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Tonight we’re going to make a brief proclamation taken from the passage that we’ll be studying, Matthew 24:14.
“And this gospel of the kingdom of will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Yesterday I spoke about how to approach biblical prophecy. Today I’m going to try to apply what I was teaching yesterday. I have a theory that a word spoken in the Spirit never dies. When I was still a fairly young believer, I think I was still in the British Army in the Middle East, I just heard a statement made by a Jewish believer , and there weren’t many in those days. His name was Maya Pearlman and he was a member of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States. He said with regard to interpreting prophecy, “It’s like putting together the pieces of a human body or a human skeleton. If you want to do it successfully you have to start with the right piece.” He said, “The right piece is the spine. When you get the spine in place then you can begin to fit the other members into it.” And that has stuck with me now more than 50 years. Tonight I’m going to try to deal with the spine of biblical prophecy. He said it is Matthew 24 and that’s where we’re going to spend most of our time this evening, Matthew 24.
We sometimes tend to overlook the fact that Jesus was a prophet. The people of His time acknowledged Him as prophet even if they didn’t acknowledge Him as the Son of God. He was the greatest of all the great Hebrew prophets and His greatest prophetic discourse is found in Matthew 24, continued in Matthew 25. In spite of the chapter division there’s no division in the discourse. The same first part of the discourse is also found in Mark 13 and in Luke 21. These are three different perspectives of the same discourse. It might be compared, for instance, if there were three television cameras here tonight all focused on me, they’d all record what I say and do but they’d do it from a slightly different perspective. To get the full picture you really need to put together all three chapters. We won’t have time to do that effectively but we’ll take a little time at least in Luke 21.
Chapter 24 begins with a situation in which Jesus makes a very dramatic and startling statement to His disciples. In fact, it was almost like a blow in the solar plexus, the words that He spoke here at the beginning of Matthew 24. It says in verses 1–2:
“Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple.”
You need to know that King Herod had spent 46 years renovating and extending and glorifying that temple. It was considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was also the center and focus of the whole national life of the Jewish people. Their national life and their religious life; it was their great pride and joy. And so when Jesus said what He said, as I say, it was like a blow in the solar plexus.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly I say to you not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.’”
I don’t think any of us are capable of understanding the impact that those words had on the disciples.
Well, as soon as they had an opportunity, they got alone with Jesus on the Mount of Olives and they said, “Now we want to know about this.” The next verse says, verse 3:
“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us when will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?’”
It seems to me that they had the impression that if the temple was to be destroyed, such a disaster would mark the end of the age. They couldn’t conceive that the age would continue after the temple had been destroyed. So I think they thought they were asking one question but in actual fact they were asking two. The first was, “When will these things be?” that is, the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; the second was, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered both those questions but the answer to the first question is found in Luke 21. We’ll turn there for a moment, Luke 21:20–24.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days, for there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
So that’s the answer to the question “When will these things happen?” In other words, when will the temple be destroyed and Jerusalem be destroyed? Jesus said this is the sign, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that the desolation of it is near.” This was historically fulfilled in AD 70. The Roman commander, Vespasian, laid siege to Jerusalem, surrounded it with his armies and then he received word from Rome that he had been chosen as the next emperor. So he had to go back to Rome to receive his position and he temporarily lifted the siege of Jerusalem and the armies withdrew, but temporarily.
Those Jews in Jerusalem who acknowledged Jesus as a prophet of the Lord understood the application of these words and they fled from Jerusalem to a town called Pella on the east side of the Jordan. And after that, Vespasian’s successor, Titus, reformed the siege, gathered the armies together and continued to besiege Jerusalem until the words of Jesus had been exactly fulfilled. The whole city was destroyed, the whole temple was so completely destroyed that not one single stone was left upon another. In the course of that war, two million Jews were killed and one million were sold into captivity as slaves throughout the Roman Empire. In fact, there were so many slaves in the markets that the price of slaves fell and no one was buying them.
So those words of Jesus were fulfilled but note that the people who gave heed to what Jesus had said saved their lives. This is a very important lesson.
And then Jesus says in verse 23:
“For there will be great distress in the land...”
What land is that? The land of Israel.
“...and wrath upon this people.”
What people is that? The Jewish people.
“And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations...”
That was fulfilled, as I said.
“...and Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
The times of the Gentiles are times when Gentile powers rule the land which was given by God eternally to Israel. And so, that second half of that verse covers nearly 2,000 years until Jerusalem is liberated from Gentile domination.
One of the key dates in this century is 1967, the Six Day War, when for the first time in nearly 2,000 years the Jewish people regained control of that vital area which is called the Old City. But the prophecy was not yet completely fulfilled because they did not take control. The could have done but they did not, of the temple area which is still occupied by a Muslim mosque. So it’s like we’re right on the verge but we haven’t actually stepped right over.
And then Jesus goes on immediately:
“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
That shows that immediately after the liberation of Jerusalem from Gentile domination Jesus is going to come back in person. So that 24th verse there spans a period of nearly 2,000 years. But it also indicates that when Jerusalem is liberated finally from Gentile domination, the next event in the calendar will be the return of Jesus.
Now we’ll go back to Matthew 24 and consider the second question which was, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” I want you to notice they didn’t say the signs, they said the sign of your coming. Jesus answered that question in Matthew 24 but He didn’t answer it immediately, He led up to His answer. Jesus begins now this analysis of the closing phase of this age with a word of warning. Verse 4:
“Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ, the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.”
I want to point out to you that the first great warning given to us concerning the period of the end is a warning against deception. This is repeated twice more in the course of this discourse. In other words, three times Jesus warns His disciples in connection with the close of the age against being deceived. In my personal opinion, deception is the greatest single danger that threatens us as Christians. Greater than persecution, greater than war, the danger of deception.
