Jesus' prophecy: signs and warnings

       Jesus' prophecy about His return was recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew (chapter 24), Mark (chapter 13) and Luke (chapter 21). Rather than describing the sequence of world powers as in Daniel, it describes world events and conditions leading to His return as in Revelation chapter 6. Here is Matthew 24:  

1. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. 2. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? [meaning the end of the present pre-Kingdom condition, not the physical end of the world] 4. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many [as was symbolized by the white horse in the sixth chapter of Revelation]. 6. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom [the red horse]: and there shall be famines [the black horse], and pestilences [the pale horse], and earthquakes, in divers places. 8. All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you [possibly the fifth seal martyrdom]: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my nameís sake. 10. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place [in Jerusalem, probably on the Temple Mount], (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16. Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18. Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the electís sake those days shall be shortened. 23. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25. Behold, I have told you before. 26. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 29. 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: 30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven [the sixth seal of the Revelation]: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

    The similarities to the prophecies in Revelation 6 are unmistakable. We see the same deceiving religions, war, famine, disease, martyrdom, and signs in the sky. But new pieces have been added: the preaching of the gospel to all the world; an "abomination of desolation"; a great tribulation or war which would take every human life if not cut short; false Christs and prophets performing great miracles; then the actual return of Christ and the gathering of the elect.

    There is to be a preaching of "the gospel of the Kingdom... in all the world for a witness unto all nations" before the end comes. This certainly has not (as of early 2001) been fulfilled: most of the world has no knowledge of the Kingdom of God. But scriptures such as Revelation 3:8,9 indicate that near the end there will be an "open door" or opportunity for preaching the gospel. Those verses also suggest, without directly saying so, that the "door" will be opened by giving the faithful the power to perform miracles. Those miracles would draw attention to the gospel message just as Jesus' miracles drew "great multitudes" in His time. 

    Jesus cautioned persons in Judea (Israel) to "flee into the mountains" if they saw "the abomination of desolation" in "the holy place." The implication is that they should be prepared to flee danger - perhaps a war -  that would shortly break out in and around Jerusalem. The "abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet" apparently refers to an idol of some sort that would be set up in a holy place - perhaps at a rebuilt altar or Temple - on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is possible that foreign "peacekeeping" troops would be in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount at that time; very shortly after the idol appears the foreign forces would begin military action. Note that the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD had similarities to this end-time fulfillment. It is possible that Daniel's "ten horns" world power will be responsible for the destruction in Jerusalem, but this is speculation.

    Jesus prophesied that the violence in Jerusalem will begin a time of "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." The "great tribulation" appears to be a time of war, possibly nuclear, chemical and biological war, so terrible that "except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." It would erase all human life if not stopped. Note that it appears the tribulation will be cut short by God: the statement "but for the electís sake those days shall be shortened" suggests an act of divine intervention.

    Jesus foretold three major events after the tribulation:

  • great heavenly signs in the sun, moon etc as we saw in Revelation, and

  • the appearance of false Christs and false prophets, and

  • the actual return of Christ and the gathering of the elect.

    It is very important to put these events in their correct order after the great tribulation. Many have assumed, incorrectly, that the great tribulation would be cut short by the return of Christ. That is not true! Jesus clearly warned of false Christs and false prophets after the tribulation, but before His own return:

23. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25. Behold, I have told you before. 26. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  

    Again, the great tribulation is not cut short by the return of Christ: Jesus plainly warned to watch for "false Christs, and false prophets" - not His own return - after the tribulation was cut short. 

    Not until verse 29, after giving an important warning about false Christs and prophets, did Jesus go back and explain how the tribulation was cut short: 

29. 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: 30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn

     These two verses plainly refer to the same astronomical events we saw in the sixth seal of Revelation chapter 6. The darkening of the sun and moon, the great meteor shower and the disappearance of the stars will bring human activities to an abrupt halt as the world watches in amazement. It appears that the heavenly signs bring the "great tribulation" to a stop. And when a symbol or sign of Christ appears in the sky, all the world will suddenly have direct, undeniable evidence that there is a God, and that He is intervening in human affairs. It is because of the appearance of the sign of Christ that the world will, for the first time, take seriously His imminent return. The appearance of the sign of Christ will stir all mankind to look for - and some to counterfeit - His return. As Christ plainly warned in verses 23-27, "false Christs, and false prophets" would appear on earth next. 

