Having now obtained a good understanding of the questions presented by the disciples, we can now hope to obtain a clearer understanding of the Lord’s answers. While I believe it is correct to assume the Lord intended the apostles to understand His answers to their questions within the context of the 70th seven/week of Daniel, He does not mention the event that kicks off the 7 years which we covered when studying Daniel chapter 9. My reasoning for this relates to the observation there is solid evidence to claim the “near application with a far fulfillment” principle of prophecy as we examine verses 4 through 8. The Lord’s wisdom and discernment is evidenced in the very structure of Matthew’s account of the answer given to the disciples. Without stating directly there would be a time gap from that afternoon on the Mount of Olives until the start of Daniel’s 70th seven of years, the admonitions expressed in these five verses boldly provide a distinct possibility for one. A strong argument can be made that parallel passages from St. Mark 13 and St. Luke 21 insist a certain gap be inserted as we look back two thousand years from our current historical vantage point. And be sure to remember, our Lord has not yet returned (at least not as of this writing).
“See to it that no one misleads you” (Matt 24:4) .
In this paragraph Jesus’ answer will highlight some very important CONDITIONS that will affect His followers, believers, saints, and culminate with the mention of a specific event. It is apparent these conditions and the one event listed are to be understood as occurring on a near global basis. A careful examination of the paragraph reveals that a major PURPOSE of this 7 year period, from God’s perspective, is to determine and display who the genuine believer is, the true saint, from one who claims to be a Christ follower–but is in reality a phony, an imitation. This paragraph also reveals just a little information about the PROCESS of how this will be accomplished.
There is a very sensitive question that should be asked, which has a tendency to draw a line in the sand. How this question is answered could draw immediate criticism. The question is, “who”? Who is the “you” the Lord is referring to in verse 4? Who is the targeted recipient of the Lord’s discourse? The original apostles should indeed be mentioned, although it is evident that not one of them remains today. Even so, do not neglect the fact they were being groomed to become the founders of the Church, from a human perspective. From verse 24 we may state “the elect” be put on the list. I would include groups categorized as believers, saints, Christ followers, Christians and (general) disciples or followers of “The Way”. How about the Church? It is unnecessary to insist the church be included at this point of the study. Yet I assert subsequent scripture writers will include the church on the list, as we will discover later in our journey. Therefore, I will of necessity occasionally speak of the church in relation to parts of this 7 year period. I realize including the Church or even Christians on the list of intended recipients could alienate those who (at present) are convinced of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. Prayerfully, no reader will be so offended they abandon the journey at this point. I ask you to stay the course, have an honest and open mind and beseech the Holy Spirit to lead us to Truth.
Right out of the gate the Lord urgently warns there will be misleading deception. Within the professing church today is a plethora of theological positions on the Second Coming of Christ, with much debate raging as to which one is correct. Add an ever increasing amount of attacks from self-proclaimed authorities within various academic circles having agendas to discredit biblical Christianity at every turn and it is easy to see why many people throw their hands in the air and conclude nobody can know for sure which position, if any, is correct. There are numerous reports of people suffering personal character attacks or being intimidated because of having a theological position that differs from the opinions of others holding great influence over large numbers of followers. Some pastors avoid giving sermons on this subject because they don’t want to offend anyone or because they themselves don’t understand the truth of God’s Word regarding the PAROUSIA of Christ.
By the time Daniel’s 70th Sabbath years rolls around I believe there will be much confusion and bewilderment within the world-wide “professing” church (the professing church consists of true believers and imitation believers, i.e. having no genuine faith). In issuing the warning not to be misled, the Lord is exhorting His followers to be well informed of the truth. Ignorance, in this case, will have serious consequences. Your theological position, or lack of one, regarding the PAROUSIA of Christ, matters very much. Verse 5 will briefly explain how misleading deception will be perpetrated.
“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Matt. 24:5).
I found something I felt might be significant in this verse, though perhaps I was reading something into it that takes it too far. Read the words “Many will come in My name” and pause for a moment to reflect. The NAME of our Lord is: Jesus Christ. I believe the Lord wants His people to understand that impostors are going to come on the scene claiming to be, “Jesus Christ”. Let’s take a moment to read the following references to get a clearer idea where I am going with this thought:
And when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred saying, “Who is this?” And the multitudes were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matt. 21:10, 11).
