“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“When Shall These Things? Matthew 24: Part5…May 2008
As we reflect upon what we have shared on this subject so far, we must set apart two major points to serve as corner stones for the rest of anything we care to add to the subject. Here is the first major point that holds our feet to a single path: Gabriel told Daniel that 490 years were determined or set aside for certain events to occur upon “his people—the Jews,” and “upon his city” Jerusalem. No part of the allotted years can be amputated and transferred to some other world events to suit our “unscriptural” traditions. The moment we attempt to dissect and manipulate the written Word, we make Gabriel and God who sent him to be liars. We can work the math all we want, the truth remains that 490 years---all of those years from 1 to 490 were set aside for God’s dealings with the Jews, culminating with the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.
The second major point to bear in mind is the fact that Jesus said: “Verily I say unto you, This generation (the one he is speaking to in his day!) shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled.” Matt.24;34 As I said before in a previous letter, no one standing in that crowd and hearing Jesus utter those words would in their wildest dream think he meant a people living in the year 2008. Don’t be ridiculous! What has created such huge difficulties for many of our well known bible teachers with their fancy charts and magic pointers? The things that Jesus said would happen between Matt.24, 5, and verse 33, sound like the great tribulation that will engulf the whole world, and the actual coming of the Son of man. Here is their reasoning! Since we are on the brink of the upcoming tribulation, and since the Lord could come at any moment, since we are hearing of wars and rumors of war, and since there is famine and pestilence in various places, we must be the generation that shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.
Every so often I have reverted to the major theme of the lesson because Jesus pointedly brought into focus the words of the prophet Daniel. But as we said previously, Daniel did not speak of a worldwide tribulation, and he certainly did not speak of an Anti-Christ walking into the Jerusalem temple to desecrate it. Jesus is saying, “Do you remember what Daniel said about Jerusalem being surrounded by armies? When you see that happen, flee to the mountains! Don’t come down from the roof to retrieve anything from within the house! And woe unto them that give suck in those days and those who are with child! End of story as far as we are concerned! But no! Men have set about to build a make-believe castle around things that neither Gabriel, nor Daniel, nor Jesus said. They have drawn up their own chart of how world events are to unfold, then they cut and paste scriptures to fit their vain and empty plans.
Perhaps with the best of intentions these teachers look at the many events that Jesus alluded to, and concluded that they most assuredly are linked to the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. But take for instance, Matt.24;5. “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” In our general way of thinking, this does not refer to the Anti-Christ, but to many Anti-Christs, mainly seen as teachers of false doctrines, cults and isms. A great percentage of Christians today, are looking everywhere for these false teachers, as proof that Christ’s coming is just around the corner. But as a matter of fact, in the first century A.D. there were scores of people going around claiming to have superior powers, and are even the embodiment of God himself.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that after Philip had gone to Samaria and planted a church there. Peter and John were sent from Jerusalem to help Philip in “organizing” the local Assembly. There was great joy in the city---but no Holy Ghost! So the first order of business was to pray for the Holy Ghost to be given to the disciples. We literally cannot organize a church where there is no Holy Ghost, can we? So they laid hands on the disciples and they received the Holy Ghost. It was soon after this that Peter and John came face to face with Simon Magus. Who was this man claiming to be? And what did he want from Peter and John?
We learn that Simon Magus used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, projecting that he was some great one. The word Magus is not used in Acts 8, but it is a word expressly tied to sorcery. Thus, it was not a family name or given name, but rather it described the craft that a person was involved with. We read; “To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.” Notice they did not say, “this man has the great power of God, but rather, this man IS the great power of God. Other writings said clearly that he made himself out to be God on earth. According to certain accounts, other than what we read in Acts, Peter rebuked Simon Magus, but he did it privately and because he was not openly exposed by Peter and John, he was able to maintain the mystique that he had created around himself.
We learn that in early times Pharaoh, after having a troubling dream he called all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof. Gen.41;7-8. This was about B.C. 1715 and as we fast-forward to the days of Daniel somewhere from B.C. 607 to B.C. 538, we see the king calling upon his magicians and astrologers to tell his dream and the interpretation thereof. Dan. 2;10. On the night of Belshaz’zar impetuous feast when he brought God’s vessels out to publicly defile them, a writing appeared on the wall. The Chaldeans, the soothsayers, and astrologers who could not read the writing on the wall.