I heard somebody say in effect a little while back, “Well, it will never happen to me.” I want to tell you, if you think it never will happen to you it will happen to you. It’s a sure mark if you have that attitude that you’re already under deception. Jesus warns His own disciples, His apostles who had been close to Him for three and a half years, heard all His teachings, seen all His miracles, “Be careful, don’t come under deception.” I believe it’s much the greatest danger that threatens all of us here in this room this evening. I want to warn you against deception.
There is only one sure guarantee against deception and it’s given to us in 2 Thessalonians 2, “Receive the love of the truth.” The only thing that will protect you from deception is not something negative, it’s something positive. It’s the love of the truth. The Greek word there is agape which many of you know means the strong form of love. In other words, to avoid being deceived you have to have a passionate love for the truth. It’s not enough to have a quiet time every morning or attend a good church or say your prayers. You have to have a passionate commitment to the truth of the Word of God if you’re going to avoid being deceived.
Let’s go on with this, Jesus says in verse 5:
“For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ [the Messiah],’ and will deceive many.”
That’s a prophecy made by Jesus, it’s been fulfilled. A Jewish encyclopedia lists approximately forty false messiahs who have come to the Jewish people since the time of Jesus and all have deceived some of them. Some have deceived almost the whole nation. Bar Kochba, the next one, probably did so; Moses of Crete led about 5,000 Jews out into the sea believing that the Lord would come. And they drowned. So this is a repeated feature of Jewish history. It happened again in the year 1666 when Shabbatise Svee told the Jewish people he was the messiah, he was going to restore them to the land of Israel and thousands of them gathered there. To save his life he converted to Islam. What a bitter disappointment for all those believers.
I just want to point out to you that Jesus was a true prophet. Everything He said has been fulfilled or will be fulfilled.
Then He warns them a second time against wars and commotions, or troubles. Verse 6. Incidentally, I see most of you have got your Bibles open. We’re going to go systematically through this chapter so it helps to have the chapter in front of you. Verse 6:
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
In other words, the mere fact that there have been wars and troubles all through this age is not by itself an indication that the age is about to close. We need some further indication.
If you turn for a moment to Luke 21, there’s a rather interesting little example of how scripture comments on itself. In Luke 21 Jesus said in verses 8 and following , it’s the same discourse:
“Take heed that you be not deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he, and the time has drawn near,’ therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”
In other words, wars and commotions by themselves are not an indication that the end of the age is near. Then in verse 10 , and if you have a Bible that prints the words of Jesus in red, as most do, you have a few words here in black interjected. Verse 10:
“Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom...’”
In other words, I’m pointing out that there’s an important pause after the statement “the end is not yet.” Now we’re going back to Matthew 24 and now we come to the signs of the end. The signs, not the sign. Matthew 24:7:
“For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places.”
Some of your Bibles will not have the word pestilences because there’s an uncertainty about the text. Luke has it in the text so whether it’s there or not in Matthew, it’s there. We have these three major attacks on the human race: famines, pestilences and earthquakes. And then Jesus said in verse 8:
“All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
“Sorrows” means birth pangs or labor pains. So when these things happen that are mentioned in verse 7, then you know that the labor pains have begun. We all know what labor pains lead up to, don’t we? Some by experience and some by hearsay. But when there are labor pains, the next major event will be a birth. That’s exactly what this means here. These are the labor pains, the things that must precede the birth of God’s kingdom on earth.
If you’re a husband happily married and your wife is pregnant, and she says, “Honey, I’ve got the most terrible pains. Something’s happening.” He does not rush to the phone and say, “Doctor, something terrible is wrong with my wife. Can you come and stop the pains?” Why not? Because he wants the baby.
And you see, this is a way we can test ourselves. Do we want to stop the pains or do we want to have the baby? If you want to have the baby you’ll have to have the birth pangs. There’s no way for a birth without birth pangs. So if you’re saying, “Oh, I can’t stand all this, it’s too terrible. I don’t know why I’m living in this time,” you’re not really excited about the baby. But if you want the baby you’ll welcome the birth pangs , even if they’re very painful. So you can begin to check yourself at this time. What is more important to you? The coming of the baby, the coming of God’s kingdom on earth, or not being involved in the birth pangs. You might as well make the right choice because you’ll be involved in the birth pangs anyhow.
Now we’re going to verse 7 and verse 8. These are the beginning of birth pangs.
“Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom...”
Let’s stop right there. The word “nation” in Greek is ethnos from which we get the word “ethnic” today. This is precisely what is happening in the world today. There are two kinds of wars, ethnic wars and political wars. I would say World War I and World War II were both essentially political wars. They were wars fought by world powers to establish their dominion. But before World War I which began in 1914, in 1913 there was an ethnic war of which we’re told very little. But the Turks in the Middle East massacred one million Christian Armenians. That was not a political war, that was an ethnic war, Turks against Armenians. I think one of the major features of the present time is ethnic wars. They are breaking out everywhere. In 1993 there were 34 wars fought in the course of that year and most of them were ethnic wars. So when ethnic wars become a major emphasis of our time, that’s an indication the birth pangs have begun.
Then there are the political wars. And then it says there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places. For these figures I’m indebted to Hal Lindsey, which I’m glad to acknowledge. Let’s deal with the three things: famines, pestilences and earthquakes.
Today in the world there are about 750 million people who suffer from chronic hunger. They never have enough to eat. Mainly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. With regard to acute hunger; that is, you are in imminent peril of death, there are more than 35 million people on earth today in the condition of acute hunger , mostly in the southern parts of Africa, also some in parts of Eastern Europe and the CIS. Albania is an example of such a nation.
