Our Lord continues His discourse by introducing another item on the list of conditions to be prepared for in association with that special period prior to His second coming.
“And many false prophets will arise, and mislead many”(Matt. 24:11).
What’s a simple definition or description of a prophet? A short answer would be, a spokesman for God. So, a FALSE prophet would be someone who claims to speak for God, but really doesn’t. As in the past, when these false prophets come on the scene they will mislead or actually, lead astray, many. Here in verse 11 the connotation of seduction is associated with leading many astray. It’s a brilliant strategy on Satan’s part. There are possibly millions of professing Christians that would hesitate falling for someone falsely claiming to be Jesus, or Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Satan’s agenda is to have something for everyone. If you are too smart to be duped by a false Christ, maybe he can seduce and ensnare you using a wonder-working false prophet. You can picture it in your own mind, “Oh no, I’m not Christ, I’m just a prophet. God will protect you through these terrible times but He wants you to do exactly what I tell you to do. Now, I know what you are thinking. You wonder if I’m a genuine prophet of God. I will perform a SEMION so you can rest assured I speak on God’s behalf.”
That being said, once again, as mentioned back in chapter 5, I want to point out there will be one false prophet in particular who will out-shine, out-perform all other false prophets combined and is portrayed in Revelation 13 and 19. This character is the one Muslims will believe to be the true “Jesus”. Yet in reality he will be “the” false prophet featured in Revelation. The tricky part in helping you understand the stunning significance of this crucial issue is this end-time character enters the scene claiming to be the “true” Jesus but also claiming he is only a prophet of God. In reality, he performs the role of the chief False Prophet of Revelation and as such displays incredible false signs and wonders to validate his claims. He is not the Antichrist, as we might have a tendency to think at this time. He is subjugate to the biblical Antichrist. There is more that will be covered on the issue of false prophets, as they will come up again later in our journey.
“And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12).
How would you describe what “lawlessness” is? One description might include to reject God’s law and His will, operating instead according to self will. Since the fall of mankind recorded in Genesis chapter 3, the living beings created in God’s image have tried to be God and determine for themselves what is good and what is evil; quite similar to Satan actually. Imagine millions and millions of unbelievers living for self, with enmity towards millions of Jews and anyone within the professing church–most of whom will be spiritually unprepared to cope during this historical period. These hordes of anti-Christians will be under strong satanic delusion and will unite in an attempt to overthrow the true God, scorning His laws and His will. They will show no mercy for anyone they believe stands in their way of conquering the world for their false god. Some within the professing church may become embittered against God as they experience incredible testing and, for most, acute suffering. Some may believe God has forsaken them or He is impotent to rescue them and it’s every man for himself, as their shallow faith is rocked to the very core.
What is the natural outcome of an attitude that promotes self-will over God’s will, producing lawlessness? Love grows cold. What an intriguing concept; love grows cold! I envision this self centered love as an active, living, cancerous tumor. It’s unhealthy, it’s mutant, it’s destructive. It is fed and nurtured by arrogance and sometimes bitterness as well. The more it grows the more threatening it becomes to the one possessing this type of love until eventually it completely destroys its host–the one possessing this cold, totally self centered love. Let’s take a quick look at the Apostle John’s poignant message on love recorded in his first epistle.
1 John 3
Vs. 4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness: and sin is lawlessness.
Vs. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
Vs. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
Vs. 11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;
Vs. 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
Vs. 13 Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you.
Vs. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
Vs. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Vs. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Vs. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
Vs. 18 Little children, let us not love with words or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
If you are able, please take time to read the rest of chapter 3 and all of chapter 4 because John’s epistle continues on that same theme. And do you see the links? Do you see how the apostle was influenced by the words of Christ, and John’s concern that we abide in God, abide in God’s righteousness which conquers lawlessness and expresses itself with a love for the brethren as opposed to a love expressed toward “self” or the world? Can you feel the urgency and authority permeating the reading of these sacred scriptures? One quick, simple question while we’re here. Who was John addressing in this epistle? Who was the intended audience? Yes, it’s the professing church! You don’t need a thorough study of 1 John to plainly see the apostle was teaching on the issue just covered in our study of the Olivet Discourse.
As we get ready to look at at verse 13 let’s pause to consider another question I have for you. As we look around us in the world today, it sure seems like we’ve experienced a significant increase in wars, earthquakes, famines, persecutions and kooks leading gullible people astray. Who would argue that we haven’t experienced an increase in lawlessness? Illustrations of love growing cold bombard us every day. Discarding babies in trash cans like garbage, mutilations, rapes, sodomy, infidelity, theft, the list goes on and on! Could it be that we have already entered Daniel’s 70th week of years? If you are not sure of the answer, you need to refer to the section of Eschatalogical Terms. The clear answer, at least at the time of this writing is, no. Why not, how can we tell? Because no head of three countries in the area of Russia or Germany has come forth and signed a seven year agreement with the State of Israel.
