"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
When will these things be?
Christ warns three times about deception, as He begins to answer His disciples' questions. The Lord's emphasis here shows that the time of the end will run rampant with deception and false teaching, which Paul also discusses in the passage below:
2 Thessalonians 2:3, 9-12 - Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.... The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
The Lord admonished His disciples to stay on guard and watch to prevent getting deceived. Paul shows that ministry, praying, reading God's Word, and listening to the Spirit for discernment, instead of our own desires are all ways we can stay on guard and avoid deception:
2 Timothy 4:3-5 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Ephesians 6:17-18 - And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.
Jesus warns of future events in these passages so believers living in the end times do not become troubled or afraid. Studying prophecy is a source of great comfort because when we see prophecy being fulfilled we know that God is in control.
"Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom" is an idiom. An idiom is an expression where the meaning is generally known to a particular language or dialect. The following passages show that this idiom describes a conflict that engulfs the entire region at hand and affects every inhabitant:
Isaiah 19:2 - "I will set Egyptians against Egyptians; everyone will fight against his brother, and everyone against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom."
2 Chronicles 15:5-6 - And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands. So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity.
Therefore, Jesus uses this idiom to show the global involvement of nations and kingdoms who fight against each other. Many believe that World War I marked the beginning of these global conflicts described above.
Birth pangs (continued) - Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8
Some Bible versions translate "sorrows" as "birth pangs." In the original Greek, the literal translation is "travail," which is a term commonly used to describe child labor. In the natural birthing process, there are birth pangs before the baby arrives. The birth pangs usually begin slow and manageable, but become more intense, closer together, and less manageable approaching the delivery of the baby.
As the birth pangs described by Jesus become greater and greater, we will know that the end is getting closer and closer. It is obvious that the world has experienced these "birth pangs" for some time. For the most part they have been manageable, however anybody can see they are getting worse, but we are definitely not in the Tribulation yet.
As many mothers will tell you, most birth pangs are manageable up until a certain point called transition. This is basically the "point-of-no-return," where the birth pangs become almost unbearable, usually for a short period, right before the baby is born.
Likewise, there will be a "transition" to specific judgments given by Christ Himself in the Tribulation that will become unbearable to those receiving them. These birth pangs are the physical manifestations of the earth and people groaning under the increasing sin in the world, anticipating redemption when Christ returns:
Romans 8:22-23 - For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
In Revelation the apostle John saw a great sign in Heaven of a woman in travail with birth pangs:
Revelation 12:1-5 - Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.
Joseph had a dream with the same imagery and Jacob interpreted it to represent his family who became the nation Israel:
Genesis 37:5, 9-10 - Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.... Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?"
So, the sign of the woman shows that Israel's "child," the promised Messiah would come after the nation went through much travail. The theme of birth pangs begins in Genesis when the serpent deceived Eve and God promised a Messiah to come through her seed who would defeat the enemy:
Genesis 3:13-16 - And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
Before the Messiah was born, Israel travailed in child birth because of foresaking God and transgressing against His word like Eve:
Jeremiah 13:9-10, 21 - "Thus says the LORD: 'In this manner I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing.... What will you say when He punishes you? For you have taught them to be chieftains, to be head over you. Will not pangs seize you, like a woman in labor?"
Micah 5:2-3 - "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." Therefore, He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel.
But God promised to redeem Israel after their time of travail if the nation returned to Him:
Jeremiah 4:1, 31 - "If you will return, O Israel," says the LORD, "Return to Me; and if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved.... For I have heard a voice as of a woman in labor, the anguish as of her who brings forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion bewailing herself....'"
Micah 4:6-10 - "In that day," says the LORD, "I will assemble the lame, I will gather the outcast And those whom I have afflicted; I will make the lame a remnant, And the outcast a strong nation; So the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion From now on, even forever. And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, Even the former dominion shall come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem." Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in your midst? Has your counselor perished? For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor. Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, Like a woman in birth pangs. For now, you shall go forth from the city, you shall dwell in the field, and to Babylon you shall go. There you shall be delivered; There the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.
But Israel rejected the Messiah and so her travail continued. Then Israel was reborn as a nation again, as Isaiah prophesied, but more travail came after:
Isaiah 66:7-8 - "Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children."
