"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads,
because your redemption draws near." (Luke 22:10 NKJV)
Opening prayer: Heavenly Father, it feels like this world has been in chaos for a very long time. Are we finally entering into the final stage of the world's rebellion against you? Open our hearts and minds to understand Your plan, that we might be ready for whatever happens next. Amen.
This is an introduction to our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah.
"Are We There Yet, Daddy?"
When my children were small, they would grow impatient during long (or even short) car trips. They would often ask, "Are we there yet, Daddy?" My answer was, "No, but we're getting closer."
In recent years, I find myself asking God a similar question about the End Times. I want to know if we're near the time when believers will be taken up in the next Rapture event. I ask Him: "Are we there yet, Daddy?" And He answers me, "No, but we're getting closer."
As this lesson is being updated, in early 2020, people are asking if the COVID-19 virus is a warning from God about the approaching End Times. If we ask: "Are we there yet, Daddy?" His answer will be the same: "No, but we're getting closer."
The disciples asked a similar question of Jesus in Matthew 24, verses 1-3:And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and His disciples came to Him to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 3 And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
Actually the disciples asked three questions:
- When shall these things (destruction of the temple) be?
- What shall be the sign of Thy coming?
- What shall be the sign of the end of the world?
To understand the questions (and Jesus' answers), remember that the disciples were Jewish. Therefore both the warning of destruction and the promises of Messiah were based on the Jewish Scriptures given to the nation of Israel.
We already know from history that the temple was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 AD. However, Jesus has not yet come in glory to establish His Kingdom. And the existing world order has not yet been destroyed. Therefore we should be concerned about these two questions and be aware of the signs pointing to the last days before His return.
First Sign: Deception
Let's see how Jesus responded, beginning in verses 4-5:And Jesus answered and said to them, "Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many."
Note that the first and most-important warning concerns deception. We are easily deceived because we don't know all the facts and we tend to avoid unpleasant truths.
This lesson was originally written in the Summer of 2009, during the attempted socialist takeover of the US government. Deception was the distinguishing characteristic of this program:
- Immensely long and complicated items of legislation were rammed through Congress at unprecedented speed. The "Blitzkreig" pace prevented the American people from learning the details until after the bills became law.
- The authors of the legislation were unwilling to explain the chilling details of how these laws would change the government and diminish individual freedoms. Instead, they said the blandest of generalities in a way calculated to deceive.
- The vast majority of newspapers and TV networks were happy to cooperate with the deception. They echoed the platitudes of the politicians instead of tackling the difficult truth. This made the American people even more vulnerable to deception than usual.
Are things different today, as this lesson is being updated in 2020?
- The American people have expressed their dislike for the attempted socialist takeover by electing a politically conservative President.
- The political "establishment" (called "the swamp creatures" by the new President) has begun an unprecedent campaign of personal character assassination and baseless charges of wrongdoing.
- The establishment newspapers and TV networks have joined in the smear campaign against the new President. This has led to a new term, "Fake News" to describe their output.
- The new President, unlike previous Republican Presidents, has refused (like Mordecai in the Book of Esther) to bow or be intimidated by his enemies, and has publicly denounced the Fake News.
- Bottom line: Deception is still the favorite tactic of the enemy's unwitting disciples.
Like cholesterol in our arteries, deception has a cumulative effect on us. Our minds become dull and undernourished. Our emotions become stronger than our rational judgment. We make bad choices in order to "follow our hearts."
Jesus warns us that in the last days, deception will cover every part of life. People will seek easy answers instead of God's truth. People will follow false messiahs because they can't confront their own need for redemption. The truth of the Bible will make them uncomfortable, so they will flee to liars.
The irony is that we now have technology to make information freely available to anyone, anywhere. But the information channels have become filled with entertainment (toxic) and opinions (subjective). Truth is buried in a barrage of entertaining garbage.
So is deception strong enough to qualify for this part of Jesus' warning? Are we there yet? If not, we're pretty close.
Wars and Rumors of Wars
Let's continue with Matthew 24, verses 6-8:"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows."
Yes, we have had a non-stop procession of wars in this world. But what are "rumors" of wars? "Rumors" translates the Greek word akoe, which means news reports. Do we have news reports of wars? Yes, we have newspapers, news magazines, TV and Internet sites that filled with accounts of wars and terrorist activity.