Please listen to me. When the world is enveloped by this SUNTELIA of the AION period, that period of time when “the heading up of events to the appointed climax” occurs, the “organized” or “professing” church is going to be in a state of complete and utter disarray. You might as well mark it down that chaos will permeate the professing / organized church. I don’t see any scriptural support for the popular notion that there will be some impressive soul-winning going on at that time. There will be some evangelism going on, though little fruit for the effort. Yes, I’m aware of verses that are quoted to promote a theological position that differs from mine. May I respectfully suggest they are misinterpreting the scriptures. Let’s continue the journey to find out if the scriptures verify the position I have taken.
Verse 12 concludes our Lord’s description of conditions that relate to His followers, believers, to Christians. Verse 13 provides a simple impact statement: What does all this mean to me if I happen to be around when all these conditions exist and I’m subject to this period of persecution and lawlessness? Let’s explore it together.
“But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13).
There are three key Greek words to focus on in this verse, translated in English as “endures”, “end”, and “saved”. The Greek word MENO means “to abide or endure.” But the word in verse 13 is HUPOMENO (pronounced: hoop-ah-MEN’-oh). The prefix HUPO (the preposition meaning under) makes the root word stronger, more emphatic. Thus, HUPOMENO means, “to abide under or bear up courageously”, according to Vines Expository Dictionary. The connotation of suffering or adverse conditions, adverse circumstances is associated with this word. What general characteristics help to identify a person who is courageous? It is someone who possesses and applies principles of integrity, having positive character qualities and moral fortitude. Courage is on the inside of a person. For the Christian this means knowing and applying principles of Bible doctrine from God’s Word. All through one’s life regardless of any exceptional historical setting, one needs to inculcate the soul with biblical truth. If this study only provides accurate commentary on the Word of God I will have failed. However, if you receive greater motivation to pursue Christian virtue, depend more fully upon the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, become more steadfast in your prayer life and strengthen your relationship with our loving Father, then I will consider myself used by God.
The next word to check out is the word “end”. Have you studied the section titled, “Important Greek Words You Need To Be Familiar With”? If you did, you might have guessed that the Greek word used here is TELOS, the same word used back in verse 6. What does it mean to say believers must bear up courageously to the end, to be saved? The answer lies primarily in the context. What has Jesus been talking about since the word “then” in verse 9? The answer is persecution and affliction (only partial credit given for “tribulation”). Where at on the time line of this 7 year period did we determine we were, beginning with verse 9? It is the period of “Great Persecution/Tribulation” which begins at the start of the second half when the Abomination of Desolation occurs. Would we have to manipulate the scriptures to conclude this verse is teaching that the believer who will “bear up courageously” to the finish or the end of the Great Persecution / Tribulation period will be saved? I don’t think so. Remember, TELOS is a simple, concrete word. Later in our journey we will see the biblical description of the spectacular rescue occurring at the end of this period of Great Persecution.
The third word to consider in this verse is the Greek word SOTHESETAI (pronounced: so-th+ay’-suh-tie. This one is especially hard to spell out how to pronounce it!). According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words it has a variety of meanings in English, ranging from spiritual salvation of the soul, to physical deliverance. What will help us translate and properly interpret its usage in verse 13? That’s right, the context–very good! I found two key features that accurately develop the context of verse 13. The first key feature is discovered by determining who Christ is referring to when He says, “the one” who endures. Who is the “he” in, “he shall be saved”? The answer is: believers, Christians, the elect, saints. These are people who are already written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; they are already saved spiritually. A great illustration of the same word is found in Matt. 8:24-25. Peter’s cry is for the Lord to rescue him from drowning, not the salvation of his soul.
The second key feature was actually just discussed as we stated the obvious. The conditions that lead up to the verse indicate an atmosphere of potential physical peril. Verse 9 teaches that during this time Jesus’ followers will be persecuted, killed and hated. Christ is plainly teaching the one who endures, the one that bears up courageously to the end or the conclusion of this period will be rescued, physically delivered, will be saved! This is important and we will refer back to this passage for the principle it teaches while covering certain verses in the future. There is a harmonious tapestry within the Word of God which will be evident over and over again. One of the significant features of verse 13 is the implication it provides. Verses 4-12 provide information alerting the believer, saint, elect, chosen one, or follower of Christ to extraordinary conditions that should be expected during this historical period. Verse 13 provides some encouragement, a reason to take heart and press onward while experiencing these adverse conditions, implying if one faithfully and courageously endures and bears up under the pressure he will be rescued, saved, physically delivered. Make no mistake about it; the only way to make it is to have a genuine faith and learn and apply all those pertinent principles found in God’s Word! This is exactly what this period of history will determine; who is the genuine and who is the imitation. Verse 14 concludes the paragraph started in verse 3. This verse is loaded, so let’s dig in.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matt. 24:14).
