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Two days before He died, Jesus gave His closest followers a sweeping panorama of earth's final days. Responding to questions about the end times, Jesus' great speech on the Mount of Olives described the tribulation and His second coming - and offered several famous parables of practical application for the disciples. In a powerful indication of His priorities, Jesus devoted twice as much time to telling His followers how to live in light of His return as he did to describing the actual event. Readers will be inspired and equipped to live faithfully in expectation of Christ's coming.
About the Author
Mark Hitchcock, PhD, an authority on Bible prophecy, has written more than a dozen books on the topic, including Iran: The Coming Crisis. A law school graduate, Mark was called to the ministry in the 1980s. After graduation from seminary, he became pastor of the Faith Bible church in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he still serves. Mark lectures frequently on prophecy themes and has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN. Mark and his wife, Cheryl, have two sons, Justin and Samuel.
Read an Excerpt
WHAT JESUS SAYS ABOUT EARTH'S FINAL DAYS
By MARK HITCHCOCK
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2003 Mark Hitchcock
All right reserved.
JESUS AND THE FUTURE
"Heaven and earth will pass away,
but My words will not pass away."
There's a poignant old saying, "The future's not what it used to be."
When we look around today, we may be tempted, now more than ever, to agree with this analysis of the world situation. The world today is a more dangerous place than it's ever been. Uncertainty abounds. We see and hear things on television that we never thought we would live to see. The future often troubles us.
But not Jesus. The future is no problem for Him. He talked about the future with confidence, assurance, and hope. And not just in some nebulous, general, vague fashion. Jesus gave meticulous, detailed, specific prophecies concerning events in the distant future. Events that are still future in our day. Yet Jesus gazed into that distant future with piercing perception and spoke of events that were then more than two thousand years away.
But before we jump into the details, let's get a little more background from the four Gospels on Jesus' relationship to the future.
Three Truths About Jesus and the Future
Truth #1: Jesus talked a great deal about the future.
It's common nowadays to hear people say something like, "I don't worry about the end times or Bible prophecy-I just live each day for Jesus and leave all that up to Him. No one knows what's going to happen anyway."
Maybe you've said something like that yourself-perhaps even recently.
But nothing could be further from the biblical truth. Jesus wants His followers to know what's coming. That's why He spent such a great deal of time talking about the future. In fact, He may have talked about the future more than any person who ever lived. Jesus wasn't preoccupied with it in an unbalanced way, but He did emphasize its importance on many occasions.
Here's a brief list of some of Jesus' more familiar teachings concerning the future.
The Scripture The Subject
Matthew 13:24-30, Final Judgment
Matthew 20:1-16 Rewards
Matthew 8:11-12; 22:1-4 Christ's Kingdom
Matthew 24-25 Signs of His Coming (see also Mark 13 and Luke 21)
Luke 12:35-38 Staying Ready for
Luke 16:19-31 The Afterlife
Luke 17:22-37 onditions on Earth
at His Coming
Luke 19:11-17 Accountability
It's crystal clear from His many discussions, debates, and discourses that Jesus wants His followers to know what's coming. In Matthew 24:25, Jesus said, "Behold, I have told you in advance." Again in Mark 13:23, He said, "But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance."
Don't ever let anyone tell you that Jesus didn't bother with the future.
Truth #2: Jesus sharply criticized people for not knowing about the future.
In Matthew 16:1-3, Jesus rebuked the self-righteous Pharisees for their blindness to the signs of the times. Jesus was performing signs all around them that fulfilled Old Testament prophecies and proved that He was the long-awaited Messiah.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing [Jesus], they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He answered and said to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:1-3)
At Jesus' first coming, the nation of Israel as a whole was blind to the many signs all around them that Messiah had come. The Old Testament had clearly prophesied many things concerning Messiah's person and works. Yet, the people didn't put it all together. Why? Because many of them were ignorant of the prophetic word, or just didn't take the time and effort to really understand what it was saying.