What about famines and pestilences and earthquakes? Yep. We've got them everywhere. You can blame the boogeyman (global warming), but God is in charge of the weather and the earthquakes. Global warming advocates (part of the deception described earlier) proclaim that we should panic because of a claimed "trend" of one degree per century. That's nothing compared to the changes God will bring upon the earth in a single seven-year period.
Yes, there might be more earthquakes, droughts and extreme weather events than normal. And the present-day pestilence of COVID-19 is frighteningly contagious and deadly. But Jesus describes them as "the beginning of sorrows." We're not "there" yet, but we're getting closer.
Verses 9-12 take us to the time of the end:Then they will deliver you up to be afflicted and will kill you. And you will be hated of all nations for My name's sake. 10 And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will rise and deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will become cold."
Persecution of Christians is nothing new. Being "hated of all nations" is nothing new for either Jews or Christians.
False prophets are nothing new. As you might have noticed, one particular false prophet started a violent religion 1400 years ago, and his followers have inflicted violence and persecution everywhere they've gone. Although Islam is not a "new" religion, in recent times it has overshadowed communism as the most-disruptive religion on earth.
Muslim orthodoxy is that Muslims will destroy all the Jews first, the Christians second, and all the other "infidels" next. In case you're wondering, Muslims account for about one sixth of the world's population. So their stated goal is to destroy five sixths of the human beings on earth. The peculiar thing (to this author), is that our news organizations are very efficient at spreading "rumors of wars," but they devote no attention to Islam's openly stated goal of destroying all of us infidels.
The Good News is that the "gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations." This is happening as we speak, even in Muslim nations. TV, radio and the Internet have made the gospel available almost everywhere. And the Holy Spirit has begun revealing Jesus to Muslim people by means of dreams and visions. God loves them, and is taking a surprising harvest in recent years.
Did you notice the chilling prediction in Verse 12? "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will become cold." This is a warning to you and me, the Church of Jesus Christ. As we near the time of the end, the general population will be more receptive to sin than to salvation. But instead of rallying to bring revival (in ourselves and others), Christians will tend to fade in their enthusiasm. Christians will fade in their desire to reach lost sinners. Christians will lose their burning passion for Jesus.
We're getting closer. Some would say we're already there.
Verses 13-14 finish up this group of prophecies:"But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Jesus makes it clear that bad times will happen to good people. Furthermore, He makes it clear that we must continue to be faithful until something called "the end." If we are alive and awake believers, we will be caught upward in the next Rapture event. If we are not in that category, we must be faithful until some other event:
- It might be incineration in the nuclear war prophesied by Ezekiel.
- It might be martyrdom at the hands of an unfriendly mob or government agency.
- It might be a few unpleasant years waiting for one of the subsequent rapture events. For more information, see the Missed the Rapture? content on this website.
My personal recommendation is to be in the first group that is raptured to safety. You might not have time to get your act together in the days or weeks (or hours) between the next Rapture event and Ezekiel's War.
Jesus repeats His warnings
We will skip over verses 15-35 of Matthew 24, which concern the actual tribulation period. Verses 36-39 give us additional warnings:“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be."
During the time that Jesus physically walked this earth, He lived as a perfect man -- voluntarily and temporarily emptied of His divinity but completely empowered by the Holy Spirit. Since His resurrection, He has resumed His divinity and is fully aware of when the end will come. However, you and I are not as well-informed.
But although I don't know when The End times will come, I know that I must be faithful until then.
The Wise and the Foolish
Jesus makes a chilling warning to church people in Matthew 25, 1-14:“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
In Jesus' time, the betrothal period was a full year. Toward the end of that period, the bridegroom would be "hidden" for several weeks at the home of his father. During that time, he would build a home for himself and his bride on part of his father's estate.
During this time when the bridegroom was hidden, his bride and her maidens were expected to be ready for the son's return. They were not informed of the groom's progress or the exact date of his return. Instead, the groom would return suddenly, when he and his father determined that the time was right. The bride and her maidens were expected to be ready. If not, they would be left outside the gate.
