The Beginning of Sorrows
1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And 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.” 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?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 “And 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. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 “All these are the beginning of sorrows. NKJV
Of all the things Jesus teaches the disciples, and us, in this chapter, His overriding warning is against being deceived. Verses 4, 5, 11, and 24 all include this warning, as follows.
Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
Matthew 24:5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
Matthew 24:11 “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
Matthew 24:24 “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect
Verse 3 makes clear that Jesus had given the disciples enough teaching regarding the end times for them to know the difference between His “Parousia” or coming for the Church, and the “End of the Age.”
So, the three questions of the disciples are:
- When will these things be? (What things? The destruction of the Temple).
- And what will be the sign of Your coming? (Parousia).
- And of the end of the age?
In Matthew 24, Jesus doesn’t answer their first question about the destruction of the Temple because He is dealing with the end of the age when the Jews will turn to Him in faith as a nation. Luke 21:20-24 deals with the destruction of Jerusalem. Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are all apocalypse chapters and while there is a great deal of overlap in teaching, there are also some differences in emphasis and details. The main point of this posting is Jesus’ warning to His people not to be deceived, especially at the “end of the age.”
There is little interest in Bible prophecy or Eschatology in most Church circles these days, and at least some of the blame lies squarely at the feet of those who teach on prophecy. On the one hand, we have people trying to predict the date of the Lord’s return, contrary the Lord’s own words in Scripture (Matthew 24:36, 42, 44, 50; 25;13; Mark 13:32), and trying to play pin the tail on the Antichrist, even though he won’t be revealed until Christians are taken out of the world by the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). On the other hand, there is a new breed of prophecy teachers with a Postmodern worldview who are looking at the merging of man and machine or man and spirit beings, called Transhumanism. This is the flipside of the kook factor in the Bible prophecy movement, and it is gaining ground by leaps and bounds. Popular teachers are embracing it, and it is leading to great deception regarding the potential of humans. However, it’s basic ideas mesh very well with the human potential movement. Basically, it communicates the idea that mankind’s potential is unlimited, and presents an almost evolutionary view of humanity, but this is a deception and a delusion, and may well play a part in leading to what the New Testament calls “the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). At any rate, the study of Bible prophecy is being discredited by those within our own ranks who go beyond Scripture and get into wild speculations, and they don’t admit their speculations (Numbers 22:18; 24:13). Those of us also who are students of prophecy are responsible to expose these false teachings, so that we are not taking part in their unfruitful deeds.
While we all think a lot about the enemies of the Church without, the main emphasis probably should be on the enemies of the Church within. The enemies without have always been savage and persecuting the Church, trying to destroy it, which never succeeds. Today, however, we are facing enemies within the Church, perhaps to an extent not known before because they are accepted as true teachers by so much of the visible Church. This being the case, there is rampant false teaching within the Church, just as we were warned (Acts 20:29; 1 Timothy 4:1).
Yet most pastors are not warning their flocks of false teachers for any number of reasons. Perhaps Pastors and leaders are unaware of the teachings being promoted by so many today. Perhaps there is ignorance of the nature problems on the part of the Pastor or leaders of the Church. Perhaps the Pastor or leaders are not well versed enough in the issues to know how to refute them, so they decide to just be quiet about it, and hope it will blow over. But it almost never does. Another reason is that too often Pastors and leaders unwittingly embrace false teachings because they trust the teacher or author whose work may have been recommended to them by someone they respect.
These Pastors and leaders may be on top of it when it comes to apologetics (defending the faith from outside attacks), but they are not aware of, or willing, to deal with matters that require a polemic response (attacking and refuting false teaching from within the Church). Leaders often prefer to avoid the whole subject and practice of polemics because it is aggressive and controversial on its face. It is the nature of polemics to be controversial and aggressive in attacking error. Unfortunately, this is VERY unpopular today, as we are told never to be aggressive or controversial, and certainly we aren’t supposed to attack anything or anyone as false. However, this isn’t the pattern of the Bible. The New Testament deals forcefully with error and with enemies of the Gospel message within the Church. The Book of Galatians is a prime example. The Churches of Galatia were the only Churches Paul gave no thanks for, and because of his love and concern for them, he rips them to shreds verbally for relying on works added to faith for salvation. The Book of Galatians is not a nice or gentle book. It is angry, confrontational, and even condemning of the people teaching errors that are leading the believers away from faith in Jesus Christ. Paul even says, “Let them be damned” (Galatians 1:8-9). The Greek word is anathema, meaning cursed or damned. Strong language to be sure. However, Paul was afraid the Galatians had departed the faith and gone back under the Law, which no one can keep.
In conclusion, let us be watchful not to be deceived by anything or anyone in this last time, especially as it pertains to our faith in Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him and His Body, the Church. Anything you read or watch, do it as a good Berean (Acts 17), with a discerning eye and an open Bible you are searching daily to know whether what someone is saying is true. The Bible is the authority.
P.S. I am including a chart that presents one possible scenario of the time leading up to the Great Tribulation period and beyond into the New Heavens and New Earth.