I will start this final study by thanking those who contacted me to thank me for the previous studies in Matthew 24 under the title of ‘The Beginning of Sorrows.’
These studies arose out my own consideration of the verse 8 and the fact that the Saviour indicated that the ‘Christian Era’ would be one of sorrow for the believer. It is not that the gospel brings grief to those who embrace it, for nothing could be further from the truth. What was said of Samaria upon the entrance of the gospel, may be said of individuals, communities and nations which embrace God’s truth as did Samaria. “And there was great joy in that city,” Acts 8:8.
But not all cities acted so. Things were different on at least one occasion in Ephesus. “And the whole city was filled with confusion,”Acts 19:29. That word ‘confusion’ refers to a riotous situation, not brought on by the gospel but brought about by the enemies of the gospel who sought by riot to stop it being preached.
So it has been over the last 2000 years.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS, Final Part
“All these are the beginning of sorrows,” Matthew 24:8.
Thoughts arising from my reading of this chapter as part of my daily reading and which form the final section of a brief study of Mathew 24:1-31.
There have been very few periods over the last 2000 years when sorrow did not feature darkly amongst the ranks of the godly. Even in times of revival blessing, those who served the Lord and preached His Word were treated shamefully. The histories of men such as the Waldenses, the Protestant Reformers, the Covenanters, George Whitefield and John Wesley testify to this fact.
This world has never had the wit to realise the greatness of the eternal good that it could enjoy if only it were to receive the message of Christ. Instead, it has treated the messengers with the ‘good news’ of salvation most abominably. In all too many instances they “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth,” Hebrews 11:36-38.
Yes, sorrow has followed the gospel like a dark shadow but Christian, remember the words of Paul.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,” Romans 8:18-23.
I ended our last study by indicating that we will consider the final and glorious sequence of events that will signal the return of the Saviour and our gathering unto Him.
The verses we will look at in this study are these.
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened . . . . . Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” Matthew 24:15-22, 29-31.
On display in Jerusalem — A model of a future temple the Jews hope to build.
As I pointed out in our last study, and I believe it is so relevant that it bears repeating, there will be no ‘secret rapture of the saints before the Great Tribulation’.
It is recorded here that the Lord Jesus urges upon those who will be living in Jerusalem when the Antichrist violates the Jewish temple by erecting an idol of himself, called by Daniel and the Lord Jesus, “the abomination of desolation,” (Daniel 12:11, Matthew 24:15) to take immediate, urgent measures to safeguard themselves and to flee to the mountains around Jerusalem for safety. That exhortation on its own disproves the notion that the saints would be divinely delivered out of the tribulation by being ‘raptured’ away to heaven.
However, the Saviour’s words to His disciples offer hope and comfort for those called upon to endure such tribulation. I mentioned that the Lord measured the tribulation in ‘days’. “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! . . . . And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. . . . . Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” Matthew 24:19, 22, 29-20.
But the theme of hope in the Saviour’s words reaches its climax with His announcement that, “immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
1. EACH DAY OF THE ‘GREAT TRIBULATION’ WILL BRING THAT GREAT EVENT CLOSER.
The saints living in those days are privileged to know what we cannot know today — the actual day when Christ will return.
The tribulation will last for three and a half years. In order to underscore that length of the time of the tribulation, the Bible states that period in three different ways; in days, in months and in years. References to this time of tribulation may be seen in a number of places in the Bible and there will also be seen the different methods of measuring the duration of that time that the Lord employs.
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth,” Revelation 11:3.
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days,” Revelation 12:6.
“But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months,” Revelation 11:2.
“And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months,” Revelation 13:5.
“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent,” Revelation 12:14.
It is not only in the New Testament that this reference to the duration of the tribulation generated by the Antichrist appears. It was revealed to Daniel also.
“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his (the Antichrist) hand until a time and times and the dividing of time,” Daniel 7:25.
In order to settle any doubts that ‘times’ means ‘years’ you have but to turn to Daniel 4. There we have Daniel revealing to Nebuchaddnezzar that God was going to humble the great king for a period of ‘seven times’.
“Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him,” verse 16.
“And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him,” verse 23.
“And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will,” verse 32.
The term ‘times’ obviously refers to a longer period than a day. “The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws,” Daniel 4:33.
Such a transformation would not have happened in seven days! ‘Time’ refers to a period of a year.
The Lord having revealed in an emphatic fashion the length of Antichrist’s persecution, the tribulation endured by the Jews in particular but also involving Christians within Antichrist’s realm, and the time allocated by heaven to Antichrist’s defiance of God, it is a simple matter of arithmetic for any Christian to measure the time from the setting up of the idol in the temple — something that most surely will feature large in the ‘news reports’ of that future day, given what would be the Jewish reaction to such a violation of their ‘holy place — and count off the days of the “forty and two months” allocated to Antichrist to continue in his rebellion. “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months,” Revelation 13:5.
Evidence of the believers’ knowledge of the near approach of that day may be seen in the Saviour’s words in Luke 21:28. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” This is the action we see in a form every day! Those standing at a bus stop, waiting for a bus, may fiddle with their phone, look down at their feet, occupied with their own thoughts, absently look around them at the activities in the street UNTIL someone says, ‘Here comes the bus!’