Again, if we fast-forward to New Testament times we have on record the mischievous pranks of the man Bar-jesus whom the bible branded as a sorcerer and a false prophet. The deputy of the county, a prudent man named Sergius Paulus desired to hear the word of God, but Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Acts 13; 6-8. The emperor Tiberius, in his later years, had a host of magicians in constant attendance. According to the Jewish Historian, Josephus, 12 years after the death of Christ, a certain imposter named Theudas persuaded a great multitude to follow him to the river Jordan which he claimed would divide for their passage. At the time of Felix, who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, the country was filled with imposters who Felix had put to death every day.
An Egyptian who pretended to be a prophet gathered 30,000 men, claiming that he would show how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall. Origen mentions a certain wonder-worker, Dositheus, who claimed he was the Christ foretold by Moses. Another deceiver in those days was Barchochebas who, according to Jerome, claimed to vomit flames. Jesus correctly foretold that there would be many false Christs who would deceive many. Teachers today, look upon the many hotspots around the globe such as many parts of Africa, Iraq, the Balkans and other parts of Europe, and link these events to the “wars and rumors of wars” that Jesus taught in Matt.24.
But let us look at the years between the fall of Jerusalem and the death of Christ. At the time of his death, Rome was the ruling power and all was quiet along its borders. But Jesus had spoke of wars, rumors of wars, and commotions. Historians said that within the space of 18 months, four Emperors met violent deaths. According to the historian Suetonius, Nero drove a dagger into his throat. Galba was run down by horsemen. A soldier cut off his head and carried it about. Otho stabbed himself in the breast. Vitellius was killed by slow torture and then dragged by a hook into the Tiber.
A Roman historian who wrote prior to A.D.70 used expressions such as “Disturbances in Germany”, “commotions in Africa”, “commotions in Thrace”, “insurrections in Gaul”, “intrigues among the Parthians”, “the war in Britain”, “war in Armenia.” Among the Jews, the times became cruel indeed. In Seleucia, 50,000 of them were killed. In a battle between the Jews and Syrians in Caesarea, 20,000 were killed. While modern preachers and bible expositors point to these events as a sign of the end of the world, Jesus used them to say that “the end is not yet.” These events recorded in history offer a stark testimony that the generation to which Jesus spoke would not pass away till all those things be fulfilled, and so it was. And what about famine and pestilence? Acts 11:28 reads thus: “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be a great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judaea.” Pestilence hit Rome in the days of Nero so that no less than 30,000 persons died. Josephus wrote that pestilences raged in Babylonia in A.D.40. History is replete with the events of earthquakes.
For the sake of clarity, let us mention a few earthquake events that occurred within the time frame of which Jesus spoke. According to Tacitus, Rome experienced many quakes by which many houses were thrown down and 12 populous cities of Asia feel in ruins. Seneca, writing in A.D.58 said: “How often have cities of Asia and Achaea fallen with one fatal shock! How many cities have been swallowed up in Syria! How many in Macedonia! How often has Cyprus been wasted by this calamity! How often has Paphos become a ruin! In A.D.60, Hierapous, Colosse, and Laodicea were overthrown. In A.D.63, the city of Pompeii was greatly damaged by earthquake. There were earthquakes in Crete, Apamea, Symrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, and Judea. Jesus did foretell, “earthquakes in divers places.”
We are not inferring that there won’t be wars and rumors of wars in this our day: neither will there be earthquakes, famines and pestilences showing up in our daily headline news. Be that as it may, it cannot be linked to the words of Jesus in Matt.24. What he said was for that period and that people who would still be alive when his words came to pass. One verse in Matt.24 has given cause for multitudes to believe and teach a forthcoming “great tribulation” which is yet future of us who are alive today and here is what is said. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor shall ever be.” Matt.24:21. To the casual reader, the first thought that comes to mind from this verse is the total number of lives lost and the extent of property damage. But one writer puts it this way: “It is needful that close attention be paid to the inspired words whereby the distresses attendant upon the destruction of the Jewish nation and their holy city are described in the several prophecies wherein they are foretold. For it is quite a common mistake to assume that the great tribulation was to be a calamity of unexampled magnitude as regards to the number of the slain, and the amount of property destroyed. Thus we have had it said to us that the late world-war exceeded the tribulation of the Jews during and after the siege of Jerusalem.