Israel became a nation in one day on May 14, 1948 and both Israel and the world have experienced birth pangs ever since, as the world cries "peace and safety" while they try to divide Israel's land:
1 Thessalonians 5:3 - For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
However, as shown in the previous passage (Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11), the global conflicts began before Israel became a nation, but most would agree that these conflicts led to the rebirth of Israel. World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) both followed after the first political event that birthed the movement to form a Jewish state. This was the World Zionist Organization, first held in 1897. This Zionist movement sought to allow Jews to move back to the land promised to Abraham.
Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration near the end of World War I in 1917. This was a statement issued by the British government that promised the Jewish people that they could form a nation in their ancient homeland. After World War II and with sympathy from other nations after the Holocaust, the Jews were finally allowed to form their nation in 1948.
As prophesied in Isaiah 66:7-8, Israel started have more birth pangs immediately after they declared independence in the form of a military onslaught from the neighboring countries who tried to prevent fruition of the Jewish nation. But this time it not just Israel in travail, but the whole creation, as the time for the Messiah to return to redeem the world draws nigh (Romans 8:22-23).
Notice the parallel of the birth pangs in the "Olivet Discourse" to the Seal judgments in Revelation 6. The birth pangs will start in the last days on a regional scale and increase and culminate into specific judgments with global consequences during the Tribulation:
Israel will continue to travail like woman in labor through the Tribulation:
Jeremiah 30:6-11 - Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. 'For it shall come to pass in that day,' Says the LORD of hosts, 'That I will break his yoke from your neck, and will burst your bonds; foreigners shall no more enslave them. But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. 'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.'
Isaiah 26:18-21 - We have been with child, we have been in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth wind; we have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth, nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen. Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.
The birth pangs for both the world and Israel will finally end after Israel is reconciled to the Lord and accepts Him as Redeemer at the end of the Tribulation, when the Lord returns to redeem the world (Romans 8:22-23):
Isaiah 54:1-5 - "Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman," says the LORD. "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited. "Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth."
The verses previous to this passage in Luke 21:9-11 are describing end time events because these things had not occurred leading up to the temple destruction in 70AD. When Jesus says "but before all these things" in verse 12 above, He is again speaking of events leading up to the temple destruction of 70 AD and reveals that the Jewish believers would be persecuted before the 70AD destruction. The book of Acts records some of these persecutions and martyrs of the early Church:
Acts 5:40-41 - And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Acts 7:57-59 - Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Acts 8:1, 3 - Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.... As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
The Matthew and Mark parallels to Luke 21:12-19 reach ahead to the time of the Tribulation. Persecution and martyrdom on believers in the Tribulation will become exceedingly great worldwide, as shown in the passages below:
Revelation 6:9-11 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
Revelation 12:13, 17 - Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.... And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 13:7, 15 - It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.... He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
Revelation 17:5-6 - And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
Revelation 18:24 - And in her [the great city Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth."
Daniel 7:21-22, 25 - "I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.... He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.
Compare the passage in Luke: "but before all these things," against the passages in Matthew 24 and Mark 13: "then" and "endure to the end." It is clear that Jesus spoke of two different times leading up to Jerusalem's destruction in 70AD and the Tribulation period. However, the passage below speaks of both time periods when persecution would be great:
Matthew 10:17-23 - "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. "Now 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 for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
The Lord gave the great commission to spread the Gospel to His disciples:
Luke 24:33, 46-48 - So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together... Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things."
Acts 1:2-3, 6-8 - ...the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.... Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Paul tells us that the great commission found fulfillment in his day:
Colossians 1:5-6, 23 - ...the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth...the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Like many prophecies, there is a partial fulfillment in the near term and the complete fulfillment later. Paul partially fulfilled the great commission. The end did not come in Paul's day and more generations have been born that need to hear the Gospel. Therefore, the complete fulfillment will come right before the end of the Tribulation, when Jesus returns.
The Church has continued to spread the Gospel for the last couple millennia. However, it is only in the last generation, with the increase of travel and technology, the Gospel has again spread to the far reaches of the Earth.
Right before Jesus returns, 144,000 sealed servants, two witnesses, and an angel will fulfill the great commission as shown in the passages below. Note that the passage in Isaiah is about the 144,000 servants who, like Christ, will preach "good tidings," which is the good news of the Gospel:
Isaiah 61:1-6 - "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, they shall call you the servants of our God.