The phone is put away, eyes are focused on the bus and all waiting ready themselves to board.
Is that not the image presented to us in Luke 21:28? Having kept a record of the passing of the 1260 days, there is an indescribable sense of anticipation that Christ would appear very soon and everything is discounted and set aside and the hearts and minds of believers are focused on the glorious event about to take place.
2. THERE WILL BE OTHER SIGNS TO CONFIRM THE NEARNESS OF CHRIST’S RETURN.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken,” Matthew 24:29.
These tremendous events will take place as an announcement of the Saviour’s return. As the lights go down in a theatre to herald the beginning of the play, so God will dim the lights of the heavens, as it were, in preparation for His Son coming forth to the stage of this world in glory, to take His rightful place as Ruler of the Universe.
However, in the closing days of the three and a half years there will be events take place which the true believer will be able to trace in their Bibles. In Daniel chapters 10 and 11, there is given us the vision revealed to Daniel of what would befall the Jews in the latter days.
“Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days,” Daniel 10:14. In those chapters 10 and 11, are things ‘hard to be understood’. BUT as they begin to be enacted and unfold before the eyes of God’s people, THEN they will be understood and serve to inform the believer of the approach of the concluding days of the empire of the Antichrist.
Likewise, the account of Isaiah of the closing days of Antichrist’s reign, his assembling of his forces at ‘Armageddon’, gathered there by God in His sovereign power (Revelation 16:16), and his march from there upon Jerusalem in his final attempt to destroy the city, will be enacted before the eyes of the world.
“And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt. And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing. He is come to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages: They are gone over the passage: they have taken up their lodging at Geba; Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled. Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth. Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. As yet shall he remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one,” Isaiah 10:26-34.
Those names, Aiath, Migron, Michmash, to name but a few, are villages and towns that lie between Armageddon and Jerusalem. It is at Jerusalem, on the hill at Nob (where Dr John Douglas, Mr and Mrs Stephen Toms, my wife Ann and I stayed in a hotel in 2010, during a visit to Israel) that Antichrist will “shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem” and the Lord will “lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.” Paul puts it perhaps in words more familiar to us. “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming,” 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
View of Jerusalem from the balcony of the hotel, ‘Regency’, situated on the hill called ‘Nob’ in Isaiah 10.
At about the same time, the Antichrist will hear of disaster at his great city of Babylon. “One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end,” Jeremiah 51:31. This event is triumphantly announced by heaven. “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird,” Revelation 18:1-2.
Oh yes, there will be plenty to inform the believer that the Saviour’s return is near. Remember His words.
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors,” Mark 13:28-29.
I should, of course, mention the supernatural events recorded in Revelation chapters 8-16, in the times of the seven TRUMPETS, PLAGUES and VIALS being poured out upon Antichrist’s empire. All these will likewise act as a means of calculating the passage of time and the approach of the Saviour’s return. It seems today that we are having something of a rehearsal for those horrendous events with the droughts, the floodS, the fires and the many tragedies across the world. However, when the Lord starts to acts as is recorded in Revelation chapters 8-16, it will be much more intense and men will understand that it is most evidently the Lord at work, something not acknowledged about today’s disasters. The events prophesied in Revelation chapters 8-16, will not be on a worldwide scale but will be concentrated upon the territories of the Antichrist, the area of the world once known as the Roman Empire (See Revelation 16:10).
3. WHAT A DAY THE RETURN OF CHRIST WILL BE!
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Briefly, let me state that it is the day longed for by the saints of God since the conversion of Adam! The Psalmist has stated for us the expectation and hope of the true believer throughout the ages. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness,” Psalm 17:15.
It will begin the Saviour’s REIGN on the earth.
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection,” Revelation 20:1-5.
“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one,” Zechariah 14:4-9.
It will be a day of RESTORATION on the earth.
What wonderful changes the Lord will introduce in the earth when He returns. Here are just some indications of those renovations.
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea,” Isaiah 11:6-9.
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God,” Amos 9:13-15.
Even the Dead Sea will be restored.
“Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt. And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine,” Ezekiel 47:7-12.
It will be a day of REWARD for the faithful.
On that day it will be seen that what Paul said was so very, very true! “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,” 1 Corinthians 15:58.
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Matthew 25:31-40.
It will be a day of REJOICING amongst the redeemed and the angels of heaven.
“And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” Revelation 19:1-6.
It will be a day of RECOGNITION for the despised people of God.
The true character of the people of God is far from being understood by the world. But that will change on that day.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen,” Jude 1:24-25.
It will be a day of REUNION for all the saints.
It will be a day of unity and confraternity like no other.
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18.
When the Lord Jesus returns then the ‘sorrows’ of which He said were but beginning(verse 8) will be over for the people of God FOREVER, Hallelujah!
“And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,” Revelation 7:14-17.
Surely we should seek to LEARN of that day; LONG for that day and earnestly LOOK for that day. May our prayer be: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” Revelation 22:20.