People back then aren't a whole lot different from most people today. They wouldn't think of missing the evening weather on the news, but they totally neglect the Word and what it says about the signs of the times. The people in Jesus' day missed the clear signs of His first coming. Likewise, many today are oblivious of the signs of His second coming.
What's clear is that Jesus expects us to discern the signs of the times whenever we live, and understand what time it is in terms of what matters most.
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Obviously, we have to be looking for Christ's coming to carry out this exhortation. After all, how in the world can we ever hope to "see the day drawing near" if we aren't even looking for it, or have no idea what we are looking for?
Of course, we should never engage in wild speculation or set dates for Christ's coming. But we should do the best we can to understand the signs of the times. To determine as best we can the season-the day and hour-in which we live. Jesus calls us to investigate His prophecies and to know our times.
Truth #3: Jesus always talked about the future to change the way we live in the present.
Jesus was no pie-in-the-sky prophet. He always related future events to the present. We must never forget this important truth. Jesus' teaching on the future always placed present demands upon His hearers. If we study Jesus' teaching about earth's final days just to have our imaginations tantalized, to fill our minds with time charts, or to satisfy our curiosity, we have completely missed His intent.
Jesus' pronouncements about the future always carry specific application for the here and now.
Three Reasons Why We Can Trust Jesus' Forecast of the Future
Clearly, Jesus talked a lot about the future. About His second coming. About man's eternal destiny. About earth's final days. But there have been many prophets professing to know the future.
Edward Cayce (known as the "Sleeping Prophet")
Jeane Dixon (the self-proclaimed modern prophetess)
Why should we listen to Jesus? What makes His voice rise above all the rest? There are three key things that make Jesus utterly unique.
Reason #1: His Person
Very simply, Jesus is God. Yes, He's also fully man. But He is God.
As God and man in one person, Jesus has one foot in eternity, one foot in time and space. He knows the beginning from the end. But He also walked on this earth and revealed to us what is coming for this planet.
If you are ever tempted to doubt whether Jesus knows the future, just stop and think about how Jesus is described in the book of Revelation.
The Names and Titles of Christ in Revelation
1. Jesus Christ (1:1)
2. Faithful Witness (1:5)
3. Firstborn of the Dead (1:5)
4. Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (1:5)
5. Alpha and Omega (1:8)
6. The One Who Is and Who Was and Who Is to Come (1:8)
7. The Almighty (1:8)
8. Son of Man (1:13)
9. The First and the Last (1:17; 2:8)
10. The Living One (2:8)
11. The One Who Holds the Seven Stars in His Right
12. The One Who Walks Among the Seven Golden
13. The One Who Has the Sharp Two-Edged Sword
14. The Son of God (2:18)
15. The One Who Has Eyes like a Flame of Fire
16. The One Whose Feet Are like Burnished Bronze
17. The One Who Has the Seven Spirits of God and
the Seven Stars (3:1)
18. He Who Is Holy, Who Is True (3:7)
19. The One Who Has the Key of David (3:7)
20. The Amen (3:14)
21. The Faithful and True Witness (3:14)
22. The Beginning of the Creation of God (3:14)
23. The Lion from the Tribe of Judah (5:5)
24. The Root of David (5:5)
25. The Lamb (5:6)
26. O Lord, Holy and True (6:10)
27. Their Lord (11:8)
28. A Son, a Male Child, Who Is to Rule All the
Nations with a Rod of Iron(12:5)
29. Her Child (12:5)
30. O Lord God, the Almighty (15:3)
31. King of the Nations (15:3)
32. Faithful and True (19:11)
33. The Word of God (19:13)
34. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (19:16)
35. The Bright Morning Star (22:16)
The Bible also makes it absolutely clear that only God knows the future.
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none." (Isaiah 44:6-8)
"Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.'" (Isaiah 46:8-10)
In addition, since Jesus is God we know that He cannot lie. There is absolutely no falsehood in Him.
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)
In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago. (Titus 1:2)
Jesus knows the future, and everything He says about it is totally trustworthy!
