by Paul George
After Jesus’ primary warning about religious apostasy (Matthew 24:4-5), He now turns His focus upon geopolitical events. Jesus says, “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, for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:6-8). Since we have previously seen that verses 4- 14 refer to the first half of the tribulation, it follows that these events will occur during that time, and will correspond with the seal judgments of Revelation 6.
Revelation 6:4, the red horse judgment, which is said “to take peace from the earth, and that men will slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.” The first seal judgment of Revelation 6:2 is the rider on a white horse, who is a counterfeit Christ, which correspond to verses 4-5 of Matthew 24. This means that antichrist begins the tribulation with a false peace that soon turns into multiple wars breaking out throughout the globe. There will be war that those in Jerusalem will see themselves and those further away that they will only hear about.
These wars of the tribulation are described in verse 7 as, nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. This description depicts multiple struggles taking place on various levels; international conflict will be raging all around, nations fighting nations, kingdom against kingdom, such as we see today. This is not what took place in a.d. 70. Rome was an empire that fought against Israel, a single nation. Such a first century situation does not resemble nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
Jesus tells His disciples that they should not be frightened. The Greek word for frightened is only used here, in the parallel passage of Mark 8:15, and by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, means to cry aloud and scream. Apparently, this is going to be a very scary time for those who do not understand that God is in control of these things. Paul makes a similar statement in 2 Thessalonians when he says, “that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (2:2). The Thessalonians believers thought that they were in the day of the Lord or the tribulation. Paul tells them not to be disturbed, because they were not in the day of the Lord.
What is the cure for this frightening knowledge, simply to know that, “those things must take place” (verse 6). It is comforting, even in troubled times, to know that if God says that something shall be, then it must be. Judgment is a necessary part of God’s plan because there is evil in the world. Before the Lord can usher in His kingdom, He must purge out evil through judgment. This can be a scary thing if one does not know God and His plan. Knowing the predetermined plan of God is one of the comforting aspects that prophecy provides for the people of God during a time of global upheaval. Judgment must happen because God is a righteous God who has limits to His patience.
Matthew 24:6 and Revelation 6:3- 4 are parallel. The red horse symbolizes war. The purpose of the rider is “to take peace from the earth and that they should kill one another” (Revelation 6:3). Many perceive the first half of the Tribulation as a time of great peace. That is not so. The Antichrist will be perceived as a man of peace because of his great deceptive ability. The fact is he comes to power and stays in power because of war (Daniel 7:8, 24). The tribulation will bring war and more wars. The book of Revelation prophesies of many wars, not only in chapter 6, but also in 16:12- 15, 17:14, 19:1 ff, and 20:8).
Since wars and rumors of wars must take place, there would be a tendency to think that the end is upon them, but such is not the case. In fact, this warning has been ignored down through church history. Too often many have thought that because of military conflicts that the end of the age has come. With the current war against terrorism in which the United States and Israel are currently engaged, some might be tempted to think that this is a sign of the end. While I do think that we could be near the end of the church age, it would not be for that reason there are wars and rumors of war.
Revelation 6 is not the end of the seven-year tribulation period, but just the beginning. Many more events must unfold before one can “straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Famines and Earthquakes
There have been earthquakes and famines in the first century and during every generation since. It is hardly necessary to add to this that not only false Christs and false prophets, wars and rumors of war, earthquakes and famines occur in every age throughout the history of the church but also persecutions and defections, to which Jesus refers to in Matthew 24: 9, 10, 12, and 13. The context of this passage is that of a time of future tribulation in which these events will occur as part of God’s direct wrath and judgment. The earthquakes and famines of today and during the first century did not fulfill this prophecy since the context of this passage is of a still future time. The famines and earthquakes that occur today are not a revealing of God’s wrath.
Even though there have been famines and earthquakes in the past, they are just a warm-up for what God will bring about during the future time of tribulation. When these miraculous events occur, there will be no doubt about the fulfillment of the details of Matthew 24. We are building toward that day when God will judge and remove evil so that He can establish His righteous rule for a thousand years.
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” (Matthew 24:9), Jesus now turns to personal consequences that will take place during the seventieth-week of Daniel, known as the tribulation. Verse 9 provides further reason why the tribulation is directed toward the Jewish remnant. The word then in verse 9 means simultaneously as the events that occur in verses 4-8. Matthew places this persecution with the beginning of sorrows. This presents a problem for those who believe that the church age separates Matthew 24:8 and 9. They look upon Matthew 24:4-8 as historical, and verse 9 as future. However, the word “then” makes it difficult to hold such a view. The word does not mean after the beginning of sorrows, but at the same time or simultaneously with the beginning of sorrows. Thus, verse 9, cannot be projected into the second half of the Tribulation, because this persecution will take place during or at the same time, as the beginning of sorrows.
