Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-four through fifty-one of the twenty-fourth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the continuation of Jesus’ words concerning the end times and the Last Days. If you take the time to read the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that it begins with Jesus departing from the Temple with His twelve disciples, and His disciples showing Him all the buildings of the temple. Completely unmoved with and by the buildings of the Temple Jesus spoke unto the disciples and declared unto them that there would not be left one stone upon another which would not be thrown down. Please don’t quickly move past this particular occurrence between Jesus and His disciples, for in a chapter that deals exclusively and primarily with the end times and Last Days, Jesus didn’t begin speaking to His disciples concerning the end times and the Last Days. That which Jesus was referencing and speaking about within this particular passage of Scripture was events that would transpire less than a half a century after His death and crucifixion. When Jesus began speaking unto His disciples, He didn’t begin by preparing them for the end times and the Last Days, but rather for the events which would take place literally less than forty years from that particular moment. It is estimated that Jesus walked upon the earth for thirty-three and a half years, and that at the time these events were taking place, the year would have been roughly 33 anno domani or 33 AD. With that being said, that which Jesus was preparing the disciples for was an event that would take place in the year 70 AD when the Roman army would enter into and invade the holy land and would march straight into the city of Jerusalem. In the year 70 AD, the Roman tenth legion would enter into the city of Jerusalem and would not only burn the Temple to the ground with fire, but they would also enter into the city of Jerusalem and would completely ransack and destroy houses and buildings alike. The disciples were attempting to show Jesus the beauty and the magnificence of the buildings of the Temple, and yet Jesus knew that in just a short period of time the Temple which stood in Jerusalem would be no more, and that it would be completely and utterly destroyed with fire. Jesus knew that in less than fifty years from that point in time the Roman army would enter into the city of Jerusalem and would completely and utterly destroy the various buildings in which the disciples were attempting to show Jesus.
When I consider that which Jesus spoke unto the disciples in this particular passage of Scripture, I can’t help but look back to the final verses of the previous chapter where Jesus wept, mourned and lamented over Jerusalem. If you turn your attention to the thirty-seventh verse of the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the following words which were spoken by Jesus the Christ:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killer the prophets, and stones them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gatherers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that comets in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-38).
It’s worth noting that this particular event is also recorded in the New Testament gospel which was written by the beloved physician Luke. If you turn and direct your attention to the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke, and specifically the thirty-first verse you will find these same words spoken by Jesus, but spoken in direct response to the words which the Pharisees spoke unto Jesus concerning those who sought to kill and destroy Him. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular passage beginning with the thirty-first verse of this particular chapter found within the New Testament gospel of Luke:
“The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto Him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And He said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and strongest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is He that comets in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:31-35).
As you begin reading that which is found in the opening verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you do find Jesus speaking unto the disciples concerning the events which would take place in the end times and during the Last Days, but rather, Jesus speaking unto them concerning a destruction and devastation that would take place much sooner and much quicker than the end times. In the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus indicting the scribes and the Pharisees because of their religion, because of their legalism, and because of their hypocrisy, and at the very end of the chapter you will find Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because of the hardness of their heart. Within the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew—not only do we find Jesus condemning and indicting the scribes and Pharisees concerning their hypocrisy, but we also find Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because of the hardness of their heart. The more I read the words of Jesus in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, the more I can’t help but be confronted with the tremendous fact that within this chapter we not only find the hypocrisy of religion, but we also find the hardness of heart of inheritance and promise. THE HYPOCRISY OF RELIGION & THE HARDNESS OF HEART OF PROMISE! While the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew deals exclusively and primarily with the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, at the very end of the chapter we find Jesus turning His attention to Jerusalem as a whole, and weeping over its hardness of heart. I am convinced that this is rather unique and interesting—particularly and especially when you consider that which is found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew—for while the twenty-fourth chapter brings us face to face with the dangers of deception, offense and the troubling of one’s heart in the last days, I am completely and absolutely convinced that there are dangers of hypocrisy and hardness of heart that is also found in the Last Days. I am convinced that two of the greatest dangers facing the Last days—particularly and especially within the church among the people of God—is that of hardness of heart and hypocrisy. In fact, as I sit here and consider this, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews writes in the third and fourth chapters of the book. If you begin reading with and from the seventh verse of the third chapter you will find the following words written concerning the hardness of heart, and the tremendous dangers of allowing one’s heart to become hardened:
“Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost Smith, To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and say my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I share in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitful ness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. While it is said, To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they heard, did provoke: Howe it not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was He grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom share he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:7-18).
Building upon that which is written and recorded in the third chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we transition to the fourth chapter and again find similar language written by the author concerning this tremendous danger of hardness of heart. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the fourth chapter you will find the author continuing to write concerning the tremendous dangers of one’s hardness of heart, and how it has the potential to completely and entirely shipwreck that individual who is not careful. Consider if you will the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote beginning with the first verse of the fourth chapter:
“Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all His works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, He limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his won works, as God did from His. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the yes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:1-13).