Then with regard to pestilences , all these are official estimates. We have a new pestilence which is called AIDS. It’s estimated that by the year 2000, which is only five years away, there will be 100 million cases of AIDS worldwide. The continent of Africa is the worst afflicted and by the year 2000, some parts of Africa will be heavily depopulated. The population will begin to dwindle rapidly. Other plagues that are returning and increasing are TB, malaria and cholera. And some of these are already out of control worldwide.
Then with regard to earthquakes, this is I think the most dramatic and the most clear example. Talking of quakes which register 6 or more on the Richter scale, from 1950 to 1959, that’s the 1950s, there were nine. In the 1960s there were thirteen. In the 1970s there were fifty-one. And in the 1980s there were eighty-six. And from 1990 through 1993, that’s four years, there have been more than 100 such earthquakes worldwide. I think it’s worth repeating that because it really is so clear and objective. In the 1950s, nine; in the 1960s, thirteen; in the 1970s, fifty-one; in the 1980s, eighty-six; and in the first four years of the 1990s, more than 100.
I already pointed out in 1993 there were 34 distinct wars being fought in the world. So I think we’re not just fanatical or alarmists if we say the birth pangs have begun.
Now in interpreting Matthew 24 there’s a key word and it is the word “then.” It occurs nine times in Matthew 24 and a further nine times in Matthew 25. In other words, eighteen times in the total discourse. And that key word “then” indicates a succession of events following one another systematically recorded. That’s the nature of this talk of Jesus, it’s very systematic, very thorough, it’s very basic.
Now we’re going to verse 9, bearing in mind now that we have entered the period of birth pangs and we have one of the thens. Verse 9:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”
I ask people who is you? Grammatically this is not correct but you is us. Did you get that? Have you absorbed that fact? Then at this point they will deliver you Christians, followers of Jesus, up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.
“And then [the next then] many will be offended, will betray one another and will hate one another.”
Many who? Many Christians, that’s right. Why will they betray one another? To save their own lives. This is not something that hasn’t yet happened, it’s been happening for years in China and the Soviet Union and in some Muslim nations. The fact that we haven’t seen very much of it yet in this nation doesn’t mean that it isn’t already happening in many parts of the world. I don’t doubt that fairly soon it will begin to happen here. People pray for revival, and I do, but I want to tell you in my opinion when the church experiences revival it will discover for the first time how much the world really hates the church. So when you pray for revival, bear that in mind.
We’re going on, verse 11:
“Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
Every what we call a “cult” is the product of a false prophet. We cannot number the cults that have confronted us in recent years. I have to say this regretfully, but I think I need to say it, some of those false prophets are not outside the church, they are inside the church. I’ve studied the life of Jeremiah a little bit and I’m impressed by the fact that at the close of the history of the people of Judah, apparently there was one true prophet, Jeremiah, and there were countless false prophets. This was an indication that the nation was on the verge of final judgment and disaster. The soothing words of the false prophets who promised peace caused most of the people to ignore the true words of Jeremiah who said disaster is coming. I have heard a lot of prophets promising everything except what’s going to happen. I have to say if a man predicts something false, he is a false prophet. You can use nice language about it but under the Law of Moses he would have been put to death. There would be some fewer people today if that law applied today!
I said, I think in the interview this morning, I believe John said the same, anyone who is a genuine prophet today must emphasize the word repent. Because, the condition of the world and the condition of the church absolutely demand repentance. You can speak entertaining words, you can come up with nice prophecies about people’s future but if there’s no call for repentance I question whether that person is a true prophet.
“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
Many who? Christians. The Greek word is agape, the word for Christian love. It’s not talking about the love of the world. The love of many Christians will grow cold under pressure of what? Lawlessness.
I have a little saying. Lawlessness breeds lovelessness. There’s so much lawlessness in our culture today that we tend to become hardened. We tend to say, “Well, we can’t prevent it, what’s the good? Why should I be concerned? I’ll just look after myself, I’ll care for myself.” That’s lovelessness. Would you agree that America today is under a siege of lawlessness?
Listen, Ruth and I stayed just a month or so ago, less than that, in a hotel of a well known American hotel chain in a major American city. When we got to the hotel and came to our room we found these ten commandments for travelers in America today. Let me say, the city was not New York, it was not Miami, it was not Los Angeles. These are the ten commandments. I read these because I think they’re sufficient indication of the atmosphere of lawlessness.
Number one, verify who the person is before you open the door in your hotel room. If the person claims to be an employee, call the front desk to confirm if someone from their staff is supposed to have access to your room and for what purpose.
Number two, use the main entrance to the hotel when returning to your room late in the evening. Look around and be observant before entering parking lots.
Number three, whenever you are in your room, close the door securely and use all the locking devices provided.
Number four, never display guest room keys in public or carelessly leave them on restaurant tables, at the swimming pool or other places where someone can easily steal them.
Number five, displaying large amounts of cash or expensive jewelry will draw unwanted attention to you and make you a target for burglars.
Number six, as a precaution, don’t invite strangers to your room.
Number seven, place all valuables in the hotel safe deposit box.
Number eight, do not leave valuables in your vehicle.
Number nine, be sure to check that all sliding glass doors or windows, and all connecting room doors are locked.
Number ten, if you suspect any subversive activity is going on, please report your observations to the management.
To me that is an eloquent commentary on the state of America today. And remember, that was a respectable hotel, the name would be known to everybody here. That’s sufficient to me to indicate that we’re living in a condition of uncontrollable lawlessness. And do you know why? Because there are too many bad people. Law enforcement officers can only enforce the law when most of the people are good. But when most of the people are lawbreakers, policemen cannot enforce the law. The problem is not with the police, it’s with the people. It’s lawlessness.