If you conducted a survey of fundamental, evangelical church goers, and asked them what this verse refers to, my guess is many would say it’s in reference to the fulfillment of the “Great Commission” given in Matthew 28:19-20. While I can see the temptation to link these passages, I am personally convinced they don’t belong together. In verse 14 Jesus concludes His instructional overview of the purpose and process of Daniel’s 70th week of years. He will then shift His answer from conditions that pertain to believers, to events that affect His followers. Although this is the first event mentioned, it is not the first event to occur chronologically. Verse 14 provides the saints with a proper perspective. As the followers of Christ experience the acute persecution, hardships, trials and temptations of this historical period they need reassurance that God knows what He is doing, that He is still sovereign over the affairs of men, that He has a purpose in all of this, that He has “The Plan”.
Let’s say its survey time again, and we ask that same group of evangelicals another question; this time, about what the word “gospel” refers to here in verse 14. The Greek word EUAGGELION (pronounced: U-on-gel’-ee-on) means “good news”. It could be any good news, but in verse 14 we have a qualifier as it’s the “gospel of the kingdom”. How’s the survey going to turn out? Many Christians would say this verse is referring to proclaiming to all the world the good news that Christ died for the sins of the world, the good news of all that Messiah has accomplished on behalf of mankind: salvation, redemption, propitiation, the offer of the gift of eternal life. All this and more, available through belief and trusting in Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension and session at the right hand of God the Father. Basically, it’s the message the church should be bringing to the nations in carrying out the Great Commission. But that would be more like an accurate description of the “gospel of Christ”. The apostle Paul developed and preached the “gospel of Christ” several years after the Olivet discourse was given (though Acts 19:8 reveals he also reasoned and persuaded in the synagogue concerning the kingdom of God). The gospel of Christ is the message that expresses God’s love and redemptive work toward fallen mankind.
What we discover in verse 14 is the gospel of the “kingdom”, and we need to take a closer look. It is perhaps a slightly outdated translation of the Greek word BASILEIAS (pronounced: bass-eh-lee’-as). The English translation “kingdom” often fails to convey the proper nuance. While the Holy Spirit enlightens and spiritually saves repentant sinners because of and through the gospel of Christ, this is a little different. The true concept of what BASILEIAS conveys here is the “Kingly rule” or the “Kingly reign” or the “sovereignty” of (in this case) God the Father. Allow me to supply some common descriptions of “sovereignty” as it applies to God, as taught to me many years ago by a mentor. God is, the “Boss of all bosses” (the English translation of an Italian phrase), the top dog, the unimpeachable source of authority. God’s Will is supreme. The sovereignty of Christ is expressed in His title of “King of kings and Lord of lords”.
This is the gospel that Christ was proclaiming during most of His earthly ministry prior to a few weeks leading up to His crucifixion. As we remember many of the parables Jesus taught, the words that He spoke and the miracles He performed, we can see His entreaty to join Him and the Father in the spiritual kingdom–a kingdom that will one day become the kingdom which rules over all the earth. And certainly the way into that kingdom was and is, through faith and repentance. A quick reading from Mark’s gospel is appropriate here.
“And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14, 15).
The Gospels also record numerous parables Jesus gave, explaining the kingdom of heaven and the contrast between those accepted to participate in the kingdom, and those who won’t be! The overall point is Christ initiated the start of this kingdom. God reigns because He alone is sovereign. BASILEIAS does not refer to some geographical region having a monarchy to govern over the subjects in this application. When Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was “at hand”, He was teaching that the sovereign reign of God had started right in the midst of the people; it was there to be grasped. More than just potential, more than right on the verge of occurring, it was now progressing, with the exemplary life of Messiah verifying and securing the claim. To be a participant in this kingdom one needs to repent and believe this glorious good news, or another way to put it, one needs to embrace the gospel of Christ. But the majority of people, particularly the religious leaders and rulers of that time, clung to their pride and arrogance and rejected the Deliverer of Zion. BAM! The door slammed shut on the possibility of the Jews being delivered from Roman domination as a national entity any time soon.Then the nation of Israel entered a new phase of divine discipline as God would, once again, scatter them throughout the world, while initiating a new organization, having their stewardship responsibilities. Thus was born the Church of God, the Church of Jesus Christ.