Can you see the parallels between that custom and the return of Jesus? Remember what He promised in John 14 verses 2-3:In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Jesus is our Bridegroom, hidden from our view as He prepares a place for us. Those of us who claim to be Christians are supposed to be awaiting His return. We are like the ten virgins described in the parable.
Some of us are wise -- we have sought the oil of the Holy Spirit, the new birth, that will qualify us to enter heaven and be with Him. Some of our church friends are foolish -- showing up in church services every week but not preparing themselves for eternal life. If you are uncertain about your salvation, you will have an opportunity at the end of this lesson to be 100% sure of your eternal future. For now, let's continue our lesson.
There are additional warnings in Luke 21, verses 29-33:Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away."
Jesus used an interesting double meaning in this passage. Ordinary fig trees are just as He describes -- putting out leaves and buds in the Spring. So fig leaves speak of approaching Summer. In addition, the Bible often uses the fig tree as a symbol for Israel. The parallel meaning is that we should watch for prophetic signs taking place in the nation of Israel as well as in the Gentile world.
Are we seeing prophetic signs in Israel? Most assuredly. As this lesson is being written, nuclear experts are admitting that Iran is capable of making nuclear weapons intended to attack Israel, and Israel is asking the world for permission to defend itself against the attack they see coming soon.
Note in verse 33 that Jesus said "this generation" -- the generation that sees these signs -- will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled as He said. We are seeing the signs. Our generation will not pass away until the end times take place. Are we there yet? Not today, but we're getting closer.
Another warning to believers
Verses 34-35 of Luke 21 sound a frightening warning to people who claim to be Christians:“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth."
If you are reading this, you probably not in the process of carousing or drunkenness. But is your heart weighed down by the cares of this world? Are you worried about the economy and whether you will ever be able to retire comfortably like your parents or grandparents?
And have you noticed how frantic the pace of life has become? A century ago, daily life was much quieter. But then...
- We learned to communicate more quickly: telegraph, telephone, radio and television.
- My parents' generation used to comment -- back in the 1960s -- how hurried people seemed to be compared to their parents' generation.
- And then our generation developed cell phones, digital cameras, the Internet webcams and email.
- And now our kids have adopted text messaging and "tweets" (if you don't know about Twitter, ask your kids) for instant communications.
We are bombarded with messages 24 hours per day, both for business and family communications. Our communications tools have become "the cares of this life."
The solution is simple: Be sure to spend quality time with the Lord each morning and evening, renewing your connection to His Word and remembering His love for you. Hint: God instituted Sabbath rests for our benefit, not His. You and I need to learn the discipline of rest, contradictory as that might sound.
The Ultimate Promise
Jesus finished His warnings by giving us an extravagant promise in Luke 21, verse 36:"Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
If we are born again and faithfully awaiting His return, Jesus promises that we will "escape all these things that will come to pass." We can be airlifted to safety in the next Rapture event. We can escape the judgment that soon will fall upon the whole earth. The choice is ours.
Are you 100% sure of your salvation?
Jesus never spoke in shades of grey. Remember His words in John 3 verse 3: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
In His eyes, we are either born again by the power of the Holy Ghost or we are not. If we born again, we are saved and wise. If we are not born again, we are foolish.
The Good News is that foolishness does not have to be permanent. If you are able to read this, it's not too late to become born again. If you want to be 100% sure of your eternal destiny, and if you believe what the Bible says about Jesus paying the price on the cross for your salvation, you can settle the matter right now. Just pray a simple prayer like this one: "Heavenly Father, I repent of trying to be good enough to earn heaven by my own works. I understand that Your Son Jesus was my sacrificial Passover Lamb; His shed blood paid the penalty for my sins. I want to be born again, as Jesus commanded. So please send Your Holy Spirit to come into my heart, to give me eternal life, and to begin the process of changing me into the image of Your Son, Jesus. Father, I thank you for this precious gift. Open my heart and mind to know Your will for my future, I pray in Jesus' name, Amen."
If you prayed that prayer and meant it, a miracle took place in your heart. You became a new person. You have begun a new life.
If you prayed that prayer, please take a minute and send us an email by clicking the link below. If the next rapture event hasn't already happened, we will be pleased to write back and see what we can do to help you get started in your new walk of faith.