11-3 An Exposition Of The Olivet
We will now have a closer look at
the text of Luke 21.
v.8 " Be not deceived" is
extensively quoted later in the NT concerning the need not be deceived
by false teachers within the ecclesia (1 Cor. 6:9,15,33;
Gal. 6:17; 2 Tim. 3:13, as Mt. 24:4 = 1 Jn. 3:7). The deceivers
Christ spoke of were not just bogus Messiahs out in the world, but
apparently Spirit-gifted brethren who will arise within the ecclesia.
v.12 " The synagogues...the prisons"
- implying both a religious and civil persecution of the saints?
v.13 " It shall turn to you for
a testimony" is hard to interpret. Could it mean that the way
we respond to our trials during the tribulation will determine our
verdict at the judgment? It will be a testimony in our favour at
the day of judgment. In view of this, " Settle it therefore
in your hearts" to make this witness in God's strength (Lk.21:14).
" In the endurance of you (in the tribulation), ye will gain
the souls of you" (Lk.21:19 Marshall's Interlinear). The run
up to the tribulation will provoke a " praying always, that
ye may be accounted worthy...to stand before the Son of man"
(Lk.21:36). Peter describes the tribulation of the believers in
the run up to AD70 (and therefore the last days too) as judgment
taking place on the house of God, in which even the righteous are
" scarcely saved" (1 Pet.4:17,18). This suggests that
the last generation of believers will only be saved due to their
response to the tribulation which comes upon them; but even then,
only by the skin of their teeth. Lot in Sodom and the parable of
the virgins, among others, are hints that the last generation of
believers will be in a weak state.
v.16,18 " Some of you shall they
cause to be put to death...but there shall not an hair of your head
perish" can only be reconciled by appreciating how miraculously
the disciples were preserved in order to inspire and co-ordinate
the rest of the body. Perhaps a similar group of elders ("
the two witnesses" ? See later) will be preserved in the last
v.15 " I will give you a mouth
and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay"
. This is alluding to Ex.4:12, where God tells Moses at the time
of the Egyptian persecution of God's people, " I will be with
thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say" . This persecution
lead to intensified prayer to God, resulting in the deliverance
of the suffering saints at Passover time, after a period of especial
distress and 'time of trouble' for the surrounding world due to
the plagues. After this deliverance, God's people went into the
wilderness and were declared God's Kingdom. We have earlier shown
how all these events form a remarkable latter day prophecy.
This verse also suggests that the
gifts of the Spirit may be given to some in the Elijah ministry
in order to enable them to make a more powerful witness (as in Rev.11:6).
The fact they are given personally by Christ would indicate that
in some way, Christ is already back at this stage. Time and again
we will see how the prophecies of events in the last days are ambiguous
as to whether Christ is already back at the time of their fulfilment,
or whether they herald his return. Seeing that we will never know
the exact time of Christ's return, this is understandable. Similarly
Joel 2 prophesies the pouring out of the gifts " before the
great and terrible day of the Lord" (v.31). Malachi surely
refers to this passage when prophesying the Elijah ministry "
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord"
(Mal.4:5). This suggests that the 3.5 year Elijah ministry of the
last days (James 5:17) will be accompanied by Spirit gifts, and
will coincide with the time of persecution. Note that the gifts
were given " before the day of the Lord" in AD70 too.
It is possible that because of this possession of the gifts by 'Elijah',
false teachers within the ecclesia at the end will also claim to
possess them (Mt.24:24), so convincingly that all but the elect
within the ecclesia will be duped into following them.
Yet it must be stressed that it
is a feature of the gifts that they are unmistakable and obvious
to identify (cp. Acts 4:16); it will be evident enough if and when
they are poured out in the last days.
v.16 " Ye shall be betrayed both
by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends and some of
you shall they cause to be put to death" .