…and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting…” (Acts 9:4, 5).
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:13-17).
…and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).
…But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:27, 28) .
Do you see the affinity of “Jesus” to the NAME of the Lord? When we read the terms, “the Christ” or, “the Messiah” or, “the Anointed One”, these refer accurately to titles held by the Lord Jesus Christ. To illustrate my point, it would be one thing for an impostor to come along proclaiming, “I am the President of the United States.” It would be quite another to proclaim, “I am George Washington, the President of the United States.” The reason I feel this is significant is because it helps provide one more piece in developing the context for the Olivet Discourse. It is important to understand who the intended recipients of a message, letter, instructions or summons truly are in order to determine who will be accountable to act upon that information.This is significant because many people are being erroneously taught the Olivet Discourse pertains mostly or specifically to Jewish converts who come to a saving faith in Christ during Daniel’s 70th week of years. While it is true that many Jews are looking for the arrival of Messiah, the Anointed One, how many (non-Christian) Jews are looking for the PAROUSIA of Jesus? My admonition to all is, don’t be misled. The disciple’s questions and the Lord’s answers (His discourse) are for Christians, the believer, Christ followers, the elect and those within the “professing” church, which is comprised of two groups of people: those with a genuine, saving faith in Christ, and those people who are impostors, look-a-likes, imitations, faux Christians having no genuine saving faith. I feel that many people within the professing church will be misled during this time and in general will be misinformed, unprepared, ignorant and in a condition of confused disarray. Daniel’s 70th seven of years will be a time of trial, testing, evaluation, separating and distinguishing the true, faithful Christian from the artificial, imitation one (those having no genuine commitment to Christ).
While we are on this subject of false Christs I am compelled to mention that during Daniel’s 70th seven of years there will be one false Jesus in particular that will stand out from all the others. This particular one is the Islamic Jesus. You can learn more about this Jesus from the Qur’an and the hadith. Muslims believe that “Jesus” is coming again. But the Islamic “Jesus” is totally different from the biblical, true, historical Jesus of the New Testament, the Son of God and Savior of the world. The Jesus Muslims believe in is not the biblical Antichrist either. The Islamic Jesus actually corresponds precisely to the character commonly referred to as the false prophet, the character portrayed in Revelation 13:11-18, and mentioned again in Revelaton 19:20. The Islamic Jesus is subservient to the biblical Antichrist. In case I am confusing anyone let me explain it this way: the Islamic Jesus is a false prophet…that claims to be the “real” Jesus. He will claim the Jesus Christ of the Bible was a phony. A detailed study could be undertaken should we ever cover these passages at a future time. I felt it necessary to briefly bring this important issue to your attention at present.
The SUNTELEIA of the AION is an historical epoch; it relates to time. This era will be recognizable because certain conditions and events will help distinguish this period from other periods of time. The first condition Jesus gives us is misleading deception.
“And you 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).
Looking at verse six, we actually find a subtle link to Daniel 9:26 which mentions war in relation to the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary. Daniel records that “even to the end there will be war”. What is the second condition that will characterize this period? The answer is: war and the threat of warfare. Also included in these verses is what I view as a mini-perspective, having two parts. The Lord says that these conditions must be experienced, they must take place but this is “not yet the end.” The Greek word for “end” here is TELOS. This means that observing and experiencing these conditions is not the termination; it is not the conclusion or final end of the matter. In fact, it is just the beginning. He is not saying that these conditions are not part of the story of the SUNTELEIA of the AION–they are. The principle brought out by the use of the word TELOS in this context is that one should not focus on circumstances but rather, as the Lord will inform latter, be alert for key events that will take place. The establishment of this perspective is very important. The Lord is providing His followers with proper historical orientation. TELOS, when used in reference to the End Times, often specifically relates to the latter portion or end-part of Daniel’s 70th week of years. Believers should not be deceived by false Christs into believing these particular wars and rumors of wars indicate the final portion of Daniel’s 70th week of years, and he (the false Christ), is about to conquer all and lead the children of God into the glorious kingdom. The warfare mentioned in verse 6 is man’s aggression and domination over his fellow man, even though there are spiritual forces involved. Believers are to understand these conditions are distinct from God’s Wrath which will be administered later in Daniel’s 70th week of years, as we shall verify in the future. These conditions merely help to “set the stage”.
