New Defender's Study Bible Notes
24:3 when. Although the disciples still did not fully comprehend what Jesus had been teaching about His coming death and how that could be harmonized with His Messianic mission and the promised kingdom, they knew that momentous events were about to take place. Now they had just heard Him pronounce woes on the scribes and Pharisees and even predict the coming destruction of their great temple. No wonder they asked Him these three questions in such proper order! His answer deals with these questions in that same order, in what has come to be known as His “Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 24 and 25). The bulk of the discourse is recorded here in Matthew, but also portions are found in Mark 13 and Luke 21. The answer to their first question is given in Luke 21:20-24, which should be inserted before Matthew 24:7. By carefully superimposing the latter accounts here on Matthew 24, the whole discourse is comprised of a marvelous outline of future events with the Old Testament Scriptures and Jesus’ previous parabolic teachings. It also provides a foundational outline for the yet-to-be-given prophecies in Revelation.
24:3 sign of thy coming. In this discourse, the Lord actually gives several signs of His coming. Probably the most important sign is the one given in Matthew 24:30.
24:3 end of the world. This phrase really refers to the end of the present world order. “World” is aion in the Greek, meaning the “age” of time and space in which people now live, and have lived since the world was drastically changed by the Flood in the days of Noah, quickly followed by the special call in time and space of the chosen nation Israel.
24:4 Take heed. Christ’s warning is especially urgent today, when there are so many “false Christs, and false prophets” (Matthew 24:24) deceiving many. There are many similar warnings to “take heed” in the New Testament (for example: Luke 21:34; Acts 20:28-29; Hebrews 3:12; I Corinthians 10:12; I Timothy 4:16; and especially II Peter 1:19).
24:5 saying, I am Christ. They would not claim to be “Jesus” but “the Christ.” This prediction has been fulfilled innumerable times all through Christian history. With the modern expansion of the New Age movement, this phenomenon is exploding, with many cults teaching that each person can be a “Christ” if he meets their criteria.
24:6 wars. Worldwide, at least one major war has been going on in eleven out of every twelve years since the time of Christ. At the present world time are estimated to be at least forty wars—small and large, civil or international—going on in the world.
24:6 must come to pass. This has been a remarkably fulfilled prophecy for almost two thousand years, as unlikely as it surely seemed at the time it was made.
24:7 nation shall rise against nation. At this point Jesus begins giving the signs of His coming, rather than merely describing the course of the age. This becomes obvious by comparison with Luke’s narrative at this point in the discourse: “Then said He unto them, Nation shall…” (Luke 21:10). That is, ordinary local wars would not constitute a sign, since they would always be taking place. But the initial sign would be a widespread war with many nations and kingdoms involved on each side, accompanied or followed by widespread famines, pestilences and earthquakes (Mark 13:8 adds “and troubles” and Luke 21:11 adds “fearful sights and great wonders from heaven.”
24:8 beginning of sorrows. “The beginning of sorrows [i.e., ‘travail’] is the sign just given (i.e., widespread war, famines, etc.). The signs indicate that there will be a succession of similar “travail pains,” in preparation for the birth of the new age to come. The first time such a complex of events ever occurred in history was during, and immediately after, the years of World War I. There have been a number since, a fact which encourages many to believe that the Lord’s second coming is near.
24:9 Then. The parallel passage in Luke interjects at this point: “But before all these [that is, before the complex of signs just mentioned, and all during the ordinary course of the age], they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you” (Luke 21:12). The entire age between Christ’s first and second comings would be characterized by various forms of persecution of both Jews and Christian believers. This prophecy also has been fulfilled.
24:11 false prophets. In addition to the “false christs” (Matthew 24:5,24), there would be “many false prophets” throughout the Christian era, and this prophecy also has been abundantly fulfilled, more than ever in recent years.
24:13 endure unto the end. That is, those who endure whatever suffering and persecution the Lord allows to come their way without giving up their professed faith and denying the Lord are those who are truly saved. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12).
24:14 gospel of the kingdom. “The gospel of the kingdom” is simply “the gospel,” as it is recorded in the parallel account in Mark 13:10. The commission to His followers by Christ was to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and to “be witnesses unto me…unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This has not yet been accomplished, so not yet has “the end come.” Through the worldwide missionary movement and the global preaching of the gospel by radio and literature, it must be close.
24:15 abomination of desolation. The “abomination of desolation” refers to the “image of the beast” (Revelation 13:14-15) which will be set up by the Antichrist and his “false prophet” as an object of enforced global worship, “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (II Thessalonians 2:4). This will take place, according to Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24-27), after the “prince that shall come” (that is, the Antichrist) has made a seven-year treaty with Israel to allow their ancient temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem and their worship rituals to be reestablished. He will break this covenant “in the midst of the week” (that is, after the first 3½ years of the treaty period), and erect his “overspreading of abominations”—his great idol image, with overstretching arms, mocking the cherubim in the original holy place—in God’s temple (Daniel 9:27; see also Daniel 11:31 and 12:11). This will signal the unleashing of his genocidal fury against Israel and all who refuse to worship him.
24:15 Daniel the prophet. The Lord here confirms that Daniel really was a “prophet,” in spite of the claim by some modern critics.
24:15 whoso readeth. This interesting parenthesis implies that this warning must be “read.” It could not apply to Christ’s immediate audience, both because they had heard it, and also because they would not be living at the time of its fulfillment. Other Scriptures indicate that all true Christians will already have been “caught up” by the Lord Jesus at the first event associated with His second coming (I Thessalonians 4:17), so that those still on the earth during this period must read these events in the Bible or Christian literature in order to learn of them. It is important, therefore, right now, for believers to blanket the earth with Bibles and sound books of Christian evidences and Bible exposition, to counter the evolutionary pantheistic humanism that will be the enforced world religion during this coming period.