This indicates that the persecuting
power will infiltrate the ecclesias, as the Jews and Romans did
to the early church in order to bring about their persecution. This
theme is demonstrated in more detail in " The man of sin"
v.17 " Ye shall be hated of all
men for my name's sake" . This hating by all men may imply
a world-wide persecution.
v.18 " There shall not an hair
of your head perish" - primarily concerning the disciples,
seeing that some believers were to die for their faith in the period
around AD70 (cp. v.16). The figure of not a hair of the head perishing
is used in the Old Testament concerning sudden deliverance from
what seemed like certain death, e.g. Jonathan in 1 Sam.14:45. This
is fitting, seeing that " except those days should be shortened
there should no flesh be saved" (Mt.24:22). It is also the
language of the faithful few among an Israel who wouldn't stand
up and be counted being miraculously preserved from Babylonian tribulation
(Dan. 3:27). There are many instructive parallels here with the
latter day tribulation, which the majority of natural and spiritual
Israel may try to avoid by some tokenistic acquiescence to the dictates
of the King of Babylon.
" Saved" here (" there
should no flesh be saved" ) implies 'delivered'; it will appear
that none of us will survive the tribulation, " but for the
elects sake those days shall be shortened" and we will be saved
by the second coming. Thus 2 Pet.3:12,15 reminds us that by our
prayers and spiritual development, the days before the second coming
will be shortened. If they were not, even the elect would lose their
faith (Mt. 24:22)- showing how those of us who are alive at Christ's
coming will barely survive the spiritual traumas of the last
days. The virgins were sleeping when they should have been watching;
and Peter says that the righteous in the last generation (see context)
will scarcely be saved (1 Pet. 4:18). So it would appear
that the days of the final tribulation will be shortened, although
in another sense the coming of the Lord is delayed in order to allow
our greater spiritual development (Mt. 25:5). This ‘delay’
is why the harvest will be “over-ripe” for reaping (Rev.
14:15 RV)- or is this a reference to the lack of zeal of preachers
to Israel in the last days, not harvesting the ready fruit? The
Lord likens the final tribulation to the travail of a woman to bring
forth her child. But we read in Is. 66:7,8 in this same context
of Israel’s latter day suffering: “Before she travailed,
she brought forth: before her pain came, she was delivered of a
man child. Who hath heard such a thing?... for as soon as Zion travailed
she brought forth her children”. This seems to imply that
the expected period of Zion’s travail will be cut short, and
she will give spiritual birth far quicker than expected. Perhaps
the Lord was alluding to this passage when He spoke of how “the
days” [of Zion’s labour?] shall be shortened.
A quick survey of the present scene
would indicate (even without the Biblical evidence) that only major
tribulation will make us take our spiritual responsibilities seriously.
Jesus may well have been predicting how the apostles would generally
be miraculously delivered from the persecution of the Christians
in order to co-ordinate the rest of the flock in this difficult
time. Does this point to a similar preservation of a group of Christian
elders in the tribulation to come?
v.21 " Then let them which be
in Judaea flee to the mountains" means that there will be Jewish
believers in Jerusalem in the last days, seeing the whole prophecy
has a latter day application. Dan. 12:1 says that in the final tribulation
of Israel, those Jews who are " written in the book" ,
i.e. who are acceptable saints (Ex. 32:32; Rev. 21:27) will be delivered.
So there will be a minority in latter day natural Israel who have
not bowed the knee to Baal, as in Elijah's time- which is typical
of the situation at the latter day Elijah ministry.
" Pray ye that your flight (the
time of your flight) be not in winter" , Mk. 13:18 adds. This
indicates that the exact timing of events in the tribulation will
be changeable in accordance with the fervency of our latter day
prayers. An AD70 application for this is hard to find; it may be
that the exact timing of the Roman offer of amnesty was dependent
on the intensity of prayer by the besieged Jerusalem ecclesia. That
ecclesia, rent as they were by schism, false doctrine and
materialism (if we accept the evidence that Hebrews was addressed
to them) was a type of the faithful remnant of the last days. They
were finally sorted out by the events of AD67 - 70, cp. the latter
v. 28 " When these things begin
to come to pass, then look up (Gk. un-bend), and lift up your heads"
may suggest that the believers will be bowed down in bondage in
some sense. Alternatively, we can read it simply as a command to
stand up (as NIV), which would connect with the slumbering virgins,
none of them standing ready to welcome their Lord as they
should have been. It is evident from a close reading of the Olivet
prophecy that the Lord is using his pronouns carefully. Sometimes
he speaks of " ye" , sometimes of " they" .
