21: “Yet he hath no root in himself, but endureth for a while; for when tribulation (thlipsis) or persecution ariseth because of the word, immediately he is offended (skandalidzetai, entrapped). This leads to betrayal of one another, which is engendered by hatred. In 10:21, speaking of the same time period, Jesus said that betrayal will get so bad that: “the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child, and the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death.” Later in that same chapter Christ puts forth the principle that, indeed, He would be a divider of men to the extent that: “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household”(10:36). Definitely, this will be a time during that period of tribulation to come, even as it is to some extent today, when one member of a family is saved and the others are unbelievers. When it occurs in a Jewish household, the animosity will be more pronounced against the one who has turned to Christ as his Messiah!

Deception by False Prophets causing more Defections. Mt. 24:11-12

Mt. 24:11-12 “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.”

False doctrine always works its way into the community of believers through deception. As has been said, rat poison is 95% good grain, but it is the 5% which kills! The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian church: “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30), and to the Corinthian church he said: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). Deception will cause defection in those who are pretenders. John put it this way: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they no doubt would have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not of us” (1 John 2:19). So it will occur when lawlessness abounds and the love of many shall grow cold. Yet, all are not to be like this, as the very next verse plainly indicates.

Endurance of True Believers. Mt. 24:13

Mt. 24:13 “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

A number of things must be remembered in order to come to a logically correct interpretation of this verse. Most important is that it not be taken out of context. The meaning of words and their place in the paragraph will be determinative. It is also vital to exclude doctrines not pertinent to the text, even though a given word or words are used with regard to that doctrine.

First, then, remember that Matthew 24:4-14 has to do with the beginning birth pangs, or the first three and a half years of the seven year period of tribulation for Israel. Therefore, to insert anything having to do with the Church would be extraneous to the paragraph. The context has included mention of false Christs, false prophets, wars, famines, pestilence, earthquakes persecutions and martyrdoms. It is “these things” the person spoken of must “endure.” The “end” (telos) can only be the “end of the age” spoken of in 24:3,6,14, which is the seven year period immediately preceding the “coming of the Son of man.” In answering the disciples’ questions the Lord referred to His coming including that which preceded it, no less than 14 times in the two chapters, 24-25.

Next, notice how 24:13 is connected with the previous verse by de, translated “But.” This means that in spite of the various troubles, even including death for many, there will be others who will live through the entire seven years of tribulation. This, therefore, is the meaning and extent of the word hupomeinas, “endureth.” From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, page 644, it means: “to preserve: absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ.

Those persons who so endure to the end of the seven years will be “saved.” Here there is the danger of bringing in something not in the context. It is true that the word sodzo (“saved”) is the same one used in Acts 16:30-31 for salvation from sin. The Philippian jailer asked: “What must I do to be saved?” and the answer was: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Yet, as noted previously, the same verb is used when Jairus besought Jesus to help his daughter: “I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed (sodzo) and live” (Mark 5:23). The noun form, soteria (salvation), refers to the physical deliverance of Israel from Egypt through Moses in Acts 7:25: “For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver (soterian) them, but they understood not.” Then in Acts 27:34, Paul said to the centurion and soldiers on the ship: “Wherefore I beseech you to take some food; for this is for your health (soterias).” It is quite evident, therefore, that in 24:13 there is no reason why the word sodzo cannot refer to deliverance of those who have endured the seven years of physical tribulation and live to enter the Millennial Kingdom and hear the Lord say to each of them: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Such reward is based on man’s faithfulness; salvation is based on man’s faith. Rewards are based on our behavior as Christians; salvation is based on our belief. The eternal nature of our salvation is based on the power and promise and performance of God: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). Paul spoke of Abraham’s faith in this way: “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Romans 4:20-21). As an added thought, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Universal Witness of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Mt. 24:14

Mt. 24:14 “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.”

Jesus concluded this paragraph with a general description of the preaching during the seven years of Tribulation, Several questions arise: What will this preaching include, when will it begin, who will do the preaching and what shall be the outcome?

The preaching itself is called: “the gospel of the kingdom.” The same phrase was used in 4:23; 9:35 when Jesus was presenting Himself as the King/Messiah and proving His claim by performing many miracles of healing. After three years of such preaching and ministering, He was rejected by Israel. In the context of 24:14 this same message will be preached, with the emphasis placed on the fact that the King is coming, and birth pangs of the Messiah will be the precursors of that event.

The gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the entire seven-year period preceding His return to earth. The persecutions and eventual martyrdoms of believers for His name’s sake are part of the beginning birth pangs, as was noted in verses 9-10 by the use of tote (then) which does not mean sometime thereafter. Preaching will continue until “all the world” and “all nations” hear, after which the “end of the age” will occur.

Some question may remain as to who the preachers will be. If the entire Church is raptured before the Tribulation period begins, who will be left on earth to preach the gospel? There are at least three sources for preachers during those seven years. There is an angel sent: “having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and in every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6). Even though there are no believers on earth immediately after Rapture, this angelic ministry will eventually reach all the world, and obviously, there will still be Bibles available which can be utilized by God in reaching the multitudes. A second source for preachers will be the group of 144,000 Jews who are “redeemed from among men” and are called the: “firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4). Such a title infers that they must be sealed early in the Tribulation period, and because the four angels of Revelation 7:1-3 (which is during the time of the opening of the seals) are commanded: “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads.” These servants of God are then described as the 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel. Since Jews have been dispersed to all nations for centuries, it is not difficult to see how these servants of God will be able to preach to the nations. Later in the same chapter, a third source for preachers is mentioned as: “a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds and peoples, and tongues” coming out of “the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:9-14). Any number of these could easily feel the burden of preaching the gospel to their friends and neighbors during these awesome years of trouble, warning them of future judgments and of the necessity of being “washed in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

The outcome of all this preaching, of course, will be a worldwide witness, up until the end of that period of tribulation. There will be no legitimate reason for anyone to claim that they did not have the gospel available to them, when the Lord comes “in the fulness of time” in glory with His holy angels!

Read Part 138

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