We’re going on to verse 13:
“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
The Greek is more precise. It says “he who has endured to the end shall be saved.” So you’re saved now, praise God for that, but if you want to stay saved, what do you have to do? Endure, that’s right. I tell people there’s only one way to learn endurance. Do you know what that is? Enduring. That’s why some of you are enduring, because God is preparing you for what lies ahead. Don’t complain. It says “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But let endurance have it’s perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” So if you want to be perfect and complete you have to let endurance have its perfect work. That is the key to survival.
In Luke 21 Jesus said something along the same lines in the course of the same discourse. Luke 21:19, He said:
“In your patience possess your souls.”
But that’s not a very clear translation. I would say by your endurance purchase your souls. In other words, the price of your soul’s salvation is endurance. He who has endured to the end will be saved. You’re saved now, to stay saved you and I will have to endure. We have been clearly warned.
Now, what we’ve had so far in this discourse has been various signs, plural, of the end. But Jesus has not answered the question, “What will be the sign of the end of the age?” When we get to verse 14 we have the sign. This is very, very important. Jesus was asked a straight question and He gave an absolutely straight answer.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
When will the end come? When this gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations. That’s a very important statement because it means that the real initiative in world history is not with the politicians, not with the military commanders, not with the scientists, but with the church. Because the church is the only group of people that can bring about the closing sign of the age, the preaching of this gospel of the kingdom. I’m so glad Jesus said “this gospel of the kingdom.” He didn’t say some watered down, humanistic version but the same gospel that was preached by Jesus, preached by the apostles, is the gospel that must be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations.
Whose responsibility is that? Say it again. [Ours] That’s right, now you’re a witness against yourself. See, places a tremendous responsibility upon us because if you consider all the tragedy, the suffering, the sickness, the hatred, the wars, the poverty, that mark the present age and are increasing steadily, if we do not do our job as quickly as we can we are responsible for all that unnecessary, additional suffering. I hope none of you will forget what I’m saying. I say it with the utmost passion of my soul. I think I can say honestly for Ruth and myself this is the verse that motivates us, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed [I prefer to say that] in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” We take our responsibility seriously. The motto of our ministry which is only one amongst hundreds is “Reaching the unreached and teaching the untaught.”
If you look in Revelation 7 you’ll see how many people have got to be saved before the age can end. Revelation 7:9 and following. John is describing something he saw in a vision:
“After these things I looked and behold, a great multitude which no one could number of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’”
Notice that multitude of people, all of whom had received salvation through faith in Jesus the Lamb of God, came from all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues. In other words, before the age can close there has to be at least one representative of every nation, people, tribe and language on earth. I believe the reason for this is that God the Father is jealous for His Son’s glory. And because Jesus was willing to suffer for all humankind, God will not allow the age to close until there is at least one representative from every tribe, people, nation and tongue who has received the salvation offered through Jesus the Lamb of God.
What are you living for? Are you living for an easy life, the most you can get out of life, a better job, higher pay, a larger house, a larger car? Or are you living for this purpose, that this gospel of the kingdom may be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations. I believe that when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, as we must, one of the questions He’s going to ask each of us individually is this, “What did you do to help the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations?” See, there is no one here who cannot do anything. All of us can do certain things. Jesus said the harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few. What’s the next thing He said? “Pray the Lord of the harvest...”
Everybody here can pray and you are guilty if you do not pray. Most of us can give. If you view the whole world as it is today with its population of something over 5 billion, you may not think of that but every one of us here is wealthy. You say why? Well, we have a bed to sleep on. We don’t sleep on a mat or on a floor. Most of us have sheets on the bed. We can choose what we eat. And basically we have enough to eat. The problem with some of us is we have too much. But there are millions and millions and millions of people on earth who don’t have any of those privileges. I’ve lived among some of them. What are you doing with your money? It’s not my responsibility. Are you squandering it on selfish self-indulgence while millions are starving? Not merely starving physically but starving spiritually for the Bread of Life. To me, this is one of the most searching verses in the Bible. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
I’m so glad that Jesus said it will be preached because it will be preached. If He said it will be preached it will be preached. But the question is what are you and I going to do about it? Will we have to stand before God one day and say, “I’m sorry but I really never took this verse seriously. I just went on living my life as if the age was going to go on forever and all I had to do was look after number one and maybe number two.” It’s a desperately serious issue. I don’t want to dwell on it but I would be unfair to you if I did not point out to you the seriousness of this issue.
We’re going to go on to Matthew 24:15. Now we come to a very dramatic turn in this discourse because the emphasis in verse 14 has been the whole world and all nations. In verse 15 the focus turns to a tiny little strip of territory at the east end of the Mediterranean, wrongly called Palestine which means the land of the Philistines, in case you don’t know. It is not the land of the Philistines, it’s the land of Israel. God has given it to Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants by an everlasting covenant forever. They are going to possess it. But you and I need to discuss and consider what our attitude toward that situation is. I don’t believe actually that there’s any room for neutrality. I have lived amongst the Arab people, I have an adopted Arab daughter who is one of the most beautiful Christians I know anywhere. But when it comes to the possession of that little strip of territory, it is totally and finally settled by the Word of God. It will end up in the hands of those to whom it’s promised but there’s going to be a lot of agony and trouble before that happens.
Do you ever pray for the Jewish people? I’m not Jewish. My wife is, I’m not. Before I was converted I didn’t care much about the Jews, I was the typical Gentile intellectual. I wouldn’t have ever sided with Adolf Hitler but I thought there’s something strange about the Jews, why is it that people don’t really like them? Well, when I got saved, God baptized me in the Holy Spirit before I knew that you had to wait six months for that and He gave me gifts of the Holy Spirit before I knew you had to wait six more months for that! I got them all in a package. Every time I spoke in tongues I got the interpretation. Actually, after a while it began to wear me down. I said to the Lord, “Do I have to do this?” He said, “No, you’re in the driver’s seat. You do it when you decide.” But for the first month or two, every time I spoke in tongues I got the interpretation. And usually it was this, “I am the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” I said to myself, “So what?” But after a while it dawned upon me He is the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He made the most amazing statement in Exodus 3. He said:
“I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is my name and this is my memorial forever.”