It seems that the " ye" refer to the disciples and the
faithful remnant in the latter day ecclesia, and the " they"
either to the natural Jews or to " the many" (majority)
in the ecclesia who will fall away. " They shall see
the Son of man coming in a cloud...when these things (leading up
to the Son of man coming) begin to come to pass, then look up, and
lift up your heads" (Lk. 21:27,28). This may suggest
that the majority, the " they" category, are shocked by
the coming of the Lord, but the faithful minority stand up from
their slumber and are expecting his coming.
v.34 " And take heed to yourselves,
lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and
drunkenness, and cares of this life, so that day come upon you unawares"
. It could fairly be asked 'Why is there this warning, if the believers
of the last days are to be actively persecuted?'. This verse implies
that the world will be in a materially prosperous state in the last
days; it will be possible for us to become so preoccupied with it
that we do not prepare for the time of tribulation, so that it comes
as a sudden surprise. Of if " that day" is the day of
Christ's coming, then it may be that by opting out of the persecution,
we will be able to continue to enjoy the materialism of the world,
in which case we will be caught unawares by the second coming. Thus
while the saints are persecuted, the world enjoys a time of prosperity
as it did in the times of Lot and Noah.
v.36 " Watch ye therefore and
pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these
things...and to stand before the son of man" . " Escape"
can mean 'to suddenly flee away from'- the same idea of sudden deliverance
from persecution which cropped up in our notes on v.18. Those who
do not watch and pray will be unable to flee out of the tribulation,
as Lot's wife was unable to. This idea of escaping connects with
1 Thess.5:3 (we will see presently that this is just one of many
links between the Olivet prophecy and Thessalonians): " When
they shall say (in the ecclesia) Peace and safety, then sudden destruction
cometh upon them...and they shall not escape" . The language
of " peace and safety" is often used in the Old Testament
to describe the calm words of Israel's false teachers, as they confidently
asserted that all was spiritually well within Israel (Jer.6:14;
5:12; 14:13; Mic.3:5; Ez.13:10; Dt.29:19). Those who do not think
that there is peace and safety in the ecclesia and who face up to
the reality of 'watching and praying' to spiritually survive the
last days, are those who will 'escape'.
A number of verses in the other accounts
of the Olivet prophecy also call for attention.
- A comparison of Mt.24:11 and 24
suggests that there will be two particular periods of false prophet
activity- at the outbreak of the persecution, and then immediately
prior to the Lord's return. This latter group reason that Christ's
second coming has already occurred in some non-literal form. Thus
v.27 speaks as if the clear return of Christ in the clouds will
prove them wrong. These men would equate with Peter's description
of some within the ecclesia of the last days saying " Where
is the promise of his coming?" .
- Christ gives a particular sign which
will encourage the persecuted that they really are in the last times:
" When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation...stand
in the holy place...then shall be great tribulation" (Mt.24:15).
This seems to parallel Lk.21:20: " When ye shall see Jerusalem
compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is
nigh" . The tribulation that is to come upon the land of Israel,
with the placing of a particular abomination in Jerusalem, will
be the sign that spiritual Israel too must suffer. And at any moment
now the oft foretold Arab conquest of Israel in the last days could
- " Immediately after the tribulation...shall
all the tribes of the earth (land- of Israel) mourn, and then shall
they see the Son of Man coming" (v.29,30). Then follows the
fig tree parable. The chronology seems clear- a tribulation, repentance
of Israel (note the allusions to the mourning of Zech.12 and 13),
and then the second coming, with the fig tree parable about the
repentance of Israel added as a footnote to this part of the prophecy.
- Mt.24:19 " Woe unto them that
are with child" may well match Paul's warning against marrying
in the last days in 1 Cor.7.
- " Great tribulation such as
was not since the beginning of the world" (v.21) may refer
to the beginning of the Jewish world at Sinai and their persecution
in Egypt just prior to that. Our coming tribulation, and that of
natural Israel, must therefore exceed that of Israel in Egypt before
we receive the Passover deliverance- in the form of the second coming.
