Matthew 24 is often called the Olivet Discourse, because it tells us what Jesus taught on the Mount of Olives as He was answering questions asked by His disciples. In this chapter we read about some of these important matters including:

  • The destruction of Jerusalem (vs.2,16)
  • The second coming and end of time (vs.3,30,36)
  • The signs of this end (vs.5-8)

At times in history this chapter has been used by many people as a blueprint to predicting when the world will come to an end and how it all will happen. Many attempts have been made with this chapter but they have consistently failed whenever they have been attempted. I believe there is much more detail we could add concerning what the Bible says and how all of this relates but I don't want to overshadow one particular truth from this passage which I hope to show us that it was intended to be. This is the fact that we are not to try and figure out all these things. No one knows the date of Christ's return - not even Jesus Himself - so why would anyone try to guess?

Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of God, but my Father only."

I think Jesus included this warning for reasons that we can find if we look at other scriptures. We'll look at two that are helpful in understanding what the danger in trying to understand these things might be.

First we turn to 1 Samuel 28 where Saul, after being rejected as king by God, tries to contact the dead prophet Samuel. Let me set the scene: Israel was in turmoil because it had ignored God and the result was great sickness and famine came upon them. To make a long story short, King Saul makes an attempt to seek the Lord as he should have been doing all along. Through the word of God God warned Saul that He had already rejected him as king over Israel and he would be replaced. However, Saul was not willing to submit, and so through a medium or nscromancer, he tries to contact Samuel to help him. But did you notice what happened? If you are a student of the Bible then you know who brought about the death of Saul. It wasn't the enemy but it was his own pride.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall .

The same thing happens again in 1 Kings 13 where someone had taken an idolatrous way and God sent a prophet to warn them to return or judgment would fall. People took it seriously and there was going to be a sacrifice of these idolatries. An evil man decided to make his own opinion heard instead of listening to the message. And again it was his own pride that caused him to die for his actions. How do I know? The prophet kills him and his whole family. Why? Because that was the work of Satan in influencing their sinful pride.

I think this shows what happens whenever men try to make out in a way that doesn't reflect the message of the Bible. What else does Matthew teach us about Jesus' words here? Doesn't Paul give us instructions on other signs that we can use as indicators of the final event? Isn't that one of the reasons for this discourse?

Paul and the Signs of the Times

Now let's talk about what some of those signs are. Paul teaches us many things from this part of the Bible as well. Look for example in Paul's message to the Thessalonians: 2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind,or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

The Time of Antichrist

So what do we learn? Well for one thing we learn what is known as a mystery is not going to be revealed until the last moments before Christ's return. A mystery is a secret that has been hidden for a while and isn't easy to recognize. Even a mystery that is apparently revealed can be easily misunderstood. In this case we are told that the Antichrist is going to be revealed and at the exact moment he appears, it will be known by everyone that he is the Antichrist. So who exactly is the antichrist? Well the simplest explanation may be to explain what he is not. There were many individuals mentioned by John in Revelation who were opposed to Jesus during His ministry here on earth and were ultimately executed for their crimes against humanity. They were Lucifer (Satan), Belial, Cain, Abaddon and others. When Jesus stated "neither is there salvation in any other" I think one of those that was being referred to in this way was the antichrist. He is probably going to try something new when he appears the first time but I believe he will need to finally reveal himself if he wants to capture the whole earth. People have tried to be the antichrist since the beginning and all have failed miserably - so far.

The Synoptic Gospel Accounts

However, I think another point is most significant for what this might mean. All of the synoptic gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke - record Jesus giving this instruction in almost the same way. Even Luke, who records the ascension and Jesus command "to wait in the city of Jerusalem until they are baptized with power from the holy ghost" gives a small clue in his account as to why He gave this. Let's see what it says. Acts 1:6 (John Baptist) When they therefore were come together, they asked him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?7 (of a mysterious nature) And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

This was given to stop the speculation of setting a date according to Christ's second coming and with it I think Paul indicates the same purpose in what he teaches us about the Day of The Lord. Let's compare what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. You become the temple of God when Jesus came into your heart. Many try to predict the signs for Christ's return but the Bible shows us we are not to do this. For that reason Jesus seems to want to restrict this information to those He sends when these events start to happen. One reason might be because at these moments all will know when they are happening. They can no longer be misunderstood.

Our Role in the End Times

What is our role in all of this? Jesus taught us that we aren't going to know when the beginning will occur and we aren't supposed to try to discover it. I think God wants us to focus instead on sharing the gospel while we can. Our message should be to share Jesus every chance we can wherever we live and whenever we see opportunities to present ourselves to others. Our opportunity begins with each of us personally, then our families, then our friends and neighbors, then co-workers and employees - wherever we see opportunities. Is that easy? Of course not - but it does open up the possibilities to what may happen after Jesus comes back!

There is also another way to show what the Bible seems to indicate about this. Let's look at what some of the prophets from the Old Testament said:

Jeremiah 29:6 Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace

In other words, be busy accomplishing some good during the time you live by using what you learned from the Word to do some good. Don't argue with people o ver these issues or get into debates - just make sure you are living your life well and others can see it in action. That is what will bring glory to Jesus.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD's anger.

When Jesus returned, who will be left