The beginning of sorrows, Part 2

This the second article containing comments I have penned on Matthew 24:1-31.

I would consider this portion of God’s Word as one of the most important and relevant section of the Holy Scriptures for this day in which we live!

It speaks of those events leading up to the final seven years of this age and then goes into even greater detail regarding the second half of that season, the last three and a half years, or as they are referred to in the Bible, a thousand two hundred and threescore days, the time, times and half a time and the forty-two weeks, Revelation 11:2-3, 12:14.

I trust that you will be helped by what is here written.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster.

“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 are the second section of a brief study of Mathew 24:1-31. I hope to continue the study on a weekly basis.

The city of Jerusalem as seen from the Garden of Gethsemane

Let us come to the words of this verse, which forms the basis of our study.

1. The meaning of the word ‘beginning’. The word carries the meaning of ‘the origin’. It first appears in the New Testament in Matthew 19:4. “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,” Matthew 19:4.

From that act of creation, very much has sprung! Likewise, that is what the Saviour is indicating. The wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes will give rise to very great sorrow.

2. This age is to end in sorrow and suffering. That is what sin and rebellion against God brings! “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,” James 1:15.

From the very beginning it has been so. The Lord told Adam and Eve that as a result of their believing the devil and defying of God, they would reap a harvest of sorrow. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return . . . And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell . . . . And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. . . . And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD,” Genesis 3:16-19, 4:4-5, 8, 16.

The sorrow sin brings spread to succeeding generations and is spreading and increasing still and will terminate in that sorrow at the end of this age of which the Saviour is here speaking.

3. The specific instances of end-time sorrow will particularly have an effect upon the unconverted Jewish people in the land of Israel. That is not to say that many of the redeemed will be caught up in this sorrow of the last three and a half years of the age, the period known as ‘the great tribulation’. Of this the Saviour spoke in verse 21 of our chapter. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

During this ‘tribulation’ Christians will suffer. That is made clear in Revelation 20:4. “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.”

Here we are told that during the time of the Antichrist, the Beast, there will be those who will be “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God”, because they had not “worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands”.

The Sufferings of the Jews

But we must stress that the period of the ‘great tribulation’ will be especially a terrible times for the Jews in Jerusalem and Israel. “And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as 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,” Jeremiah 30:4-7.

In Matthew 24, I believe that the Lord is specifically addressing the Jewish disciples to tell them what lay ahead for their nation. Note what He says in verses 14-21. “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. 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.” None can deny the ‘Jewish’ context of this warning. The use of terms such as ‘Judea’ and the ‘holy place’ indicate that to be so.

The term, ‘the holy place’, must refer to a temple, which is yet to be built, but the plans of which are under preparation for quite some time, as has been frequently reported by various agencies in Jerusalem. The term is frequently used with reference to the tabernacle (Exodus 26:33, 34, Leviticus 6:16, 26 etc) and also Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:16, 7:50 etc). We find the temple referred to as ‘this holy place’ by the opponents of the apostles. “And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us,” Acts 6:13-14.

In the last days there will be erected an idol, for that is what the phrase, “the abomination of desolation,” Matthew 24:15, is referring to. That this is to be sited in the ‘holy place’ presupposes the existence of a temple in Jerusalem at the end of this age. I believe that the ‘idol’ is the ‘image of the beast’ referred to in Revelation 13:14-16. “And (the false prophet, Antichrist’s lieutenant) deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads.”

The word ‘earth’ in verse 14, refers to the land of Israel. The Greek word so translated, ‘ge’, is translated in its first use in the New Testament as the ‘land’ of Juda and Israel. “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel,” Matthew 2:6. In verse 20 and also in verse 21 of the same chapter, it is translated ‘land’ of Israel. “Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.  And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.”

The Roman Earth

Because the use of this Greek word ‘ge’ in these verses refers to Israel I believe that where it is translated ‘earth’, as in Revelation 13:14, we should think of it as the Roman Earth, which was largely centred geographically upon Israel.

We are told most assuredly that in the last three and a half years of this age, when the power of Antichrist is at its zenith, he will be ruling his empire, consisting of the territories of the old Roman Empire, from the city of Jerusalem.