Fellowshipping His Sufferings
The Olivet prophecy as recorded in
Mark 13 has many allusions to the sufferings of our Lord, thereby
suggesting that our sufferings during the coming tribulation will
make us fellowship the cross as never before. The whole idea of
darkness, earthquake, open graves, rocks shaking etc, which we read
of in the Olivet and other last day prophecies is evidently the
langauge of the crucifxion. The description of suffering before
" the end" comes (Mk. 13:7,13; Mt. 24:14) invites connection
with Christ's death also being described as " the end"
, coming as it did after a period of suffering (Mt. 26:58; Lk. 22:37;
Jn. 13:1). This connection is strengthened by the way in which each
record of the Olivet prophecy leads straight on into the sufferings
of the Lord Jesus. There is to be a “little while” between
the death of those persecuted in the last days, and the coming of
the Lord; using the very same word which John uses for the “little
while” of the three days of the Lord’s death (Rev. 6:11;
Jn. 16:16-19). Rev. 12 speaks of how the dead bodies of the tribulation
victims will rest for three and a half days, just as the Lord’s
body did. They will fully fellowship His death and therefore His
resurrection. Similarly, the idea of all God's word being fulfilled
by the Lord's death (Lk. 24:44; Jn. 19:28; Acts 3:18) follows on
from the prophecy that all will be fulfilled at the time of suffering
which heralds the second coming (Lk. 21:22). Mt. 24:13 commenends
those who endure to the end- of the great tribulation. The same
word occurs in Heb. 12:2,3 about Christ enduring the cross- we fellowship
the cross during the last day tribulation. The word in Mt. 24:29
for “the tribulation” is used in Col. 1:24 about the
afflictions of Christ. And as the Lord’s critics could not
find a way to answer Him, so in our tribulation, all our adversaries
will not be able to gainsay us (Lk. 21:15). The Lord in Jn. 16:2,4,32
used the term “the hour” to refer both to the ‘hour’
of His own sufferings, and the ‘hour’ of tribulation
for His people. He clearly saw what He was about to endure as being
repeated in the latter day tribulation of those for whom He was
about to die.
The other tribulation prophecies,
notably in Revelation, are also shot through with allusions to Christ's
They shall deliver you up to the councils...
Christ to the Sannhedrin
and kings for a testimony...
priests, Herod, Pilate
shall betray the brother...
back to take up his garment...
Mark's linen garment
sun shall be darkened...
at the crucifixion
Watch with me" ; Gethsemane
the cock crowing...
As our exposition proceeds, we will
see that such allusions to Christ's sufferings are a constant feature
of the tribulation prophecies. The purpose of the tribulations of
the last days will be to make us truly fellowship our Lord's agonizing,
to make us know for ourselves that " if we suffer with him,
we shall also reign with him" . It is fair to assume that those
who really try to shoulder their Lord's cross now will not need
to go through such an experience. The following are some of the
many connections between the experiences of the latter day saints,
and the sufferings of Christ:
- Peter's letters were written to
strengthen the faithful in the problems of the AD70 'last days',
as well as our own. They are full of reference to Christ's sufferings
(e.g. 1 Pet.1:11,19,21-24; 3:18; 4:1). " The fiery trial which
is to try you (is cause for rejoicing because it makes you) partakers
of Christ's sufferings" (4:13).
- The idea of enduring to the end
and being saved (Mt. 24:13) is the spirit of the Lord's struggle
on the cross (Heb. 12:2,3).
- The dead bodies of the latter day
witnesses are left in the street of the city " where also
our Lord was crucified" (Rev.11:8)
- At the end of the saints' latter
day tribulation, the Most Holy is opened (Rev.15:2,5), just as it
was on Christ's death; as if His hanging on the cross is parallel
to the saints' tribulation. The Angels comment " It is done"
when the saints are finally delievered (Rev.16:17), as our Lord
could say " It is finished" at the end of His sufferings.
The great earthquake which is then described (Rev.16:18) matches
the earthquakes at Christ's death and resurrection.
- Speaking of the time in the tribulation
when " a man's foes shall be they of his own household"
, Jesus comments: " he that taketh not his cross (then), and
followeth after me, is not worthy" (Mt.10:38). Our response
to our trials then will effectively be our judgment seat.
