The End of the Age: Part I - Pete Garcia - http://www.omegaletter.com/articles/articles.asp?ArticleID=8108
For the Jews in the first century, the Temple was everything. It was their center of gravity, and not just in the religious sense. Everything revolved around it. I’m sure that when that discussion arose between Matthew 23 and 24, Jesus’s disciples were pretty shocked at His admission. Everything was coming down.
An example that might not qualify as contextually accurate, but underlines the basic premise is one, where after receiving a tour of the White House, you exit and walk outside, only to turn around and get another glimpse of that prestigious house, when a person you hold in the highest regards states “this House is about to come down”. What he meant, was that as the White House ceased to exist, so would everything that the White House represents, which in our day, means the United States of America.
It is in this context that we launch into what is known as the Olivet Discourse. Jesus and His disciples had just left the Temple compound and were making their way over to the Mount of Olives when they stopped to look back at the grandeur of the gold-enshrouded Temple in the fading light of that early evening.
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. 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?” Matthew 24:2-3
It is here that the three famous questions were poised to Him, and His answers, albeit somewhat cryptic then, are now seemingly being played out in our own day.
Christ spoke to the disciples of signs that even in their own day, would not be considered all that unusual…had Jesus not added the clarifying statement of them being the ‘beginning of sorrows’. So what Jesus was speaking too, in regards of the signs themselves is, that they would mark the times as the end approached, increasing to the point that there would be a convergence of all of them occurring both simultaneously, and with intensity. Here is the list of the ‘beginning of sorrows’ (aka…birth pangs) as mentioned in Matthew’s version (Mark’s is practically identical);
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.
9 “Then (tote-Greek) they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
Then is used to denote a shift in events. Some things to consider thus far;
1. Then doesn’t mean that the birth pangs come to an end, it simply denotes an intensification of man’s reaction to something, and that reaction becomes exceedingly negative and violent. I believe that the reaction is in response to the Rapture of the Church.
2. The signs included in the ‘birth pangs’ are events that happen on a global scale, and are both environmental, ideological, and geo-political. The signs that are not included in the ‘birth pangs’, are exclusively man’s reaction in both accepting and rejecting the message of Christ.
3. The ‘Gospel of the Kingdom’ is preached unto the whole world. Somehow, the barriers that are presently preventing the Gospel from being preached unto the whole world (ex: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Islamic nations, etc) is removed.
-We know that within the confines of the seven year Tribulation period (aka…Daniel’s 70th week) that there will be the Two Witnesses (Elijah and Moses in Rev. 11) and 144,000 (from the 12 Tribes of Israel in Rev. 7) who are supernaturally sealed for protection by God for a period of time. It is many scripturally sound teacher’s beliefs, that these are they, who are able to carry the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the world and are divinely protected to do so.
4. Enduring to the end is not about salvation of the soul, but of the flesh. (See Matt. 24:22) We know that in context, when Christ spoke this, He had not yet been crucified, and His disciples wouldn’t have understood what the Cross and Resurrection really meant in regards to eternal life. At this point, they still didn’t grasp the Kingdom and we can clearly see this played out in the confusion of the disciple’s reactions when Christ was arrested at Gethsemane, at His trial, on the road to Emmaus, and even before Christ ascended in Acts 1.
So even though Christ was referencing a time yet future, we know that salvation (in the eternal sense) can only come by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And salvation in the eternal sense, does not guarantee salvation in the physical sense (note all the martyrs who have died for the sake of Christ throughout the last 2,000 years). This salvation would be for those who didn’t deny Christ’s name, didn’t take the mark, and yet still managed to survive the ordeal…these would enter into the Kingdom in their physical bodies, neither having been glorified, nor having tasted death.
Luke’s account varies the greatest in order of sequencing, but only because Luke includes the sacking of Jerusalem as well (67-70AD). Included below are the changes and/or additions from Matthew and Mark’s account;
The Seal Judgments
Roughly sixty years later, the Apostle John, imprisoned and abandoned on the island of Patmos, would receive the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. After the initial vision and visitation, he would be shown the ‘things that come after’, which is, the things that come after the age of the church. In here, he is caught up (harpazo’d) to heaven, and shown the heavenly throne room scene, in which Christ, as both the Lamb of God and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, takes the seven-sealed scroll, and begins to open them. What we are not sure of though, is whether these Seals are opened altogether sequentially, or if there is any time built in between their openings.
Although the signs listed in the Olivet Discourse fit into the Seal Judgments from Revelation 6, one must remember, that the birth pangs also precede the Sealed Judgments. The Seal Judgments mark the beginning of the 70th Week of Daniel, and are opened by Christ Himself. Since the subsequent Trumpet and Bowl Judgments are tied into the Seal Judgments, it is Christ who triggers ALL of the Tribulation period, thus, we can deduce that ultimately, He is initiating the Wrath of God open the earth. (Rev. 5:1-5)
1st Seal: Rider on the white horse commonly accepted as the Antichrist, who conquers by means of either a false peace, or with empty threats (bow, no arrows). Probably a better term for him is not anti-, but pseudo-Christ.
What I hope to leave you with is the understanding that, although we are eyewitnesses now to the escalation of the ‘birth pangs’ now, we are not in the Tribulation. The Tribulation (commonly called) is really known as the 70th Week of Daniel, the Day of the Lord, or ‘the time of Jacobs’ trouble’. As the names indicate, this time is really directed at the nation of Israel, and has absolutely nothing to do with the blood-bought, bride of Christ known as the Church. (See Jeremiah 30:7-11 & Daniel 9:24) But as to the ‘birth pangs’, all they can really measure (in regards to time), is how close one is to the season of the Lord’s return.
Living through the present Administration’s hostility towards anything Christian, it is tempting for one to believe that we are now inside the Tribulation. The truth is, the 70th Week has a very specific start point (Dan. 9:27), specific mid-point (Matt. 24:15), and a specific end point (Rev. 19:11-21), all marked by days, months, years, and signs…and seeing as we have not seen any of the above specific time stamps, we absolutely cannot be inside of that great and terrible week of years. Until next week, all I can say is ‘Maranatha’