vs. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes,
vs. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” (NASB)
Verse 7 provides the 3rd and 4th conditions: famines and earthquakes. A common fallacy ascribes these conditions as stretching across the centuries, intensifying and increasing as the years lead up to the Second Coming. And looking back through the centuries since the ascension of Christ there seems to be historical justification for this viewpoint. Since that time there have been many reports of individuals claiming to be Jesus or some type of messiah, and we have experienced numerous wars–in fact two World Wars! And just in the past one hundred years there seems to have been an increase in severity and frequency of famines and earthquakes. However, these particular conditions characterize the first 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s 70th seven of years. While this point is not explicitly stated in these or any other verses, its validity will be substantiated by continuing the journey and studying the remaining verses of chapter 24. Further validation will be discovered as we study certain passages in the Epistles and the book of Revelation that supplement, compliment and augment the discourse.
Identifying these conditions as “beginning birth pangs” indicates that these conditions will be initiated suddenly, and also helps distinguish this period from the “hard labor” (with its intense pain) identified as the Great Persecution/Tribulation period which will follow. This period will also be discussed in subsequent verses of our study. The Lord tells His followers not to be frightened in the midst of these beginning birth pangs. War accentuates man’s inhumanity toward mankind. In our present technological age we have the ability to destroy the whole world in about an hour. Add to that the turmoil of experiencing famines and earthquakes and it is easy to believe that all is lost, that everything is irreconcilably out of control–we’re doomed. We can become frightened when our emotions and imagination distort our perception of circumstances. This is most likely to happen when we feel vulnerable and threatened in some way. We are likely to panic when we are caught by surprise, uninformed, unprepared. It seems evident that false Christs will prey upon the fears of many. In using the term “beginning birth pangs” I believe Jesus is emphasizing the “suddenness” at which these conditions will arise on the world scene, along with contrasting degrees of severity in levels of pain and suffering. It is clear that the Lord desires His people to be informed, prepared and to maintain a proper focus and perspective. He says that “all these things must take place.” These conditions have been incorporated into the Father’s plan. God is still sovereign and omnipotent. We must rely on the proven principle that… “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). What are your favorite “Promise Verses”? Now is the time to inculcate our souls with principles of Bible doctrine. Now is the time to become spiritually mature and erect a strong, stable edification complex within our souls. Now is the time to develop into effective prayer warriors!
Another important issue surrounding these verses is… why would God allow this to happen? What purpose do these beginning birth pang conditions of the first 3½ years serve in His plan for mankind? Discovering the true answer helped me clear up misconceptions about this important period. I will share my conclusions now but the documentation will not come until much further in our journey together. I had been led to believe that these conditions were a part of God’s Day of Wrath against mankind. After scrutinizing the scriptures I now know that the Day of the Lord’s Wrath does not even begin until late in the second half of Daniel’s 70th seven of years. The purpose of these conditions of beginning birth pangs is to help set the stage for the Great Persecution/Tribulation period sponsored by Satan–which follows the Abomination of Desolation. The stage needs to be set for the coming “hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10). Part of setting this stage is the rise of the Eighth Beast Empire and disruption among the economical, societal, cultural and governmental structures of the world. The four conditions revealed in these verses will help accomplish this. While they will affect virtually all people living on the earth at that time, we want to continue to be mindful that the perspective of the Lord’s discourse is how these conditions affect His followers, believers, the saints, the elect.
Verse nine gives information pertaining to what happens next–after the stage is set from experiencing the beginning birth pangs. Are you ready to continue the journey or have I insulted your intellectual predispositions? Don’t abandon the journey now as additional documentation for much of what was covered is just down the road. On to the next chapter in the journey!