- The sufferings of that time are
called " birth pangs" (Mt.24:8); exactly the description
given to our Lord's painful death (Acts 2:24).
- " The sun shall be darkened"
after the tribulation (Mk.13:24), as it was when Jesus died (Lk.23:45).
- Mic. 7:2-9 is a clear prophecy of
Christ's sufferings. But embedded in it are words which are quoted
in Lk. 21:16 and Mt. 10:36 concerning the latter day tribulation
of the believers: " the son dishonoureth the father...a man's
enemies are the men of his own house" .
- In similar manner, some of the prophecies
of Israel's latter day sufferings speak in the same context of those
of Christ. Mic. 5:1 is an example: " ...he hath laid seige
against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel (Christ) with a
rod upon the cheek" . The whole of Amos 5 can be scanned for
connections with both the future tribulation of Israel, and also
the sufferings of Christ.
- As He hung on the cross, our Lord
quoted part of His Olivet prophecy to the women who stood by (Lk.23:29=Mt.24:19),
concerning the sufferings of the believers in the 'last days'. Here
we see His matchless selflessness; going out of His own sufferings,
to think, with anguish, how they would be experienced by His followers
in the tribulation. " Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves...for
if they do these things (to) a green tree (the spiritually healthy
Lord Jesus), what shall be done (to) the dry" , the spiritually
barren tree of Israel. This is a superb essay in the Lord's selflessness
and minimizing of his own sufferings: he felt that what he was going
through was less than what the spiritually weak would have to go
through in the AD70 tribulation (and that of the last days).
Our sense of unity with the Father
and Son during the final tribulation will be considerable. God Himself
in that period will be like a travailing woman crying out (Is. 42:14)-
and yet that very image is used about the pangs that will come upon
both the world and the church as they suffer. God will be with us,
sharing our fear, pain and struggle, until the day finally breaks.
A careful reading of Mt.10:16-39 reveals
many links with the Olivet prophecies concerning the latter day
persecution of the saints; verses 17-21 are effectively quoted in
Lk.21:12-18. However, Mt.10:16 prefaces all this by saying that
these tribulations will attend those who go out preaching the Gospel.
It is not unreasonable to conclude that during the 3.5 year tribulation
period there will be a zealous outreach world-wide which will no
doubt encourage our persecution. At this time, when many believers
" shall be offended" (spiritually stumble) and "
the love of many (true believers) shall wax cold" for the truth
(Mt.24:10,11), the " Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached
in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall
the end come" (Mt.24:14)- i.e. the full establishment of the
Kingdom. This in itself indicates the broad spiritual diversity
there will be in the latter day body of Christ; a mixture of red
hot zeal for witnessing and fellowshipping of our Lord's sufferings
at one extreme, to cold indifference and doctrinal unsoundness at
" Ye shall be hated of all men
for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved"
(Mt.10:22). The Greek phrase " the end" is normally used
in the New Testament, and always in the Olivet Prophecy, regarding
the second coming. This verse therefore has a distinctly literal
application- he who spiritually survives the tribulation until the
second coming will be saved fully, by receiving eternal life at
the judgment. " It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of
your Father which speaketh in you" (Mt.10:22) is another indication
that the miraculous gifts may be evident around the time of the
last day tribulation.
There are many other details in Mt.10:16-39
which fit in with our persecution thesis.
v.23 " When they persecute you
in this city, flee ye into another...ye shall not have gone over
the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come" . The coming
of the Son of man must have reference to the last days as well as
to AD70. His coming will be at a time of high speed witnessing,
fuelled by persecution. The reference to the cities of Israel may
imply that there will be a group of believers within the land, perhaps
in the role of the Elijah ministry, witnessing the Gospel
to the Jews.
v.27 " What ye hear in the ear
(in quiet halls at the moment), that preach ye (then) upon the housetops"
. This seems to be giving special encouragement to persevere in
preaching during the tribulation. There is a connection here with
Mt.24:17, which advises those upon the housetops to go with Christ
at the time of his coming. This implies that at the moment of Christ's
coming there will be zealous " upon the housetops" preaching
by the faithful. It is only persecution that will fire our
community with that kind of zeal for evangelism, so that men may
say of us that we have turned the world upside down by the power
of our preaching, making us " the sect everywhere spoken against"
. These descriptions of the early church are yet to become true
of its latter day counterpart.