Revelation 7:2-4 - Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
Revelation 11:3-7 - And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands standing before the God of the earth. When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
Zechariah 4:11-14 - Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees - at the right of the lamp stand and at its left?" And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."
Revelation 14:6-7 - Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth - to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people - saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."
Keep in mind that the Luke account focuses on the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem, while occasionally reaching out further to the end of the age. The passage above is a prophecy about Jerusalem's destruction, which took place in 70AD. The following passage describes the city's destruction in more detail:
Luke 19:43-44 - "For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
Bible teacher Jack Kelly describes what took place leading up to Jerusalem's destruction:
"In what appears to be poor advice, [Jesus] told them to get out of town when they saw the city being surrounded by enemy troops, an event that took place nearly 40 years later. The objective of a besieging army was to trap everyone inside so the plight of starving women and children would have a discouraging influence on the leadership. Non-combatants were not allowed free passage through enemy lines for this reason.
But a strange thing happened in the siege of Jerusalem. After surrounding the city, the Roman army was suddenly told to abandon their position and prepare for an immediate departure to Rome. General Titus, who commanded the army, was the son of Vespasian, a man striving to become the Roman Emperor. Fearing he would need extra help in consolidating his power, Vespasian ordered Titus to bring the army home to assist. But before they could depart, another message arrived saying that all was in order and to resume the siege of Jerusalem.
For one week the siege lines had been abandoned, and during this time Christians who heeded the Lord's earlier warning escaped. Although 1.2 million Jews died in Rome's defeat of Israel, according to the historian Josephus, not one Christian perished in the siege of Jerusalem. The Lord's advice had been sound and even strategically clever."
The "times of the Gentiles" covers the time in history when other nations have had dominion over Jerusalem. This time began back with the exile of the southern kingdom by the Babylonians. Years before the Babylonian conquest, Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, but God spared the southern kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem at that time.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God said that the southern kingdom would be conquered and come under Babylonian rule. He warned Judah not to look to their neighbors for help, but to go peacefully into exile (Jeremiah 27). Sure enough, the Jews had nowhere to turn because Babylon also conquered Jerusalem's neighbors. Those who sought refuge, instead of submitting to Babylon, fell by the sword. In Jeremiah 42, a group petitioned to go to Egypt to escape the Babylonians, but God forbid it and Egypt fell too. The following passage shows that the "times of the Gentiles" began with the Babylonian conquest of Israel and her neighbors, including Egypt:
Ezekiel 30:3-4, 10-11 - For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near; it will be a day of clouds, the time of the Gentiles. The sword shall come upon Egypt, and great anguish shall be in Ethiopia, when the slain fall in Egypt, and they take away her wealth, and her foundations are broken down.... 'Thus says the Lord GOD: " I will also make a multitude of Egypt to cease by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He and his people with him, the most terrible of the nations, shall be brought to destroy the land; they shall draw their swords against Egypt, and fill the land with the slain.
After Babylon conquered Judah, God gave the king of Babylon a dream. In Daniel 2, God showed in this dream there would be a series of Gentile kingdoms that would rule before an eternal kingdom would be established on Earth. Jerusalem has been under Gentile rule since Babylon took over the southern kingdom; that is until Israel declared their independence in 1948.
Jerusalem was later unified and recaptured by the Jews in the Six-Day War of 1967, but messianic rule did not begin at that time. In addition, Israel has given control of the Temple Mount over to Muslims. So we see that the "times of the Gentiles" did not end in 1948 or 1967.
The antichrist will have authority over the world, including Israel and Jerusalem during the Tribulation:
Revelation 13:5-7 - And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Daniel 11:45 - And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain....
The antichrist will rule over the last Gentile kingdom, which the Lord will replace with His messianic rule when He returns, ending the "times of the Gentiles":
Daniel 2:44 - And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Revelation 19:11-15 - Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.
The following passage is the prophecy about the "abomination of desolation" Daniel spoke of:
Daniel 11:30-31 - ...So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.
The ruler of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled this prophecy in the second century B.C. The "abomination of desolation" was that Antiochus defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. He also set up a statue of a Greek god in the place of the Most Holy. The "abomination of desolation" has not happened again since Christ reiterated Daniel's prophecy here in His discourse.