Since the focus of the Olivet Discourse is Jerusalem centered, most likely Jesus has in view Jewish persecution. However, there is no doubt that Christians will receive similar harsh treatment during this time of tribulation. The “they” must refer to those described in verse 10, which reads as follows: “And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another.” “They” are the traitors who betray their brethren and deliver them up to death. They will be judged for their actions at the “sheep and goat” judgment as recorded in Matthew 25:31- 46.
The Old Testament teaches that the tribulation will be a time of great persecution toward the Jewish people specifically (Jeremiah 30:7, 11, 23- 24; Ezekiel 20:33- 44; 22:17- 22; Daniel 7:25; 12:1- 3; Hosea 5:15; Zephaniah 1:7- 2:3). The New Testament echoes this teaching as well (Matthew 10:17- 22; 24:9, 15- 24; Mark 13:9- 20; Luke 21:12- 19; Revelation 13:7a; 18:24). The entire chapter of Revelation 12 is devoted to depicting the future persecution of the Jewish remnant during the second half of the seven-year tribulation period by Satan himself and his partner in crime, the antichrist known as the beast.
The persecution, which Matthew notes here, is a future one that will take place in the first half of the tribulation. The verb, “deliver” is the same one used of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26:15) and supports the notion that this future deliverance unto death will be a similar betrayal of the Lord’s people. The martyrdom described in this passage, which occurs in the first half of the tribulation, is to be seen as a parallel passage to the fifth seal in Revelation 6:9- 11. Revelation 6:9 says, “And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.”
When the fifth seal was broken we do not see another rider, but instead we hear the souls underneath the altar, that had been slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they gave, crying out with a loud voice, saying, How long? (Revelation 6:9-11.) Who are these? They are the remnant of the Jews who began to give their witness for the Word of God after the church had departed and they suffered martyrdom in consequence of their faithful testimony. It is exactly that of which our Lord speaks next in His discourse. “Then shall they deliver you up to tribulation and shall kill you; you will be hated of all the nations for my names sake.”
The wars, earthquakes, famines, and persecution of believers in our own day are not signs that relate to the end-times. These prophetically significant events will take place during the first half of the coming tribulation.
“And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.” – Matthew 24:10- 13
Jesus is progressing through His description of the first half of the tribulation, building toward the middle of the seven-year period of verse 15. In this section our Lord describes the spiritual state of the Jews within the land of Israel (Matt. 24:10- 13). Their spirituality is not good, from God’s perspective.
In verse 9, Jesus predicts that all the nations of the world will hate the Jewish believers living in Israel during the tribulation, because they hate Jesus, the Messiah! This section of Jesus’s discourse (verse 9- 13) is parallel to Revelation 6:9- 11 and the fifth seal judgment. Thus, many who professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah in easier times will deny Him and cooperate in exposing those who are true believers in Jesus. Only true Gentile believers in Christ will be willing to risk their lives in order to help the Jewish remnant. While this speaks of persecution of believers, especially Jewish believers, during the first half of the tribulation, the entire seven-year tribulation will be a time of great persecution.
The external hatred from the world (verse 9) puts all who profess the name of Christ under pressure. This in turn produces internal hatred among the professing Christian community during the tribulation. “And at that time” locates the events of verses 10- 13 to be the time of tribulation mentioned in verse 9. It is clear that all these things will take place during the same time. When the pressure comes, those who are not true believers will do three things, (1) fall away, (2) deliver up one another, and (3) hate one another.
To “fall away” carries the idea of “to cause to sin,” it means to “let oneself be led into sin,” thus fall away from the truth. This leads to betrayal of one another, Matthew 10:16- 23 is a parallel passage, which also speaks of the persecution described in this passage in greater detail. All of these things will take place during the tribulation.
Matthew 10:21- 22: “And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” This is exactly the same thing that is going on here in Matthew 24. Because of the global reach of the antichrist and his regime during the tribulation, the pressure will be so great that even fellow family members will turn against one another rather than face the consequences of not following the instructions of the global leader.
The hatred by all the nations (verse 9) against believers, especially Jewish believers will create such external pressure that it will result in hatred within the believing community among themselves. That is, false professors will turn against and hate the true believers. There will be virtually nowhere to turn for the remnant of Jewish believers. The only place where they will be able to turn for any kind of help will be Gentile believers.