Isn’t that astonishing that Almighty God chose to be know as the God of three men... forever? We need to give heed to that. God says things He doesn’t forget. We may forget but He doesn’t.
Let me tell you something else. This is outside my outline but it’s inside what God wants me to say. John 4:23, Jesus said salvation is from the Jews. If you’re not Jewish, like me, I want you to understand that you and I owe every spiritual blessing we’ve ever enjoyed to one people , the Jewish people. Without the Jews there would be no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible and no Savior. So, I think it’s time we began to repay the debt. Unfortunately, the church for many centuries has done exactly the opposite. It has compounded the debt by centuries of prejudice, maligning and often open persecution. I don’t know whether you’ve ever tried to talk to Jewish people about Jesus but in many cases you’ll find there’s a kind of wall of reserve that comes up. You need to know why. Because in the eyes of intelligent Jewish people who know history, the number one enemy of the Jewish people is the Christian church. That may shock you but it’s true. And they can give you a great series of historical reasons why that’s so.
Well, we have to move on. Now I’m pointing out that in verse 15 the focus changes. Jesus says:
“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place, whoever reads, let him understand.”
We need to consider what’s implied by that. First of all, let me just point out that in Romans 11:25–26 Paul says:
“Hardness in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in; then all Israel will be saved.”
So, God has a program. At the present moment His program is to reap a vast harvest of Gentiles. But when that harvest is complete then all Israel will be saved. Not all Israel as in the world today but the remnant whom God has chosen.
And the fact that so many more Jews are now beginning to believe in Jesus as the Messiah is one of the little signs that show us we’re coming to a period of transition from one age to an other , from the age of the Gentiles to the age when Israel will once again be the leading nation and the representative of God on earth amongst nations.
So, all this is contained in this one little passage that we’ve looked at.
Now, what is the abomination of desolation? Of course, there are endless theories about that. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who said, “How can I help it if I’m right?” I believe it’s something that indicates the manifestation of the antichrist.
Twenty years ago I thought the antichrist was something pretty remote. In fact, I almost laughed at people who were occupied with it. Today for me the antichrist is something very close at hand.
What’s the holy place? To my way of thinking there is no question about that, it’s the temple area in Jerusalem. Let me show you two scriptures. 1 Kings 9:3. The Lord is speaking to Solomon after he had completed the building of His temple on that particular area. The Lord said to him:
“I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you’ve made before me. I have sanctified this house which you have built to put my name there forever, and my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually.”
So God says, “I’ve put my name there forever, my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually.” It doesn’t matter who occupies it, God has never withdrawn that statement.
And then in Psalm 132:13–14 the psalmist says:
“For the Lord has chosen Zion [that’s this area]. He has desired it for His habitation [or His dwelling place]. This is resting place forever. Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.”
So God has sanctified that place. No matter how much men may desecrate it , and I’m fully aware that a Muslim temple stands there at this time, God has chosen that place. And ultimately it will be used for God’s purposes. But, it is the holy place.
So Peter says when you see the abomination of desolation, which is some indication that the antichrist has moved in and taken over, then he said you have to act quickly.
I want to point out to you also in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, concerning the antichrist that Paul says speaking about the coming of the Lord:
“Let no one deceive you by any means, for that day will not come unless the falling away come first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition...”
And that’s the antichrist, the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition.
“...who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped so that he sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is god.”
I believe that is part of what’s included in Matthew 24:15. I believe it’s very close at hand. I’m not a person who speculates but it is an established fact that there are sections of the Jewish people who are busy preparing for the restoration of a Jewish temple. They are conducting elaborate courses on how to conduct the sacrifices, how to weave and make the vestments that the priests have to wear. They’re very serious about it. I don’t say how or when it will happen.
Now, it has also been discovered by archaeologists, some Jewish archaeologists, that the Holy of Holies occupied a space not where the mosque of Omar is but north of it. So it is conceivable that the antichrist, who is going to be a master of politics, could wangle a deal between the Jews and the Arabs by which the Arabs would retain the mosque of Omar and the Jews will be permitted to build their temple just north, on the true site of the Holy of Holies. I’m not saying it will happen that way but it could.
At any rate, when the antichrist is manifested in that area then Jesus says act and act quickly. Now this is dramatic. Verse 16 and following:
“Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...”
What some people call the West Bank God calls Judea and Samaria.
“...let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house...”
That’s dramatic. It speaks about a flight so rapid that there’s no time to stop and take anything. You’re aware, I’m sure, that in that part of the world many of the houses have flat roofs and there are side staircases on the outside of the house leading up to the roof. Jesus said if you’re on the roof and this happens, come down the staircase and don’t go back into the house, you don’t have time. Take off, run as fast as you can.
“...let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes...”
Here’s a man out in the field, he’s just in working garments, he doesn’t have a jacket on. This thing, whatever it is, happens, Jesus says take off, don’t go back home to get your clothes, it’s too late.
And then He says:
“Woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days.”
That’s obvious is it’s going to be a very hasty flight, pregnant women and women with nursing babies will be at a disadvantage.
“And pray that your flight may not be in winter on the Sabbath...”
I spoke about that in our last session. I pointed out that biblical prophecy sets parameters for prayer. You cannot pray intelligently or effectively outside those parameters. Jesus said you’re going to have to flee. Don’t waste time praying that you won’t have to flee but pray within the parameter that you may not have to flee in the winter, for obvious reasons, or on the Sabbath. And as I pointed out, that assumes the establishment of the Jewish state because until the Jewish state was established it wouldn’t have made any difference whether they fled on the Sabbath or on some other day. So that verse tells us a lot when we understand its implications.
