Gospel of Matthew Chapter Twenty-Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
He Will Return
Verses 1-3: "Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He said to them,'Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.' 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'" Do you have questions that you would like to ask God? And especially, do you want answers from Him? The disciples had questions just like everybody else—they asked Him—and He answered, so let's listen to what He said. And note, by the way, that when the Romans would invade and conquer Jerusalem, about 40-years after the events of this chapter, the Temple was indeed utterly destroyed. The extensive gold in the Temple melted in the fires set by the invading armies and ran between the huge building blocks of those buildings... the immense blocks were torn down and muscled aside as the best, most ruthless soldiers in the world scrambled to get that gold.
Verses 4-8: "And Jesus answered and said to them,'See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 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. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.'" Have you ever taken a comparative religions class and noticed that the history of the world is full of people who were said by religious followers to be a christ, an avatar, buddha, mahdi—a special one who is supposed to get the world out of this mess? There have been a lot of them, including some right now, and they "mislead many." Have you also seen that the world's wars, famines and earthquakes never seem to end? Just like the birth of a baby is an indication there will be more to life for that child, the world's continuing troubles tell us that MORE is coming.
Verses 9-13: "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." This was not considered good news by the disciples and it's not what most of us think we signed up for, either. It did come true for His followers, just as He said, and it's happening in today's world also. Christians have been and are, pursued by enemies, hated, killed and betrayed. In much of the world, wearing a sign or a shirt with written words stating your allegiance to Jesus, would be your last act on earth. We need to look to the Lord constantly, for "false prophets," lying teachers are in the world, and "lawlessness" is everywhere—a lack of Godly love is rampant. But don't be discouraged, the Lord Himself will get you through. He is not only the "Author" of your faith, but He is the "Finisher" of it as well (Hebrews 12:2). When you don't think you can make it, "He will lift you up" (James 4:10). Is the love of many growing cold? If so, it's a sign that the end is near.
Verse 14: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Members of the Early Church were convinced that the "gospel" (good news) already had been preached to the world, as Paul stated in places like Colossians 1:6 & 1:23. When he viewed the gospel as having reached "all the world," he was actually speaking about the world of the Roman Empire. It's true—the end will come—and you have to wonder: Is OUR understanding of events limited like it was for the people of that time and place? The Holy Spirit, through men like Paul, reveals the limitations of our understanding, whereas God knows—everything.
Verses 15-22: "Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." It's interesting how one prophecy often has more than one fulfillment. We find mention of this "abomination of desolation" in places like Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, which had its initial fulfillment in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes, who caused a statue of Jupiter to be placed in the Jewish Temple, following it up by sacrificing a pig in the holy place. The Roman legions were soon to invade the Temple once more, but in addition, the suggestion of these verses is that another, even worse abomination is to occur in our future. Historically, Cestius Gallus of Syria marched on Jerusalem in September of 66 A.D., but he suddenly withdrew his 30,000 men for no apparent reason, and most of the Christians in Jerusalem were able to escape to Pella. It's also true that the Roman forces under Titus temporarily pulled back from breaching Jerusalem's walls just a few years later, and remembering the words of Jesus, any remaining Christians in the city also escaped. God informs His people. There will be another "Great Tribulation" in the future, and we will be rescued. The Lord Himself is our Place of Refuge and our Hope.
Verses 23-26: "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them." Our Lord, our God, is holy, just and pure. He has redeemed all who will merely TRUST in Him, and He will return to rescue us at just the right time. But in addition to our God, who is utterly good and has our best interests in mind beyond our ability to comprehend it, there is a supernatural enemy who intends to deceive and destroy. False religions, fake messiahs, misleading doctrines—the enemy has filled the world with such things. We are to embrace the Risen Lord, the One who will return, and He will protect us from what is false.
Verses 27-31: "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." At some point, the very last person willing to place their faith in the Lord will do it, and THAT will be the time of His return. It will be an incredibly dramatic event, and as only God can do it, the return of Jesus will be seen by everyone at the same instant. God KNOWS His people, for we are obvious to Him—just like we know those birds are vultures because they've gathered around a corpse, He knows us who are gathered around His glorious Son. We are known by who or what we flock to. That time in future history will be full of trouble, the moon will be obscured and meteorites will fall. All will see Him descending into our world system to make everything new; many will know destruction and some will find eternal life, gathered from every part of the world.
Verses 32-35: "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." Part of our problem in understanding God and His intentions, is that He knows our limitations and therefore speaks to us in earthly terms. From an earthly perspective, we can sort of understand fig trees and what they do, but we are blind to both the supernatural and our future. If we saw the heavenlies and literally knew what was coming, we likely would not mentally survive the experience in our present form. So look at the words of Jesus, place your faith in Him, and trust that He will soon rescue you. It's called certain HOPE—in Him.
Verses 36-39: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be." One thing about being human is that we don't want to be left out—we want to know—everything. One thing about God is that He intends to GIVE us everything. It isn't important to know WHEN Jesus will return—what's important is to know that He WILL return to rescue us. To have faith is to trust God, and there was all too little faith in the Pre-Flood world. God told Noah, Noah told anybody who would listen, but nobody did, and then what they didn't want to believe—destroyed them. And that's the problem with most people in the world today. Jesus will return but they don't want to listen.
Verses 40-44: "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." One of the interesting facets of humanity is an extraordinary ability to deny reality. At some level, we all know that Jesus Christ is exactly Who He says He is, but people fool themselves that He isn't. We all know we will die, but pretend it isn't so. As to the Return of Jesus, if we knew for certain when it would be, our lives would be very different, but the change would be based on knowledge rather than faith. God has carefully chosen FAITH as the vehicle which saves us. Faith admits there are a lot of things we don't know, but we trust God who does know. We don't know when—instead we know Him.
Verses 45-51: "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Those who feel like slaves to someone or something, don't like it, and desperately want to stop that feeling. Humans do tend to deny the reality that considering who God is, we are like slaves or possibly cockroaches compared to Him. Yet He loves us as His beloved children and sets us free. Jesus left His human life on this earth thousands of years ago, and the tendency of most, when things take that long, is to pretend it will never happen. The reality is, whether we like it or not, there is a "hell" and it is a notably unpleasant place. The inhabitants of hell go there by choice. We either believe in the Lord or we don't, and those who don't want Him will get their way in a sense—they go to a vast place where He is no longer there for them. To deny Jesus is a kind of madness, and the insanity gets worse by successfully denying Him all through life. Hell is the unhappiest place of all where hope is gone and it will never end. The time to place your faith in Jesus Christ is right now.
Lord, I don't want hell, I want You. Please forgive my sins. I trust You, my King and my Redeemer. Please accept me and bring me into eternity WITH You—forever. I am Yours, Lord. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.