    Other Bible prophecies reveal more about a false Christ - the Antichrist - and about a great false prophet that would be in power at the end time. Do you remember Daniel's "little horn" with "a mouth that spake very great things... [who] shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time"? Revelation 13:5-8 describes the same world power with these words:

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. 6. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

    Note that Daniel's "time and times and the dividing of time," or three and a half years, is the same length as Revelation's "forty and two months." For the three and a half years immediately before the actual return of Christ the "little horn" will rule the world. It - he - will commit blasphemy against God by claiming to be Christ or God. This "little horn" or "beast" or "Antichrist" power will conspire with a miracle-working "great false prophet" who is described in Revelation 13:13-15:

he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast... and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed

    The beast's and false prophet's lies will test or try the world. Everyone will be judged by their response to "the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth" (Revelation 3:10). The apostle Paul warned about this time in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10. An additional warning appears Revelation 14:9 and 10:

If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark [shows loyalty] in his forehead [in the things he believes], or in his hand [in the things he does], 10. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation.

    We have seen that the beast will "make war with the saints" and "overcome them"; this will suppress and stop all teaching of the truth during his reign... except for two witnesses which God will provide and protect. The two witnesses are described in Revelation chapter 11. They will bear witness to the truth and expose the beast's lies with the "fire that proceedeth out of their mouth" (Rev. 11:5): with the undeniable truth they will speak. Everyone will have to choose between the tempting, seductive lies of the beast and the truth spoken by the two witnesses. The beast and false prophet will pressure everyone to show the "mark" of the beast as described in Revelation 13:16-18: every person will be expected to show loyalty to the beast in the things he believes and thinks - a "mark... in their forehead" - or to show loyalty in the things he does - "a mark in their right hand." No one will be allowed to "buy or sell" (v. 17) - to believe or teach - anything other than what the beast and false prophet teach. The Antichrist beast's reign will be a time of testing, decision and judgment on all mankind. Christ warned about this time:

Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:23,24)

    Revelation 16 shows that the Antichrist beast and the false prophet will gather great armies at Armageddon (located near Jerusalem) in an attempt to destroy Christ at His return - but they will believe, and lead their followers to believe - that it is Antichrist who is coming, and they will claim to be on a crusade to destroy Antichrist at his arrival! (See the page Catholic Prophecy for more about this; the groundwork this deception is already in place.) Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19 describe their destruction as they march on Jerusalem to fight the real Christ. Here is part of Revelation 19:

19. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him [Christ] that sat on the horse, and against his army [the resurrected faithful will be with Him]. 20. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone [they were permanently destroyed].

    After defeating the beast and the gathered armies, Christ establishes the Kingdom of God in physical authority over the entire world. "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). Revelation chapter 20 and many other prophecies describe the Kingdom of God. Many of those prophecies are reviewed later in this website, during a study of God's promises.

    Matthew 24 shows that mankind will come to the brink of self-destruction before the "great tribulation" is "shortened" by divine intervention. It appears that God will stop the raging war with awe-inspiring astronomical events. Those same events will show the world that God is real and will soon take full charge over human affairs. 

    So why does God wait until we are about to destroy ourselves? It will prove a point: left to our own ways, apart from God, we can not and will not find peace. God is letting us prove it to ourselves: we would not believe it any other way. The Garden of Eden page goes into more detail about our freedom of choice. We are presently free to try whatever religious, philosophical, social and political schemes we can devise. We are free to use technology however we see fit. Although our technology may be great and our hopes sincere, they will not save us from ourselves. We need God in order to attain spiritual completeness and peace. Without God we will bring ourselves to our own destruction. With God, and in the Kingdom of God, we will find the peace and fulfillment that has eluded us:

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain [kingdom]: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

...they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. (Micah 4:4)

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A Few Words About Prophecy

Daniel's Prophecy About World Powers

The Revelation: Signs of Our Times

Jesus' Prophecy: Signs and Warnings

next: Bible Prophecy Summary

An historian's view of the Kingdom of God

What Does God Want From Us?

What Does God Promise Us?

What is Salvation?

Where is God? What is God's Plan?

 

other pages, in random order:

Jesus

The Ten Commandments

Three days and three nights?

Jesus, paradise and the thief

The Garden of Eden

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man

Catholic prophecy

2 Thessalonians 2:1-10