And then Jesus says in verse 21:
And notice, this is the fifth then, if you’ve been following. And if you have the New King James, there’s one then they put in which isn’t in the text. So you’ll end up with a wrong number. The actual number in this chapter is nine and in the next chapter is nine. This is number five.
“Then there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time. No, nor ever shall be.”
Now, when you consider what’s happened even in our days, you consider the Holocaust , 6 million Jews cruelly murdered, burned in ovens. And you consider what Stalin did, responsible, I believe, for the death of 7 million people in the Soviet Union. Or Mao Tse Tung who acknowledged responsibility for the death of 60 million Chinese. And something is going to happen that’s worse than all of that, something that has never happened until now and never will happen again.
People used to laugh at this statement. Jesus went on to say:
“Unless those days were shortened, no flesh [no human being] would be saved. But for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.”
I can remember as a young preacher when people just pointed out, “That’s ridiculous! It could never be.” But scientists today tell us there is enough nuclear explosive material in existence on earth to destroy the entire human race fifty times over. I’m not saying that’s the way it will happen but I’m pointing out that it’s not a ridiculous impossibility. It’s a very real possibility.
And notice the word elect which occurs altogether in this passage three times. It’s a very important word. Elect means chosen. I don’t know whether you can accept this but I have become convinced from the Bible, and I’m not a Presbyterian, I wouldn’t mind being a Presbyterian but I’m not, and I’m not a follower of Calvin, although I have a respect for Calvin, but I have concluded from scripture that God has those whom He has chosen. And He chose them before the foundation of the world. Like you and me. You know that about us. You read Ephesians 1, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. You’re not an afterthought. You’re not an accident looking for somewhere to happen, you’re part of an eternal plan. And that eternal plan includes a whole lot of people that are not yet believers. God knows each one of them. God will not rest until He has gathered every single one in.
That’s why I’m so deeply impressed by the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:10:
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Paul had a vision, God’s got His chosen ones in every age, in every nation. I’m willing to go through whatever it takes to gather in the chosen ones. He said the age will not close until all the chosen ones have been gathered in.
“...unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
In other words, if the tribulation, and this is the great tribulation, we’ll look at it in scripture in a moment, if God had not shortened it, the actual period, no human being would remain alive. The word that’s used for shortening is used, I’m told, for cutting off the tail of a dog. You know, some dogs have to have their tails lopped. Well, it’s not much of the dog that’s cut off, it’s just the last little bit. It seems to me that’s what Jesus is saying, just the last little bit, I’ll spare you that some might be left alive on earth.
Now let’s look at the theme of the great tribulation for a moment. Revelation 7:13–14. We’ve already looked at this throng from all peoples, nations, tribes and tongues that’s gathering before the throne. Then it says:
“One of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes and where did they come from?’”
John was very wise, he said:
“Sir, you know.”
If God asks you a hard question, that’s the way to answer. “Sir, you know.”
“So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who are coming out of the great tribulation.’”
It’s not have come out but who are coming out. John was actually seeing them streaming out of the great tribulation.
“They’ve washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The great tribulation. The English language by the use of “the” indicates there’s only one, this is unique. It’s never happened before, it will never happen again, exactly as Jesus said. And then it says, wonderful words:
“Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.”
As Scott said, not just visit but dwell. That’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? We need to focus on that because we’re going to have to go through a lot. Let’s not lose sight of the close. Otherwise we’ll get weary and as the Bible says, faint in our minds. Never lose sight of God’s planned close for the age. It’s worth going through everything to end there.
All right. One other scripture that impresses me is Romans 2:9–10. I would like to say just in an objective manner I was not interested in the Jewish people when God saved me. I had a couple of Jewish friends, they were all totally assimilated, they didn’t live very different from Gentiles. But God through circumstances and through His working has compelled me to become involved with the Jewish people. I am an unusual person, I have six adopted Jewish daughters. Not many people have that. I didn’t plan that, God did. But I want to say that an understanding of God’s dealings with the Jews will give you a far clearer insight into all of scripture than you will ever have if you don’t understand that.
So, Paul says in Romans 2:9–10, and this is the middle of one of his rather long sentences:
“...tribulation and anguish on every soul of man who does evil; of the Jew first and also of the Greek [or Gentile]; but glory, honor and peace to everyone who works what is good; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
So there is an order in which God deals. When it’s tribulation, it’s to the Jew first but then to the Gentile. See, that makes me tremble when I think about the Holocaust because if that happened to six million Jews, what is going to happen to Gentiles? It will never end with the Jews, they’re the starting point. It’s to the Jew first and then to the Greek.
Let’s go back to Matthew 24, we get to verse 23, another “then.”
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ [the Messiah],’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive if possible even the elect.”
Notice, the chosen ones. My personal opinion is the reason they cannot be deceived is because God has chosen them. He’ll keep His hand over them. Otherwise, they would be deceived. That may not be the way you see it but that’s the way I’ve come to understand it.
And let me point out that the ability to perform dramatic signs and wonders does not always attest to the truth. Satan is capable of many dramatic signs and wonders. Charismatics tend to have this feeling, “Well, if it’s supernatural it must be from God.” That is not true. Please bear that in mind. In Acts 16 there was this fortune teller girl who was a slave and she followed Paul and Silas in the streets saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God who show to us the way of salvation.” She was the first person in Philippi to know who they were but she was a servant of Satan. She had a satanic word of knowledge. How did Paul react? Did he make her a member of the church at Philippi? No, he cast the demon of fortune telling out of her.