“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified,” Revelation 11:3-8.

There can be no room for disputing that Jerusalem is here spoken of as it alone is the great city where our Lord was crucified!

The sum of this is: an idol will be raised in the ‘holy place’ in Jerusalem from where, in the last days of this age, Antichrist will govern his dominions and in consequence, it will be the hotspot of his rage against all that is called God.

4. The meaning of the word ‘sorrows’. It appears four times in the New Testament. Twice translated ‘sorrows’, once as ‘pain’ and also once as ‘travail’. It is this latter translation that gives us an insight into the implications of its use by the Saviour.

It appears as ‘travail’ in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape,” 5:2-3.

This is very significant since the ‘sorrows’ of the great tribulation do indeed lead to birth. That of a regenerated remnant of the Jews who have been spared by the Lord’s mercy from Antichrist’s onslaught upon that people. “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her,” Isaiah 66:8-10.

I believe this to be a reference to the experience of the elect remnant of Jews at the return of the Lord Jesus. Zechariah tells us much about that wonderful ‘day’ in chapters 12-14 of his book. Here is one thing he mentions. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart,” Zechariah 12:9-12. This is that ‘blessed mourning’ of which the Saviour said: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted,” Matthew 5:4. This is the mourning of a people brought to repentance and who see the dreadful crime of which they have been guilty, that of crucifying their Messiah. Out of this sight of Christ at His return and the repentance that it induces comes the new birth of the nation of Israel. Of this event Paul said: “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. . . . . I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree,”  Romans 11:1-4, 11-17.

The Converted Jew, a Missionary

As the fall of Israel through their rejection of their Messiah brought about the ‘riches’ of the gospel being shared with the Gentile nations, even so the reclaiming of His ancient people by the Lord in His mercy will bring even greater blessings to the world during the Millennial Reign of Christ which will follow upon His return.

Here is what Zechariah says on this matter. “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you,” 8:20-23.

Isaiah also speaks of those days. “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,” Isaiah 2:1-4.

Thus the ‘sorrows’ of ‘the great tribulation’ at the close of this age will give way to the ‘birth’ of the golden age so often mentioned by the prophets. Here is one of Isaiah’s references to the splendours of the Millennial age. You will see where it was that Paul obtained his information regarding the destruction of the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:8) as you read these words of Isaiah.

“But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 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 11:4-9.

5. While I believe that the Jews will be at the core of the Antichrist’s hatred during the ‘great tribulation’, those washed in the blood of the Lamb will also fall under his wrath and hatred. Christians will suffer in the final days of this age, even as they have always suffered, on many occasions to a most awful degree, during this New Testament age. What the Saviour says here to Jewish Christians must be considered by all believers today, remembering that the area in which the tribulation will be felt will be within the territories of the Antichrist, and not over all the world.

Revelation 20:4, already quoted, indicates the area where believers suffer, namely in the Antichrist’s territories. I understand from Scripture that those believers who will chiefly suffer will be Jewish believers, converted in the latter times, to faith in their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because the Bible has so wonderfully disclosed in advance all the plans of the Antichrist and so greatly forestalled the devil’s end-time schemes, it is little wonder that the Bible prophecies revealing the devil’s plans have come under such attempts to discredit them, misinterpret them and generally render them useless to believers by placing upon them such ‘expositions’ as to utterly rob them of any profit to God’s people.

Chiefly to blame in this Satanic ploy is the method of prophetic interpretation  called ‘A-Millennialism’.

It has chiefly come out of the camp of popery but was one of those things that the Reformers foolishly held unto. Consequently, some of the greatest devotional commentaries have within them the most indiscreet and unwise statements regarding the prophecies contained in such books as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and the Book of the Revelation.

Forsaking the simple principle that ‘God says what He means and means what He says’, the A-Millennialist embarks upon a fanciful ‘spiritualising’ of prophecy whereby it is robbed of its meaning and all benefit for the people of God.

This, I believe, is the devil’s attempt to counter the Lord wonderfully revealing the devil’s evil plans for his final, and utterly futile attempt to overthrow God, at the end of this age!

(End of part 2 of our study)