The writer continues: The prophecies we are studying speak not of a tribulation greater in magnitude or extent, but different in kind; moreover, they speak of one which was to come as a judgment from God upon the Jewish nation. In spite of whatever imagery the words of Christ conjure in our minds, the fact remains that both Gabriel and Daniel spoke of what would befall the Jews and the holy city—his people and his holy city—and what Jesus said to the people was to be fulfilled in their life time.
One writer has this to say: “Paul, who is the chief revelator of the second coming of Christ, speaks definitely and frequently of “the wrath to come”, but is absolutely silent as to any “great tribulation” in connection with the Second Advent. Every usage of the word “tribulation” in scripture refers to a specific event involving a specific people within a specific time frame, but never to a future “great tribulation” just prior to the second coming of Christ. Jesus said “in this world we will have tribulation”; Paul said to the churches in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14: 21-22. In Revelation, the question was asked who are these? And the answer came back; these are they which came out of great tribulation, (the same as much tribulation) and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev.7:14.
Some years ago, a friend of mine preached on his radio broadcasts originating out of Washington DC, that there is no rapture and no “great tribulation.” One day, one of his elderly deacon came to his office and said “brother pastor, I heard that you are preaching that there is no rapture and no great tribulation.” My friend said, “you heard right” The brother then said, “I have been through too many changes in my life, and I am not prepared to go through another. I am ready to go home.” He went home and died shortly afterwards. Speak of changes, and many will dare to say, “over my dead body” and I used to say in sermons, “God will certainly oblige, move you out the way, and go right on doing what he plans to do anyway, with or without you! My brother took certain questions to the Lord some time ago, and the Lord replied: “What will be, will be, just keep preaching my word.” Some have made themselves experts of bible prophecies, and this obligates them to produce answers. They never seem to hit a subject that has them stumped. They never say, “I am not sure about that, so I will have to pass, until I can get more understanding of its truth.” Biblical terminologies can be confusing at times!
For many, the appearing of the Lord, the revelation of the Lord from heaven, and the coming of the Lord mean the same thing---it must be the Second Coming. In John 14, Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” Multitudes ran off teaching the Second Coming, while some of us know that Jesus referred to his coming as the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. So many minds are set in what is commonly called “a one-track mind.” That means that is has no flexibility! It is not receptive to any new concepts or ideas. Like a horse wearing blinders around its eyes, these dear people can only see one thing and one way. This is not meant to belittle or put anyone down. We are just calling it the way it is! We love everyone genuinely and wish everyone well, but we also know that people live and thrive on different levels of beliefs and understanding. If we happen to see a greater light and have been blessed to comprehend some deeper truths, we feel humbled and thankful that God has counted us worthy to partake of his deeply guarded secrets. This does not mean that God acts like the C.I.A. He holds nothing back, but reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets. He does this because he will not leave himself without a witness.
The reason why many see the tribulation of Matt.24 as the “Great Tribulation” is because Jesus said, immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. Let us hurry and gather up in one all the gems and rubies to be found in this passage and sing together: “O Jesus how long, how much longer we shout the glad song. Christ returneth, hallelujah, hallelujah, Amen.” Yes Sir! Yes Ma’am! This means the second coming without a doubt! Listen to what one writer said.
“We are aware that many in our day have so settled it in their minds that the appearing of Christ in glory is to be preceded by a definite period, “the great tribulation” so called, that it is difficult for them even to consider the idea that the period to which Jesus applied that expression is now long past. Nevertheless we are confident that all who are disposed to examine with open minds the testimony of the scriptures will be constrained to agree with the conclusion we have reached, which is that of practically all the great commentators of by-gone days, and many in our own day. That view is well and concisely stated by Wiston in his preface to Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews,” where he says: “That these calamities of the Jews, who were our Savior’s murderers, were to be the greatest that had ever been since the beginning of the world, our Savior had directly foretold, and that they proved to be such accordingly, Josephus is here a most authentic witness.” End of quote!