Let me tell you, all fortune telling is demonic. And, they do often come out with the truth. Ruth has given me permission to say this but before she was saved somebody advised her to go to a fortune teller. She went to this lady who had never seen her before and never saw her afterwards, knew nothing about her, and this woman told her three things: Your husband has left you, you have three children and you are barren, you cannot have children. Every one of those statements are true but it was Satan who was telling her. What was Satan’s purpose? To get Ruth hooked on the satanic supernatural. By the grace of God she never went back. A little later she met the Lord.
But see, I want to warn you because I see so many Charismatics who are absolutely set up for the antichrist. There’s only one sure guarantee of what is true and that is the scripture. If you go away from that you’ll end up in trouble and deception.
Let me show you what it says in Revelation 13. This is about the false prophet who is the main supporter of the antichrist. It says in Revelation 13:13:
“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 who was wounded by the sword and lived.”
Now listen, this man will be able to make fire come down from heaven. I don’t know any Charismatic preacher today that can do that. And yet, he’s a servant of Satan and he uses these supernatural signs to deceive people. So please do not merely trust signs. There are many, many signs that are used to confirm the truth of God’s Word but the truth is not established by signs, it’s established by the Word of God. Jesus said, “Your Word is truth.” That’s all you need to know. God’s Word is truth. Anything contrary to the Word of God is not truth and it’s not from God.
All right. Now we come to verse 25, Jesus says:
“See, I’ve told you before...”
In other words, you can’t say you haven’t been warned. I say that to everybody here tonight. You’ll never be able to say from now on you haven’t been warned because I’ve warned you , and so has Jesus.
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the desert,’ do not go out. Or, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”
Why? Because when the Lord comes back it’s going to be something visible to the whole world.
Now, there has been a teaching that there’ll be a secret rapture. I’m not interested to argue with people but to my observation the last word to describe the rapture is secret. I don’t know of anything more public that will ever take place in human history. Let me show you. Verse 27:
“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of man be.”
That’s not secret.
Now, let me go ahead a little bit and look at what follows. I’ll go through and then I’ll follow.
“Wherever the carcass is, there the vultures will be gathered together.”
How many of you have seen vultures? Some of you from the Southwest have, at least. The first time I saw vultures was in Egypt and it was dramatic. I saw this speck right up in the blue sky hanging there and it was a bird. And it circled slowly and began to come lower and lower and lower. And then other specks joined it. And as they circled they came lower and lower. And do you know what I knew immediately? There’s something dying down there, they’re just waiting for the death throe and they’ll descend on it. The first thing they go for is the eyes. Jesus said when you see all the vultures circling around you know where the carcass is.
This is simply a theory of mine, I may change it. I’m inclined to think it refers to the way people are going to relate to the city of Jerusalem. All the vultures are already up in the air circling and coming lower because everybody wants a piece of the pie. The United States, Britain, the European Confederation, the Muslims, Russia, the Pope, I mean all the vultures. Well, you don’t have to believe what I say. I could be wrong, it’s happened before. This is so vivid to me.
We’ve got to go on, press on. Please note verse 29, note the word immediately.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of heavens will be shaken.”
Now, you can understand the stars falling various ways but I’m inclined to think it means the satanic angels in the heavenlies will be dethroned, they will be cast down. I don’t think it means the stars we see at night. Let me give you two quick examples of this, Revelation 8:10:
“Then the third angel sounded and a great star fell from heaven burning like a torch. It fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of the water. And the name of the star is Wormwood.”
So that’s a satanic angel dislodged from heaven.
And then at the beginning of chapter 9, verse 1:
“Then the fifth angel sounded and I saw a star fall from heaven to the earth, and to him was given the key to the bottomless pit. He opened the bottomless pit...”
And so on. So, satanic angels are stars in the heaven. I don’t say this is necessarily true but I don’t envisage the whole body of the constellations falling, I envisage the powers of heaven, that’s Satan’s throne, kingdom in the heavenlies, being shaken to the point where his angels start to be shaken out of it. That’s just offered as an indication.
“Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven and then [notice two thens in that verse] all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and with great glory.”
Hallelujah! May we be privileged to see that sight.
Now, I want to go on with this theme of the secret rapture. I’m not interested in attacking anybody’s theology but I really am interested in finding out the truth. If we turn to 1 Thessalonians 4 it seems to me this is a more full description of what’s going to happen at that point. Beginning at verse 13:
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren...”
Not “ignorant brethren” but “ignorant, brethren.”
“...concerning those who have fallen asleep [that’s Christians who have died], lest you sorrow as others also who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with him who sleep [those Christians who have died] in Jesus. For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.”
In other words, we’ll have no advantage over those who have died. On the contrary.
“For the Lord Himself...”
Praise God! The Lord Himself.
“...will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.”
Now, to me that is anything but secret. I can’t think how anybody could be unaware that something is going on when you’ve got the Lord shouting, the archangel speaking and the trumpet of God sounding.
And then it says:
“And we shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
There are two Greek words for air. One is aither which gives us ether, the other is aer which gives us air. Aer is the word for the lower air contiguous with the earth’s surface. This is the word that’s used here. In other words, Jesus is going to be pretty close to earth when we’re caught up to meet Him.
Now, we’re going to meet the Lord in the air. Some people say the word rapture isn’t in the New Testament. That’s quite true, it depends on what translation you use. The New Testament wasn’t originally written in English. You could easily translate this “we shall be raptured to meet the Lord in the air.” It would be a perfectly legitimate translation.
What about this word rapture? I want to tell you it’s a fascinating word. It has gripped me. The Greek word is harpazo. Don’t worry about that. I’ll give you about fifteen different passages in the New Testament where it’s used because this will give you a pretty clear picture of what it’s going to be like. First of all, in Matthew 10, three times in that chapter it’s used of a wolf snatching a sheep from the fold. That’s violent, sudden.