Verse 9 says, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” Those whom Jesus calls “you” in verse 9, are referred to as the “many” and “one another” in verse 10. Since our Lord speaks of the same group of people, the saved remnant, in both verses, whatever happens to them in verse 10 must be the same people referenced by the plural you in verse 9. This verse, like all of them in Matthew 24:4- 14, is not a reference to a past event. Instead, they look forward to a future time and a global event that will take place in literal Jerusalem.
At the same time “many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.” False prophets are not the same as false teachers, as some suppose. False prophets were Israel’s trouble; false teachers are the church’s problem. The Jewish age has false prophets; the Christian age has false teachers. Evil spirits will possess the false prophets who come in the end of the Jewish age. Such was the case during the great apostasy of Israel under the reign of Ahab. The Lord permitted a lying spirit to take possession of the false prophets (2 Chronicles 18:18- 22). The tribulation will be a time in which prophecy will be restored to Israel during the seventieth week of Daniel. Thus, Jesus provides instruction warning the nation of Israel to exercise discernment concerning this matter. This period will require great perseverance on the part of the Jewish remnant.
And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved” (Matthew 24:12- 13).
In Matthew 24:9- 14, Jesus is talking about the spiritual condition of those during the first half of the seven-year tribulation period. It is not a pretty sight. Since believers will be persecuted and put to death, extreme pressure will be on believers, especially Jewish believers to fall away from serving Jesus the Messiah.
The Greek word usually translated as “lawless” or iniquity” carries with it the idea of deliberately disobeying a specific standard. In the context of this passage, God’s standard. The word “lawless” is often used in opposition to “righteousness” or “good deeds” (Matthew 23:28; Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians. 6:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 1:9).
“Lawlessness shall prevail” This too is clearly seen in the breaking of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17). The earthquake, the darkened sun, the blood-red moon, the falling stars, the rolled up heavens and the removal of mountains and island are all great symbols of starting political events, which will take place in the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation. This time of lawlessness is surely an unusual time in all human history. It is a way of life that refuses to recognize any divine law.
Jesus has been expounding upon the qualitative nature of the spiritual condition of unbelievers that will characterize the tribulation period, specially the first half. This description of lawlessness strikes a parallel to Paul’s description of the “man of lawless” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Matthew 24 is building toward the abomination of desolation (24:15), committed by the antichrist in the middle of the tribulation. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2, combines the man of lawlessness with the abomination of desolation when he says, “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3b-4).
The result of lawless increasing will be that “most people’s love will grow cold.” There is a cause effect relationship in this passage. The phrase “most people” is literally “the many.” The many refers to the general condition of the world.
What does Jesus mean when he says, “love will grow cold?” The expression itself is clear: loss of love. The main significance is to see the cause/effect relationship between lawlessness and loss of love, real love is impossible for the lawless person. By definition, the lawless person is motivated by personal, selfish concerns, not by any regard for others or for the rules that govern relationships with one another. Therefore, with the increase of lawlessness there is a growing cold of love. It is in just such an environment that will enable the man of lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2 to set up his image in God’ s rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.
The exact meaning and implications of “the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved,” is a hotly debated passage. Some use this passage to teach a Christian doctrine known as the perseverance of the saints.” While others believe that, it refers to a physical deliverance. The first issue that must be dealt with in this matter is the meaning of the term “saved.” Because the word “saved” is used in the New Testament to refer to the time when one becomes a Christian. The leading Greek lexicon of our days says that the basic meaning of this word is “save; keep from harm, preserve, rescue.” This word can be used in relation to the doctrine of salvation or it can simply refer to physical deliverance or rescue. The exact meaning is determined by its context. Here, “saved,” means to “deliver” or to “rescue.”
Many commentaries on this passage fail to consider the contextual factors before they start sermonizing on endurance in the Christian life. They make this into a passage that teaches the Christian doctrine of endurance, even though it is not supported by the specific factors in the text. While there is a Christian doctrine of endurance taught in the Epistles, this doctrine teaches that one of the many character qualities that believer is to have is endurance, because endurance under suffering produces character (Romans 5:3-4). Yet, none of those references to the Christian doctrine of endurance speaks of “enduring to the end.” Instead, passages that speak of enduring to the end all occur within the same context, the tribulation (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:19; Revelation 13:10; 14:12).
We have come to an end of a section in Jesus’ discourse dealing specifically to Jewish believers during the tribulation; He alerts them to the many dangers that will confront them during this unique period of history. Having told them of the great trials of this time, Christ promises that the ones who physically make it to the time of His second coming will be delivered into the millennial kingdom that will come at the end of the tribulation period.