Reason #2: His Prophecies
During His earthly ministry, Jesus was recognized over and over again as a prophet (Matthew 21:11; Mark 6:15; Luke 7:16; John 4:19). Jesus knew things and said things that astonished His listeners. But how can we be sure that His prophecies concerning the future will come true?
The only surefire way is to look at His track record. Consider just a few of the prophecies that Jesus gave while He was on earth that have already been fulfilled:
1. Jesus predicted the manner of His death (Matthew 20:19; 26:2).
2. Jesus predicted the exact day of His death (Matthew 26:2).
3. Jesus predicted Judas's betrayal (Matthew 26:20-25).
4. Jesus predicted Peter's denial (Matthew 26:33-34).
5. Jesus predicted the apostles' desertion of Him (Matthew 26:31).
6. Jesus predicted His resurrection (Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 17:9).
7. Jesus predicted the exact day of His resurrection (Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 20:19).
8. Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-2).
Jesus was 100 percent accurate, 100 percent of the time! Quite a record. He was the prophet par excellence that Moses said would one day come (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Reason #3: His Passion
We should listen to Jesus not only because of who He is and what He said, but because of what He did for us.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Jesus is not only the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Word of God, but He is also the pure, spotless Lamb of God who willingly laid down His life and purchased our pardon.
Do you know what the number one title for Jesus is, in the book of Revelation?
Jesus is referred to as the lamb twenty-eight times in the last book of the Bible. Amid all the conquest, victory, judgment, and majesty in the book of Revelation, God never wants us to lose sight of His lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything in Revelation is made possible because of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Surely we can trust the word of the One who became sin for us, who laid down His life for His sheep. He would never lead us astray.
So again-why should you and I listen to Jesus and what He says about earth's final days?
Because He's God in human flesh. He knows what's coming. He lives in the future. And because every one of His prophecies that's come to pass so far was fulfilled exactly as He said it would be, just as the remainder will be fulfilled!
But most of all, because He died and rose again for us and would never lead us astray.
"He Who Has Ears to Hear!"
One of my favorite lines from the lips of Jesus is His oft-repeated statement, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Jesus is saying, "Look, if you have a set of ears on your head you'd better use them and listen up to what I'm about to say." It's a direct challenge to us to be spiritually sensitive to the words of Jesus. The responsibility to listen carefully to Him is serious.
As we move into a careful study of Jesus' forecast for the future, I can't think of a better reminder. Let's listen carefully and willingly to the mighty Master as He leads us down the corridors of time to the end of the age. And be ready to follow His instructions about how to live while we wait for that day to come.
OF THE END
Other than the book of Revelation, the longest, most important passage in the New Testament on end-time prophecy is Matthew 24-25. It's often referred to as the Olivet Discourse because these chapters are the record of a great sermon Jesus preached from the Mount of Olives.
Sometimes this final sermon of Jesus is called the "mini apocalypse" because it's almost like the Reader's Digest condensed version of the apocalypse, or book of Revelation. In this sermon, Jesus distilled the end times down to their most basic elements.
In His great prophetic sermon in Matthew 24-25, Jesus gave the basic outline of the events that will immediately precede His coming. It's Jesus' forecast of the future. And there is no place in the Bible that gives a clearer, more concise overview of what's going to happen during earth's final days.
The Setting of the Sermon
The setting was Jesus' farewell message to His confused band of disciples.
Excerpted from WHAT JESUS SAYS ABOUT EARTH'S FINAL DAYS by MARK HITCHCOCK Copyright © 2003 by Mark Hitchcock
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
|Chapter 1||Jesus and the Future||13|
|Chapter 2||Jesus' Blueprint of the End||28|
|Chapter 3||Birth Pangs||42|
|Chapter 4||The Sign||60|
|Chapter 5||The Great Tribulation||73|
|Chapter 6||The King Is Coming||79|
|Chapter 7||Will the Church Go Through the Tribulation?||96|
|Chapter 8||Ready or Not!||108|
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