The View From the Mount of Olives – Study #3

(Jesus’ Great Prophetic Sermon)

Jesus let His disciples know that the first half of the coming period of Tribulation would hit the world hard, but Israel would not be affected like others would be. He said, “you (Israel) will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars, see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matt. 24:6). It is probable that the treaty Israel signed with the Antichrist (Dan. 9:27), which starts the 7 years of the Tribulation, will afford Israel a measure of protection from these events. However, Jesus went on to say: “then they will deliver you (Israel) to tribulation” (24:9). This dramatic change will take place because of the events at the middle of the Tribulation, highlighted by the “abomination of desolation” (24:15). Half-way into the Tribulation, it becomes a very different world for the people of Israel.

Jesus then focused on the second half of the Tribulation and on His coming in power and glory, which will bring the Tribulation to an end. He had briefly mentioned the second half in His message, but now He would give it greater detail.

More on the Second Half of the TribulationMatthew 24:16-24

  • The Worst of the “Birth Pains”.  The last 3½ years of the Tribulation are far worse for Israel, but also for the entire world. The outpouring of God’s wrath, combined with the persecution of God’s people by Satan and his forces, make this a time of death unlike any in human history. Jesus said that “unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved” (Matt. 24:22). Jesus was not saying that God will suddenly realize how terrible this time is and decide to shorten them from the 3½ years to some lesser amount of time. Rather He is stating that the omniscient God limited these most horrible of days to 3½ years instead of the entire seven years, or some longer period such as 14 years (two “weeks” of Daniel’s “Seventy Weeks”). The Apostle John would later reveal in the Book of Revelation that perhaps as many as 80% will perish in the Tribulation period. If the 80% figure is correct, that would mean that some 6 billion human beings will die during this 7-year period. This is, for sure, the worst of times.
  • Powerful Supernatural Displays from God and Satan. One of the unique aspects of this 7-year period is the immense display of the supernatural. This will not be “business as usual” on planet earth. God’s servants will be authenticated through signs and miracles, but Satan’s servants will be able to do amazing supernatural wonders as well. Jesus observed that “false Christs and false prophets will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (24:24). He was pointing out two basic facts about their miracle working: (1) they will be “great” miracles, not some slight-of-hand tricks like pulling rabbits out of hats, and (2) they will be deceptive, even having the potential of fooling God’s own people. It is probable that these miracles worked by Satan’s followers will resemble the miracles worked by Jesus, as recorded in the gospels. Would it not be amazing to be in a large stadium and have the Antichrist take a hotdog and glass of Pepsi and satisfy the hunger of some 75,000 people?  The Apostle Paul agrees that the Antichrist will be a miracle worker. He noted that the Antichrist is “the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders and with all the deception of wickedness” (2 Thes. 2:9-10). And John reveals that the Evil One will be the source of the Antichrist’s miracles in the coming Tribulation (Rev. 13:2). Jesus, John, and Paul agree that powerful, supernatural wonders will be performed by Satan’s followers which will deceive multitudes of people.

God will be validating the message of His servants throughout the Tribulation period, as with the Two Witnesses, who have extraordinary powers, resembling those of Elijah and Moses (Rev. 11:5-6). God’s supernatural judgments will take place during the entire period. It is clear to all that these are miracles of God and not some bad set of circumstances (e.g. Rev. 16:9, 11, 21). The outpouring of supernatural signs, miracles and wonders will be so abundant that it is unlikely that any atheists or agnostics remain on the earth. The issue will not “is there a God?”, but rather will I follow Christ or follow the Antichrist. The outpouring of the supernatural marks these days as unique in human history.

  • Great Persecution of National Israel.  Jesus warned the people of Israel that when the “abomination of desolation” is set up in the Temple’s holy place, they are to quickly get out of Jerusalem and Israel (24:15-21). It is then that the Antichrist will cease being their protector, but will become their persecutor. At that same moment, Satan will be forcibly removed from heaven (Rev. 12:7-13) and will be confined to the earth where he will with great wrath begin trying to destroy Israel. As Jesus spoke about the attempt to destroy Israel, He most likely had Zechariah 12:1-9 and 14:12-15 in mind which brings the second half of the Tribulation to a climax. The world has always been plagued with antisemitism, but nothing to this degree.
  • Israel Enters the New Covenant.  The main reason for the Tribulation is save the people of Israel. And they shall be saved, not because they deserve it but because God had made an unconditional covenant with them. He committed Himself to saving Israel. As the Tribulation comes to an end, the “elect” will be gathered from all over the earth to Israel. There is a rich Old Testament background to 24:31. Israel is the “elect” and God brings these redeemed Israelites back to the Land (e.g. Deut. 30:2-10; Jer. 31:10-12, 31-40). God will fulfill His goal of saving Israel. The Apostle Paul plainly declares that “all Israel shall be saved, just as it is written, ‘the Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins…the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable’” (Rom 11:25-27). Finally, two millennia after Jesus died on the Cross, Israel will look on the One who they pierced and will come to Him in faith and receive God’s great salvation (Zech. 12:10-14), fulfilling the Tribulation’s purpose.

The Second Coming of Christ to the Earth – Matthew 24:25-31

  • Jesus’ Return in Power and Glory. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth is very different from His first coming. His first coming was quiet, without any obvious displays of power or evidences of glory. Isaiah spoke of His first coming as one who was despised, unattractive, not esteemed, without status and “like one from whom men hide their face” (Isa. 53:2-3). Aside from the experience of three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, the glory of Jesus was not seen by man. But the Second Coming will be just the opposite. Jesus said that when He comes back, there will be no doubt it, as He will come in power and great glory (24:25-27, 30). Even the worst theologians on the planet will fully understand that Jesus Messiah has come back, and this time with overwhelming displays of glory and evidences of power. 
  • The “Sign” of the Son of Man. Just before and in connection with Jesus’ Second Coming, there will be a sign in the heavens. It will unmistakably point to His return and it will be seen everywhere in the world (24:30). Even the hardened unbeliever will understand what the sign means: that Jesus is now returning. They mourn because they know that their day is over. They have been weighed on God’s scale and have been found wanting. Jesus does not specifically state what the “sign” will look like. It could well be that the sign is the appearance of the “shekinah,” the glory that declares the presence of God. The “shekinah” was over the Tabernacle that Moses built, and reminded Israel that God was with them. It is very possible that the “star of Bethlehem” was an appearance of the “shekinah.” And it is possible that the glory of God is something which even the basest of men recognize. In any case, man’s day is over, and it will then be time to finally establish the long-awaited messianic kingdom. Jesus returns as King of kings and Lord of lords. What a day that will be, and we believers in Jesus will be there and part of this grand event.
    Church Age

FINAL THOUGHTS. In answer to the disciples’ questions, Jesus gave a brief overview of end time events, drawing on truths found in the Old Testament. His discourse is a reminder that God is fully in control of what is happening on planet earth. His plans are not thwarted and they will not be delayed by evil men or by the Evil One. He will judge the wicked and He will save multitudes of Jews and gentiles.

But Jesus’ discourse was far from completed. He was very interested that His followers take these truths of future events and allow them to adjust the way they think and live in the present. He does this by giving six intriguing parables, some of which are hotly debated as to their meaning. They are an exhortation to always be ready for His appearing, and not to become distracted by events or persons in this world. These six parables will be the focus of our final study in Christ’ “Olivet Discourse.”