Remember, the apostles had kingdom fever. They were familiar with the prophecies and heard the parables first hand. They were anxious to get the literal, physical kingdom under way, assuming they would have positions of power and prestige. Hence their questions: “What will be sign of your PAROUSIA, and the SUNTELIA of the AION?” During His earthly ministry the Lord aggressively initiated the process by first, establishing the beachhead of a spiritual kingdom in the midst of Satan’s world system. He fulfilled and completed the judicial requirements for the redemption of mankind (and all of creation), leading up to the total takeover of planet earth from the present ruler, Satan. While the physical kingdom of Christ is yet future, that thousand year millennial kingdom, the spiritual kingdom is in full force. Jesus expressly highlighted the qualifications to enter this kingdom directly in the face of those who were confident they were already qualified, but were not. He also reinforced the Old Testament teaching that the gentiles were being invited too. All are invited, but not everyone accepts the invitation. In every generation there be but few genuine followers of Christ. Different types of testing reveal who the genuine ones are and who are the imitations, the phony, the pretenders.
During Daniel’s 70th week of years, which is the current context of our Lord’s instruction here, God’s final invitation will be extended toward mankind, occurring as it does, at an interesting point on the prophetic time-line as we shall see shortly. It will occur during a period in which Satan will attempt to challenge God’s sovereignty and establish his own. During this time many may conclude, perhaps out of desperation, that our God is NOT sovereign. In verse 14 the Lord is telling His saints, His followers that in spite of appearances there is a purpose and a principle involved. The point to be gleaned here is God has an agenda. It is HIS agenda and He will accomplish His purpose His way. Praise God His grace precedes His final judgment. However, before we discover how the scriptures portray this we need to finish examining our verse.
The NASB uses the word “preached” in verse 14. I prefer the translation “proclaimed”. There will be a “proclamation” given in the whole world, testifying that God is still sovereign in spite of any claims made by Antichrist and “the false prophet”. It will be proclaimed for a “witness” to all the nations. Of the different choices of Greek words for “witness” Matthew chose a word that means “testimony” or a “declaration of the facts” or, “a witness as borne”, according to Vine’s dictionary. The message that will be proclaimed to the world will “testify” of God’s character. He created the heavens and the earth. God alone is omnipotent, sovereign and just, having absolute righteousness. The proclamation will “bear witness” to His policy regarding sin, righteousness and judgment. The message will “declare the facts” that, if you don’t make correct positive adjustments to the justice of God, the justice of God will adjust to you–in judgment and destruction and eternal damnation! What the righteousness of God demands, the justice of God executes. This will not be “good news” to the wicked and ungodly but as it is proclaimed it demands a volitional, free will choice be made, and affixed to that decision will be both temporal and eternal consequences. The sad fact is when confronted with this proclamation the vast majority living at that time will turn their backs to the true God. I find no scriptural support of any large successful evangelistic campaigns conducted during this period. In fact scriptures support the the opposite conclusion.
But who is responsible for preaching this gospel in the whole world? Many people think the Church is responsible. I observe passages taken out of context and applied to the historical church of all generations, with the assumption Daniel’s 70th week of years won’t start and the Lord won’t return until the whole world is evangelized. By that, it is meant the world having been exposed to the gospel message of salvation. But as we have seen, evangelism is not actually the subject matter here. Like it or not, the Lord is focused on a specific generation of earth dwellers, those experiencing Daniel’s 70th sevens of years. Nor is this daunting task given to “144,000 Jews for Jesus” as is popularly taught. Who then will do this preaching/proclaiming? One more point to clarify and then we’ll look at how scripture puts this all together, providing the answer.
Now, after this gospel is proclaimed in all the world as a testimony, as a witness, so the people of the world are without excuse, what happens? The answer is, “the end…shall come.” Another translation changes the word order, stating, “then shall come…the end.” Let’s look at the word “end”. From the Greek we discover once again, a form of the word TELOS, which can properly be translated as “end”. But what does TELOS relate to? Is there a different definition that applies for it’s usage in verse 14? TELOS has a variety of nuance associated with it’s definition. What is going to come to an end? If the correct answer is to be found solely in the scriptural context, one conclusion could be the end of the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation, based upon verses 9-13. For a long time I felt that was the proper conclusion, with verse 14 presenting the qualification that must be met before this historical portion of Daniel’s 70th week of years… ends. Alas, even though other authors of books and preachers of sermons take liberties in their interpretation of scriptures, my conscience interfered and I was not able to convince myself to do the same–on this point at least! I am not 100% convinced the “end” referenced in verse 14 refers to the same “end” the Lord discusses in verse 13, although I admit it is a possibility.