v.28 " Fear not them which kill
the body, but are not able to kill the soul" - some of us will
perish in the tribulation. " Some of you shall they cause to
be put to death" (Lk.21:16). " He that loseth his life
for my sake shall find it" (v.39).
v.31 " Fear ye not" . The
faithful will have peace within them as they both consider and experience
v.32,33 " Whosoever therefore
shall confess me before men...but whosoever shall deny me"
. This may imply that those who do not participate in the world-wide
witness will declare themselves unworthy. However, the Greek for
'confess' really means to assent- as if it will only be by an apparently
nominal indication of our faith that we fly our colours- cp. 'only'
having to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar to avoid death in the
first century. In the light of this, there is a need to keep our
conscience finely tuned so that we are ready to make or refuse the
apparently insignificant action or statement which will result in
the world rejecting us. Similarly, a 'mere' confession of belief
in the name of Jesus in the first century resulted in being cast
out of the synagogue and socially ostracized (Jn.9:22). This idea
of denying Jesus is picked up in 2 Tim.2:12, again in a persecution
context: " If we be dead with him, we shall also live with
him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him,
he also will deny us" . This parallels not denying Jesus in
the tribulation with dying with him; another example of our tribulations
then being described in terms of Christ's sufferings.
v.34-36 " Think not that I am
come to send peace on earth (i.e. in this life)...I am come to set
a man at variance against his father...a man's foes shall be they
of his own household" . This is not really true today to such
a degree. It may just be possible that the Greek tenses here mean
'I am coming to set a man at variance...', implying that in the
period of Christ's return there will be betrayal within Christian
families, as made explicit in Lk.21:16.
v.37 " He that loveth father
or mother more than me is not worthy of me" - apart from betrayal
by family members, the persecutors will also put pressure on the
relatives of believers as a blackmail to make them renounce their
faith. The consequences of all this, given the close-knit nature
of Christian families, are horrendous. But how can we skip over
the verses we don't like the sound of?
v.38 " He that taketh not his
cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me...he that receiveth
a prophet...shall receive a prophet's reward" . This is further
proof that during the tribulation there will be an especial fellowshiping
of the Lord's sufferings on the cross. The reference to receiving
itinerant preachers fits in to the picture of a major world-wide
witness. Those who assist us during the tribulation preaching will
be blessed- as those who blessed the persecuted Jews of the 1940s
Israel's suffering in Egypt is the
prototype for our tribulation. Their sufferings eventually resulted
in a " mixed multitude" leaving Egypt with them, presumably
as a result of their preaching to them. There appear to be two stages
to the coming of Christ. The virgins were told by the cry at midnight
that the bridegroom was coming; there is then a delay, before they
finally meet Christ (Mt.25:1-10). Song 5:4,7 describes Christ knocking
on the door, the bride (the saints) rising to open, but being confused
at finding him vanished (cp. the virgins finding the unexpected
delay). On account of her preaching about the bride (Christ), the
woman (the saints) was then severally persecuted: " The watchmen...found
me, they smote me, they wounded me" . It is likely that this
'delay' period will be the 3.5 years of persecution. We should therefore
not think that because the tribulation has not started, Christ cannot
come today. The news that 'He's back!' may be the beginning of the
Such a 3.5 year gap between being
told Christ is about to come and his actual return would provide
ample opportunity for many to fall away- " Where is the promise
of his coming" which had been made a year or two ago? The midnight
coming of the Lord to the harassed disciples on the sea of Galilee/
nations may well be typical of his second coming. In a seemingly
hopeless position, lashed by the sea of nations, the disciples will
suddenly find themselves in their desired haven. The Lord saw their
toil and took pity, as God looked down and saw the toil and affliction
of Israel under persecution in Egypt, and then 'came down' to deliver
them. Careful analysis of this incident provides us with a two stage
model: a midnight coming of Christ to his persecuted, spiritually
weak brethren, and then the wind (cp. persecution) ceasing a short
while later when the Lord actually came into the ship (Mt.14:32).
Jn.6:17 implies that Christ's appearing was later than the disciples
thought He had promised; which even more exactly fits our position.