The following passages show that a Jewish temple will stand in the last days and sacrifices will begin again. The antichrist will fulfill this future prophecy of defiling the temple and stopping the sacrifices in the middle of the Tribulation:
Daniel 9:27 - "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate."
Daniel 12:8-11 - Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. "And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.""
2 Thessalonians 2:3 - Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
It is interesting to note that the Temple Institute in Israel has spent several years preparing to rebuild the Jewish temple. The garments and utensils that they plan to use are on display at their headquarters in Jerusalem. They have also prefabricated walls of the temple. Once complete, they say the temple could be built in a matter of a few months.
Currently, there is a huge obstacle to building the third temple which will stand before the middle of the Tribulation. The "Dome of the Rock" Muslim mosque sits on the Temple Mount today. Clearly, this road block will go away some time before the middle of the Tribulation, either by removing the mosque, or through an agreement to build the Jewish temple next to the mosque.
These passages show a repeat in history, when a Jewish remnant will flee during the Tribulation, like they did before Jerusalem's destruction in 70AD. Many Bible scholars believe that the Jewish remnant will flee to Petra, where He will protect them through the last half of the Tribulation. Petra, called "Sela" in the Bible, means the "stronghold" or "rock." Petra is just 20 miles south of Bozrah, which means "sheepfold." Tombs and houses carved into the bed rock over a vast area at Petra could temporarily house several thousand people:
Micah 2:12-13 - "I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, like a flock in the midst of their pasture; they shall make a loud noise because of so many people. The one who breaks open will come up before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it; their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head."
Psalms 95:1, 7-11 - Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.... For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice. "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' "
Nahum 1:6-7 - Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.
The passage in Isaiah shows that when Christ returns, He will first go to the area of Bozrah which is near Petra, and where presumably the Jewish remnant will be, before heading back to Jerusalem (Zechariah 14). It appears that Christ will execute judgment on those pursuing the Jewish remnant located near Bozrah:
Isaiah 63:1-6 - Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? - "I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury, and brought down their strength to the earth."
Revelation 19:13-15 - He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Today, the area around Petra is mountainous, but it is also desolate and sparsely populated because of the very low rainfall and scarcity of natural resources there, but God will supernaturally protect His people in the wilderness during the last half of the Tribulation like He did during the Exodus:
Revelation 12:13-16 - Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
We see that God will also protect His people from a "flood." The passage below shows that God compares His enemy to a flood:
Isaiah 59:19 - When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.
The scene in Revelation above is reminiscent of the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus that protected God's people, but later consumed the enemy:
Exodus 14:27-29 - And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Jewish remnant (continued) - Matthew 24:20, Mark 13:18
On the Sabbath, work was forbidden and everybody was to stay close to home:
Exodus 16:29 - "See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day."
The Lord's admonishment to pray that their flight is not on the Sabbath reveals that when the Jewish remnant flees, they will be trying to keep the Mosaic Law. This passage also shows that there are Jews in Jerusalem and a Jewish temple standing at the time, which shows that the Jews will return from global exile, which is coming to fruition today, and they will rebuild the temple before the Jews flee to the wilderness in the middle of the Tribulation.
The purpose of the Tribulation is as follows:
Daniel 9:29 - To finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.
God revealed to Daniel that He gave Israel 70 weeks in which He would punish their transgressing of the Law, before the Messiah would come to rule. History has shown us that the 70 weeks are 70 "weeks" of years, or 490 years. There were 483 years from the time of the command to Nehemiah to restore and build Jerusalem after Israel's 70-year exile, until Jesus died.
During those 483 years, God punished Israel under the yoke of Gentile rule. After the cross, God turned away from Israel because they rejected His Son (Romans 11). It didn't take long for the nation to crumble after God abandoned them. Seven more years are left of the 70 "weeks" of punishment. During these last seven years, God will turn back to Israel. However, God will punish Israel along with His enemies through the Tribulation judgments. Today we live in the gap between the 483 years and the last seven years:
The Jewish people lived in exile, until Israel became a nation again in 1948. Israel becoming a nation again is the paramount sign that the end of the age is rapidly approaching, because God brought the Jews back to Israel for the purpose of fulfilling the last seven years of "Daniel's 70 weeks." Scripture divides the last "week" of years into two parts. Revelation 17 shows that in the first half of the Tribulation, the world will be under the rule of ten kings and a religious system called "Babylon the Great." This religious system is later destroyed by the ten kings and then the antichrist begins his rule over the world.