In Matthew 13 it’s used of a bird coming down, picking up a seed and carrying it off.
It’s used several times in the New Testament of people caught up from the earth. After Philip had baptized the eunuch in Acts 8 he was caught away, he was raptured.
Paul speaks of a friend of his who mentions twice in 2 Corinthians 11 he was caught up to the third heaven.
And in Revelation 12:7 it says:
“The man child will be caught up into the air.”
And four times in other passages it’s used of taking somebody by force from a crowd or from some situation.
So I made a little list of the features that it implies. It will happen without warning, sudden and forceful. That’s how the rapture will be, without warning, sudden and forceful. And there will be no time to be getting ready. If you’re getting ready you’ll be too late, you have to be ready.
Now let’s go on to verse 29 again. I want to point this out. I am not interested in knocking down people’s theories but there are some things I have to say because I don’t think some theories agree with scripture. It says immediately after the tribulation of those days the Lord is going to come. There is a theory that the church is going to become so powerful politically that it will take over the world, set the world neatly in order and offer it back to Jesus when He comes. I have to say this is not in line with what it says. Immediately after the tribulation Jesus will come. If the church is going to be responsible for the condition of the world before Jesus comes, then the church is going to be responsible for the tribulation. There is not the least indication that the world will be in good order when Jesus comes. On the contrary, it will be in the worst order that it’s ever been. And it will take Jesus, and not the church, to put it right.
“The sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven...”
I don’t know what that is.
“...then all the tribes of the earth will mourn...”
And if you read in Zechariah 12 it says all the tribes of Israel will mourn when they see their Messiah and recognize that they were the ones who crucified Him. Apparently it will extend to all the tribes of the earth.
I love to think of the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. There’s a verse in Luke 9, I think, Luke 9:26:
“For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory and in His Father’s and of the holy angels.”
When Jesus comes there’s going to be a triple glory: His glory, the Father’s glory and the glory of the angels. It says in Isaiah 24 the sun and moon will be embarrassed because their light will be so dim and ineffective by comparison, they’ll just have nothing to talk about. This appeals to me, I can envisage it. And furthermore, that light so brilliant will not hurt your eyes. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to that. If I die I won’t be around. If I’ve not died I will be there to see it. That’s worth waiting for. Can you say amen to that? It’s worth enduring for. If we lose sight of that we’re going to get into a slough of despond because things are going to get worse. The birth pangs are not going to diminish, they’re going to increase. The question is, as I said before, do you really want the baby? You can find out by your own reaction.
“And He [the Lord] will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
That is not the church being caught up, that’s those who remain on earth who are God’s chosen ones. They’re preserved because He has chosen them.
I know this isn’t easy for some people but we are saved not because we chose Jesus but because Jesus chose us. Do you recognize that? Jesus said to His disciples, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.” When God has chosen you, you have to respond to His choice but you never initiate His choice. God knows every one who He has chosen. As I understand it, the age will not close until every one is there. Amen.
Now we’ve got one more passage we can deal with and that’s marvelous, I never thought I’d get so far. Tomorrow we’ve got to get through the whole of chapter 25. Verse 32:
“Learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near at the very doors [or He is near]. Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.”
That’s a parable about the fig tree but in Luke 21 it’s taken a little further. Luke 21:29:
“He spoke to them a parable, ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees.’”
Living in this part of the world, if you do live anywhere near here, you’re familiar with the fact that we have four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. There are parts of the world where they don’t have seasons. I was in East Africa for five years teaching African students. I wanted to get them interested in this passage but I had to explain to them first of all in some parts of the world the trees lose their leaves, stay bare and then put on their leaves again. I said that’s how it’s going to be. During the most of this period the trees have been bare, they just stood there with their trunks and their branches. Now, I’m no expert on trees so when trees are bare, basically they all look alike to me. But when they begin to put on their leaves I begin to know, more or less, what kind of a tree it is.
That’s how it is with the nations. For a long period they’ve just had trunks and branches but now all around the world the nations are putting on their leaves. Jesus said the fig tree first and then all the trees. In 1948 Israel, the fig tree, put on its leaves. I was there when it happened. They got rid of the British, as other nations have also done, and said, “We’re a people of our own. We have our own history, our own culture, our own language. We want to rule ourselves.” Well, since that day in Africa alone at least fifty new nations have appeared. Now they’re appearing all over the world, in Asia and other places.
What is the motivation of these nations? I lived amongst the Africans just two or three years before they became independent, sovereign nations. I can tell you they said, “We are a people of our own. We have our own language. You can call it vernacular if you like but it’s our language. We can speak English but it’s not our language. We have our own customs, we have our own clothing. We want to be ourselves.” What’s that? The trees putting on their leaves. You see, it has happened all around the world.
Colonialism today is a dirty word. It wasn’t fifty years ago. The new word is nationalism or ethnicity, which is what Jesus said. What is that? The trees putting on their leaves. Jesus said when you see the trees putting on their leaves, you don’t have to go to the public library to find out what’s happening next, you know summer is near. And when you see this happening in the world, you don’t have to go to the church to ask the pastor because he might not give you the right answer. But you see and know for yourself that summer is now near.
So you see and know, do you understand? This is one of the great signs of the close of the age, it’s the dwindling of colonialism and the rise of nationalism. It’s almost universal and we haven’t seen the end of it yet. But when we see that we know summer is near. We see and know for ourselves, we don’t have to go to some theologian to find out, he might not give us the right answer. Jesus said you can know for yourself.
Now, I think we’ll have to stop there. Make a note, we’ve come to verse 35. Tomorrow, God helping us, we’ll start at verse 36 and we will go through the whole of chapter 25. That is a real statement of faith! I hope we’ll do it. Pray for me and pray for yourselves.