We have heard it said with great passion and conviction by many, that Jesus shall return and his feet shall stand upon Mount Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. Zec.14:4. As in many of the cases referred to a short while ago, many can only see Jesus as a physical being coming to earth in his second advent. So it is in the case of Zec.14.4. A certain preacher from a certain Christian Television Network said in front of the cameras that he wants to be the first to interview Jesus as his feet touch the earth atop Mount Olives. He said he will then have the exclusive rights to all future broadcasts of the interview. I suppose Jesus will have to be prepared to appear on the “Tonight Show,” on “The View” with Barbara Walters, on CNN with Wolf Blitzer and on MSNBC with Keith Olbermann. Are we not thinking like “natural” men who have not tapped into the reality of spiritual matters? Why are so many Christians waiting for a man to return to earth so they can literally pull him into Jerusalem and crown him king? Are they forgetting that he was born “King of the Jews?” Did they not put the sign above his head on the cross “King of the Jews?” Did God not raise him up from the grave to sit on David’s throne, just as Gabriel foretold? “The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end?” What are we missing here?
God came down on Mount Sinai and the mount was utterly on fire, with quakes and smoke insomuch, the people trembled and hit their faces. The word clearly said; “And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount---just so we get it straight---he came down on the top of the mount. Exd. 19:18-20. But alas! There was no human form, no physical being was seen on top of the mount. God’s appearance or Christ’s coming is never always going to be in bodily form. He comes in smoke, in fire, in quakes, and even in wars. One writer equates World War 11 as “The Supper of the great God” as found in Rev.19:17-19.
Lets us throw in this thought for good measure! Every year, many groups from the West embark on memorable trips to the holy land. Many, even though they claim to be born again Christians walk down to the Jordan River and get baptized at the very spot, they are told, where John baptized Jesus. I have no objection to a tour of Palestine and the city of Jerusalem, not for a spiritual experience, but for the historical content. Notice how Paul contrasted between the heavenly Jerusalem and Jerusalem in Palestine. He writes: “For this Agar (the Egyptian maid of Sarah) is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem (the one in Palestine) which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Gal.4:25-26. It is plain to see that Jerusalem in Palestine is in bondage, surrounded by enemies on three sides and the ocean on the fourth side. Several American presidents have gone to Camp David, Oslo, Geneva, and others cities over the years in top level meetings on a peace treaty, that is yet to be signed..
Listen to this verse and draw your own conclusions. “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Rev.11: 8. Notice that in this verse it is the spiritual name that held significance to John. We know that Jesus was crucified outside the city, but it was still known as part of the city itself, and while we may call it Jerusalem, John said its spiritual name is Sodom and Egypt. If we conclude that the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70 is what Matthew, Mark, and Luke referred to as afflictions, the Roman armies, and the abomination of desolation, we will notice that none of these 3 authors spoke of another worldwide “tribulation” that would follow. Like we said earlier, yes, there will be earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and wars in our day, but none of these were offered as signs of the Second Advent. Jesus used these as a sign for his disciples to get out of Jerusalem in a hurry, which they did and none suffered the onslaught of the Roman swords.
Luke offers us one of the most chilling, decisive, and calculated account of what would befall Jerusalem and its inhabitants. “For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” Luke19:43-44. Jesus laid out in stark details every move the Roman armies would make and this is confirmed the Jewish historian Josephus who was an eyewitness to the events. Notice that for the rest of the Book of Luke, he said nothing of another massive—universal tribulation that is to occur in our day or beyond.
Jesus added a very striking thought that we would do well to examine at this juncture. “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Luke 21:24. Paul wrote: “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holly apostles and prophets by the Spirit. That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. Let us see how another mention of the “mystery” fits into what Jesus said about the times of the Gentiles. “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound (he sounds over a period of time) the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.” Rev.10:7. Are we now living in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel? I offer a resounding YES!
Paul alluded to the Gentiles coming in as a part of God’s mystery, so when the 7th angel shall begin to sound, the times of the Gentiles should already be fulfilled. When did this happen? June 6,1967 in what is called the Six –Day War. Or 6/6/67 for short! Notice that we have three sixes followed by a seven that can be understood as man’s efforts and influence coming to an end followed by God’s number of completion. Every war expert seem to agree that Israel on their own could not have won that war. There had to be divine intervention and there was. The times of the Gentiles ended then and Jews for the first rushed to the wailing wall to kiss it and pray there. But the Church teaches that there would be a Rapture at the close of the Gentile Age, and with the Church gone, God then turns back to the Jews who must be saved through the Great Tribulation. They missed it badly! The times of the Gentiles have been fulfilled and the seventh angel has been sounding loudly.
To be continued...
Royce O. Kennedy