As they were tempted to doubt Him, so are we in the last days. "
O (we) of little faith!" .
Preaching in the tribulation
The world-wide preaching activity
mentioned earlier will be related to the persecution. " Ye
shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" connects
with " this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached for a witness
unto all nations" (Mt.24:39,14). " My name's sake"
and the Gospel of the Kingdom's sake are interchangeable expressions
(Mt.19:12,29; Mk.10:29; Lk.18:29). Before every 'coming' of the
Lord there has been a period of persecution and zealous preaching:
Noah preached righteousness before the flood, as Lot probably tried
to before the Lord's coming down in judgment on Sodom (would God
have wrought such wholesale destruction without giving the people
a chance to repent? Cp. Nineveh and Jonah). The schools of the prophets
preached from the street corners and temple steps to warn of the
coming of the day of the Lord at the hand of the Babylonians and
Assyrians. And of course the dramatic coming of the Lord in judgment
upon Israel in AD70, was heralded by Paul and his committed band
of zealots staging the greatest preaching campaigns this world has
The word used in Mt. 24:14 for “witness
to all nations” occurs in Mt. 10:18 concerning our being brought
before judges etc. as a witness. Our behaviour during the final
tribulation is the witness- perhaps the implication could be that
there will be quiet believers world-wide before the final tribulation
begins, and their witness under persecution will be the public proclamation
of the Gospel world-wide of which the Lord speaks here? In the spread
of the true Gospel recently we perhaps see the way for this being
prepared. The word also occurs in the parallel Lk. 21:13- our behaviour
during the final tribulation will be the witness we make.
The reluctance of the early church
to throw their full weight behind obeying the command to "
go into all the world and preach the Gospel" was only ended
by the cosy ecclesias of Judea being persecuted, resulting in their
increased appreciation of their hope, and preaching it to those
previously neglected nations into which they were driven (Acts 11:19-22).
Are the Christian heartlands of Australia, North America and
the U.K. in for something similar? That the mission fields are so
white to the harvest but so chronically short of labourers
indicates how nicely such a scenario would work to God's glory.
It needs to be noted, though, that
Mt. 24:12 specifically states that the love- agape – of the
majority will be lost in the latter day community of believers,
whilst peoples from all nations hear and accept the Gospel. Could
this mean that the established groups of believers lose their agape
whilst the real fire of the Truth spreads to the new converts
made during the great tribulation, as spoken of in Rev. 7. The parables
of Mt. 25, as we will later illustrate, seem to refer specifically
to the state of the latter day believers.
Not having oil to give light to others
in the house [the ecclesia] and to the world is made parallel with
not gaining more talents, which matches not ministering to the least
[the word often refers to the spiritually least] of Christ’s
brethren. The word in Mt. 25:17 for “gained” is normally
used about gaining others for Christ either within or without the
ecclesia- Mt. 18:15; 1 Cor. 9:19-22; 1 Pet. 3:1. This shows the
primacy of preaching & pastoral work / effort for others, especially
in the last days. Oil burning is giving light to others. Going to
sleep / not tending the lamps in the last generation is therefore
lacking in love to the household, not keeping ourselves awake to
give light to others. Lack of care for others in the last days results
in lamps going out and our generation slumbering. Does this imply
that in the last days there will not be the care for the least of
Christ’s needy brethren which there should be? The last generation
will be slumbering when shouldn’t be, i.e. not giving light
to the world and brotherhood as they should. And could it be that
the spiritually “least” whom they despise are the new
converts made in the last days tribulation, whom they somehow disregard?
We Will Make The Answer Then
The day of judgment will involve the Lord sitting "as a refiner of silver... for he is like a refiner's fire" (Mal. 3:2,3). And yet these very Hebrew words are used about how in the final tribulation, God's people will be "refined as silver is refined" (Zech. 13:9), and "be made white and refined" (Dan. 12:10). So the essence of judgment day will be worked out for us in our response to the tribulation. This makes sense- the generation that are alive and see the Lord's return will effectively experience the judgment seat as they pass through the tribulation. It is to prepare them for being the only mortal generation to be alive at His return, the generation who shall greet Him, and never actually die.