But let’s consider a different angle. Another translation, which is just as accurate, would read: “…and then shall come…the end.” Now suppose we substitute another definition for the word TELOS as used in this verse. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, TELOS can also mean “fulfillment”, as in Luke 22:37. It can refer to “the aim or purpose” of a thing, such as in 1 Tim. 1:5 where it is translated as “goal”. Perhaps the Lord intended us to interpret this verse as teaching that after the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom was given the aim, the purpose, the goal, the reason would be fulfilled. What would be the goal or the purpose of what the Lord had just revealed to the apostles? Since verse 14 is the last verse of the paragraph we are looking at we could conclude the purpose would be to see who responds to the proclamation in a positive fashion, and who doesn’t! It would reveal the purpose of discovering who the genuine Christ followers are and who are mere imitators, and also who the wicked and ungodly are.
I am convinced the explanation and fulfillment of verse 14 is revealed in Revelation 14:6-13 which we will look at in the next chapter. It will be the source that unlocks the answer to my dilemma and prayerfully, helps everything associated with this verse to “click into place” for you. But first, the current issue should be, “Help us discover what TELOS refers to.” Begin by refreshing your memory with the definition of SUNTELIA. Recall it is an active PROCESS of “the gathering to completion, together”; “the heading-up of events to the appointed climax”. SUNTELIA is not the arrival at some final destination, it is the story, it is the process that is involved in getting to that climax. Perhaps a good illustration would be the “traditional” marriage process of western culture which is comprised of many events. There is the exchanging of the rings, the vows, the blessing, the kiss, the reception and so on. All the events lead up to the physical act of intimacy (representing spiritual intimacy) which, with the culmination of all the previous events of the marriage ceremony, leads up to and results in, the “consummation”, a totally completed marriage union.
Some things are easier to understand than to explain. How does all this relate to an accurate understanding of Matthew 24:14? What the Lord is telling His followers in verse 14 is, this “proclamation” is an integral event of the process involved in the consummation of the age so the spiritual kingdom of heaven can unite with the physical, millennial kingdom on earth–just like Jesus taught the apostles to pray, “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” As an interesting, though important side note, the apostle John makes an intriguing statement that includes forms of three of the important words we have recently looked at in our journey. In Revelation 1:9 he records, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation [TE THLIPSEI] and kingdom [BASILEIA] and perseverance [HUPOMONE] which are in Jesus..”.(emphasis mine). This is an interesting connection made by one who is a representative of the Church.
But there can be discussion whether verse 14 is contextually related to the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation (as in verse 13) or whether it is instructively related as being a major event that could actually occur close to the very end of Daniel’s 70th week of years. My opinion is it is a minor issue where on the historical time-line it is placed, as it is not the final event completing the consummation of the age. Rather, it is a pivotal event that grants permission for final events to be administered. The issue, the question is–which final events did the Lord have in mind when he said “…and then comes the end”? As we look at the fulfillment of this verse, in my opinion there are only two choices. The first choice, the one I lean toward, would be the final events beginning with the start of the Day of the Lord period, and the events which follow. The second choice would have the proclaiming of the gospel of the kingdom occurring during the Day of the Lord period but ceasing just prior to the seven bowl (vial) judgments, indicating those judgments make up “the end” or final events that “shall come.” Please don’t become discouraged if you are unfamiliar with the seven bowl judgments or the timing of the Day of the Lord at this point. Continue on and re-read this later if necessary.
Interestingly, this major event, this “proclamation”, will not be played out by mere mortal human beings. Let’s journey over to Revelation 14 and look at verses that discuss the fulfillment of our current topic. Be forewarned, though I said I believe it is a minor issue where on the time-line it accurately takes place, I have developed a major argument in support of my leaning that it does indeed take place during the Great Persecution/Tribulation rather than before or after. In reality, the only reason for me to entertain the possibility it occurs at the end of Daniel’s 70th week is out of great respect for scholar and teacher Charles Cooper, a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary who has developed a reasonable argument supporting that very conclusion. So, you might want to grab a cup of tea or a snack first; this might take a while. And in case it becomes too tedious for you, feel free to skip this next chapter and resume your journey with the study of Matthew 24:15. But if you do skip the next chapter for now, be sure to come back to it later as I feel you will find the study of Revelation 14 worthy of your time.