24:21 great tribulation. Although the entire seven-year period will be a time of immense suffering on the earth, the great tribulation will be the final 3½ years, initiated by the placing of the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15). This is all described in detail in the book of Revelation, especially chapters 11–19.
24:24 signs and wonders. False christs and false prophets will have been present throughout the Christian era (Matthew 24:5, 11), but their number will be multiplied during the tribulation, when the New Age occultic demon-energized teaching will reach their zenith, including demonic miracles to authenticate their claims.
24:27 the coming of the Son. The disciples had asked the Lord what would be the sign of His coming, and Christ had given many signs. Note, however, that His final coming to the earth would not be surreptitiously, as it were, in the desert or in some secret chamber (Matthew 24:26), but clearly seen by everyone (Matthew 24:30). The initial phase of His coming, on the other hand, will not be seen by those on the earth at all, but only by Christian believers, who will be changed and caught up out of the world “in the twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:17). All of the “signs” of His coming, including the great final sign (Matthew 24:30), thus apply only to His coming to the earth, not to His coming in the air to receive His own at the rapture. The latter, in principle at least, could occur at any moment and could have occurred at any time since Christ returned to heaven.
24:28 eagles be gathered. See also Luke 17:37. The “eagles” are actually vultures, so the metaphor describes carrion-eating birds swarming over a dead body. In this context, it must refer to the slaughter of all who have rebelled against God. The destruction of Gog’s multitudes in Israel near the beginning of the tribulation period is foreshadowed in the scene of fowls feasting on their flesh (Ezekiel 38:17-20), and fully activated at Armageddon when all the armies of the Beast are slain with the verbal “sword” of Christ (Revelation 19:21).
24:29 the tribulation. The great tribulation begins with the very temporary exaltation of the man of sin as the world’s humanistic god (Matthew 24:15; II Thessalonians 2:4). It ends with the permanent coming of the Son of man in such great glory that nothing else can be seen in the heavens; all else will be supernaturally darkened (as at the cross when He died) and only His magnificent glory can be seen over all the earth.
24:31 gather together his elect. Christ will return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Acts 1:10-12; Zechariah 14:4), and it is either there or somewhere else in Jerusalem that He will “sit upon the throne of His glory” to judge the living nations (Matthew 25:31-32). Even before that, however, all believers who have managed to escape the death squads of the Beast after refusing the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17; 20:4) will be translated by angels to Christ’s presence, and those who had been martyred during that period will also be resurrected and “live” and reign with Him (Revelation 20:4).
24:32 fig tree. At these words, the disciples were bound to think of the fig tree, which they had seen wither away just the day before, and they knew that Christ was showing them what would happen to Israel. But now He was suggesting it would grow again, though still only with leaves, and that this also would be a sign that His coming was near. The return of Israel to her land, still in unbelief, is one of the amazing phenomena of these latter days.
24:33 all these things. The sign which the disciples requested is thus a complex of many signs, all of which would be taking place during this last generation. Although we cannot determine the date of His return (Matthew 24:36), we are commanded to know when it is near, by seeing all these things happening. And if the signs are forecasting His coming in glory, then His coming in the air for His saints, for which no signs are given, must be at least seven years sooner!
24:34 This generation. The word “this” is the demonstrative adjective, and could better be translated “that generation.” That is, the generation which sees all these signs (probably starting with World War I) shall not have completely died away until all these things have taken place.
24:35 pass away. Literally, this phrase means “are passing away,” under the decay law established by the primeval curse on the ground because of sin (Genesis 3:17).
24:35 my words. The only physical entity in this physical universe that is not subject to the law of disintegration is the written Word of God. This affirmation by Christ is a tremendous assurance of its infallible and permanent authority.
24:36 knoweth no man. Much of the rest of the Olivet discourse is an urgent exhortation always to be ready and watching for Christ’s return, an exhortation that would be contradictory if we first had to watch for the signs of His coming. The initial phase of His coming, therefore, is always imminent.
24:37 days of Noe. In this passage (see also Luke 17:26-27), Jesus confirms the historicity of the universal Flood, as well as the record of Noah and the ark. Hebrews 11:7, and II Peter 2:5 and 3:6 likewise confirm it.
24:38 giving in marriage. “Giving in marriage” could also be understood as “getting out of marriage.” In any case the unconcern of the world just before it was to be destroyed by the Flood will be characteristic of the world just before the coming of the Son of man. Many other characteristics of Noah’s day (immorality, demon possession, widespread corruption and violence, universal rebellion against God and His will) are being repeated in our day.
24:39 so. The coming of the Son of man will be worldwide in extent and effect, as was the Flood, according to Christ.
24:40 one shall be taken. The long section beginning at Matthew 24:36 continually emphasizes watchfulness, and therefore imminence. In view of the context, the first event of His coming—that is, the sudden rapture of believers—is the theme here. The one taken is caught up to be with the Lord, while his fellow worker, an unbeliever, is to endure the tribulation. Anyone who sets a date for His coming, however, is bound to be wrong, “for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44; also note Matthew 24:50).
24:48 delayeth. It is dangerous to decide that Christ cannot return until certain signs have been fulfilled; such an attitude may lead to worldliness and spiritual lethargy. On the other hand, expectant and watchful readiness for His return is a great incentive to godly living and active witnessing.