Jesus tells us that the "abomination of desolation" by the antichrist in the middle of the Tribulation will mark the beginning of "great tribulation," a 42-month period of tribulation worse than any ever seen on Earth - the darkest time in human history:
Daniel 9:27 - "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate."
Daniel 12:1 - "... And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time"
Great Tribulation (continued) - Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:20
When the Jewish remnant flees to the wilderness after the "abomination of desolation," God will protect them from the antichrist for 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6). Jesus characterizes this time as "great tribulation," as discussed in the last section. This coincides with the antichrist's 42-month rule during the second half of the Tribulation, which will last for 1,260 days and not a day less.
So what does it mean to shorten the days if there is an appointed day count to the second half of the Tribulation? Jesus doesn't tell us in what way He will shorten the days, but the following theories might explain how they could be shortened without being less than 1,260.
The first theory suggests that the days themselves will shorten in length by the earth spinning faster. This would still fulfill the day count because Genesis defines a day as one revolution of the earth:
Genesis 1:3-5 - Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
The scene in Isaiah at the time of the Lord's judgment may support this theory, as the earth's rotation appears off kilter:
Isaiah 24:19-21 - The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again. It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth.
Also, some believe that the sixth Seal judgment describes what might happen in a polar shift, or reversal, which may also affect the earth's rotation:
Revelation 6:12-14 - I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
In the fourth Trumpet judgment, some believe that in addition to the heavenly bodies darkening by a third, the days themselves will also be cut by a third, or down to sixteen hours:
Revelation 8:12 - Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.
Another theory is that the day count itself is shorter than a full Jewish calendar for 3 ½ years because of the leap months. Depending on the year, the Jewish calendar is anywhere from 353 to 385 days. So the thought here, is that a full 3 ½ years on the Jewish calendar is more than 1260 days. Indeed, the count is anywhere from 1269 to 1301 days per 3 ½ Jewish calendar years. Daniel 12:11 shows that there is a period of 1,290 days after the "abomination of desolation." So cutting the days short could simply mean that Jesus will not let the full calendar years play out before He ends the Tribulation.
Other than being within the average day count of the Jewish calendar, there is one interesting thing to note about the 1290 days. Thirty days after the Feast of Atonement, is the day of the year that God told Noah to get into the ark before the flood (Genesis 7:1-11). I'm not sure what the significance would be to the 1290 days with regard to the flood, but it is interesting nonetheless.
The "elect" in these verses are the Jewish remnant that will flee to the wilderness, which we will discuss when we get to Matthew 24:31.
After the rapture occurs, people will clamor for answers to this supernatural event and the earth-shaking events that follow. The Bible says there will be great signs and delusions to deceive those who reject the truth. In other words, for those people who choose to reject the truth, God will harden their hearts, just like He did to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21). God will do this by allowing deceptive signs that unbelievers can physically see and easily believe because they didn't trust in Him by faith. Like Pharaoh, they will make up their mind to reject the truth, and God will simply give them over to their foolish disbelief:
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 - The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Jesus tells us that these signs and wonders will be so great as to "deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22). Later, we will see that the "elect" are Jewish. It doesn't seem likely that the Jewish remnant would easily be deceived, as they will have to trust God's Word to flee to safety in the first place (Matthew 24:16-19, Mark 13:14-17). In fact, the Lord said that the signs will be so convincing, that if not for their faith and heeding God's Word ahead of time, believers would likely be swept away by the deception too.
There are several theories about what some of these deceptive signs and wonders might be. The most probable in my view is when the antichrist, or beast is mortally wounded, but later healed:
Revelation 13:3 - And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.
The second beast, known as the false prophet of the antichrist, will do great signs and wonders to persuade the world to make an idol of the first beast and worship it:
Revelation 13:11-14 - Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
The passages below show that the antichrist will apparently die from his mortal wound, but come back to life, returning from the bottomless pit:
Revelation 11:7 - When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
Revelation 17:8 - The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Satan cannot counterfeit a resurrection because only God has that power (John 11:25). Therefore, it seems probable that God will resurrect the antichrist, but the antichrist will take the credit, hence being a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
For more discussion on the "strong delusion," click here.
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