When the author of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews wrote concerning the hardness of heart, they not only wrote concerning its relationship with an evil heart of unbelief, but they also wrote concerning its link to entering into the divine rest which was promised by Jesus the Christ. I can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped with and by the fact that when we speak of the last days, we must recognize and understand that two of the greatest dangers facing the church of Jesus Christ is that of the hypocrisy of religion, as well as the hardness of heart. If we are truly honest with ourselves, as well as with the living God, we must admit that there are and there have been certain times within our lives when we have found ourselves contending and struggling with hardness of heart and/or even hypocrisy within our own heart. We dare not think and be so naïve to thinking and believing that we are somehow above hardness of heart and hypocrisy of heart within our lives, and that such realities could never be manifested. If I am being honest with you who are reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, I would state that if we aren’t careful in the last days, and if we don’t work diligently to guard our hearts, we might very well find ourselves facing these dangers within our own hearts and lives. It is incredibly easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in hypocrisy of religion just as the scribes and the Pharisees did, and to even allow ourselves to get caught up in the hardness of heart that can have a variety of different causes. If we aren’t careful and if we do not guard our hearts and our lives, it is very easy to allow our hearts to grow hard and callous before the living God, and we find ourselves in an incredibly dangerous place and position in these Last Days. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are in fact living in the days leading up to the end, and that the return of Jesus Christ is in fact imminent and forthcoming. I do not believe for one minute that Jesus Christ’s return is not closer than we think, and that we have a great need to prepare ourselves for that which lies ahead of and before us in these Last Days. When you read the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples concerning the Last Days, it’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t provide them with a specific year, a specific date, nor even a specific time concerning the Last Days, but rather spoke of both the dangers and the signs of the Last Days. DISCERNING THE DANGERS AND SIGNS OF THE LAST DAYS! There is not a doubt in my heart and mind that we have a great and tremendous need to diligently strive to ensure that we are not only aware of and paying attention to the signs of the times which point to the end times, but also guard against the dangers which surround and will be present within the Last Days. That which Jesus spoke unto the disciples in this particular passage of Scripture are powerful words which not only prepared them to understand the signs of the times which pointed to and revealed the Last Days, but also the incredible dangers which would signal and confirm the Last Days. I am convinced that if we are going to read the words which are found within this particular passage of Scripture, we need to understand them in light of both the dangers and the signs of the Last Days.
I have spoken about the dangers and the signs of the Last Days and the end times, and I feel it is absolutely and incredibly necessary to present you with both within this particular writing. I am convinced that even more than seeking to know and predict the hour, the month, and the year in which Jesus Christ can and will return, we have an even greater need to focus our attention and devote and commit our strength to recognizing the dangers surrounding the Last Days, as well as the signs of the end times, and that which signals and confirms that we are in fact living in the Last Days. I would begin by presenting you with the dangers surrounding and facing the Last Days—dangers which I have already mentioned include hardness of heart, as well as hypocrisy of heart. As you read the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the tremendous dangers of deceived hearts, offended hearts and troubled hearts being present within the Last days. I would present unto you for your consideration Jesus’ words which bring us face to face with these specific dangers Facing and surrounding the last days. Consider if you will the various dangers which Jesus brought His disciples face to face with and warned them about concerning the Last Days:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6).
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 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” (Matthew 24:9-14).
“Then if any many shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they should deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. 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. For as the lightning comets out of the east, and shine the even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For where so ever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:23-28).
These particular passages which are found within this twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew bring us face to face with the dangers, the snares and the traps which surround the Last Days. In fact, I would dare say and suggest that the greatest dangers surrounding the Last Days are not even that which Jesus spoke of and mentioned concerning nation rising against nation, kingdom rising against kingdom, famines, pestilence, and earthquakes. I completely and utterly convinced that the greatest dangers facing and surrounding the Last Days is not that of weapons of mass destruction, nor even violence in the streets. While each of these are in fact great concerns which this nation and even the world are presently facing, I am convinced that none of these dangers are the greatest dangers facing men and women in the Last Days. Weapons of mass destruction have absolutely no impact and affect on your eternal state, for no weapon of mass destruction can keep you out of the kingdom of heaven. At the very least, a weapon of mass destruction can usher you into the kingdom of heaven that much sooner as a result of the death that ensues from its devastation and destruction. A similar statement can be made of famines and pestilence, for neither famine nor pestilence has any impact or affect on your eternal state, nor do/can they keep you out of and from the kingdom of heaven. There is not a single war which can and will take place within and upon the earth that can keep you from and keep you out of the kingdom of heaven as much as deception, as much as offense, and as much as an anxious, troubled, and unbelieving heart. As I sit here and read the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in this particular passage of Scripture, I am completely and utterly convinced that the greatest dangers facing us within these Last Days are not that which we would normally expect, but rather is that of deception, that of offense, and that of anxious and troubled hearts. When speaking unto His disciples Jesus spoke of many who would come in His name sayin they are Christ, and as a result of their profession and declaration, they would deceive many. When speaking unto His disciples, Jesus also spoke of men and women being delivered up to be afflicted, and being killed, and being hated of all nations for His name’s sake. As a result of being afflicted, as a result of being killed as a result of being hated of all nation’s for His name’s sake, there will be many who will be offended, and many who would betray one another, and shall even hate one another. What’s more, is that many false prophets shall arise in the Last Days and shall deceive many. Because iniquity will increase and abound within the last days, the love of many can and will wax cold, and if it were possible, even the very elect would be deceived. Within this particular chapter Jesus not only spoke of false Christs, but Jesus also spoke of false prophets who would rise up in the land and would seek to deceive men and women—this in addition to those who would declare and profess that they are Christ.
I read the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew and I am completely and utterly convinced that the single greatest danger facing and surrounding men and women in the Last Days is that of deception, for not only will there be those who will rise up and profess they are Christ, but there will also be false Christs and false prophets who will rise up in order that they might deceive many. There is not a doubt in my mind that perhaps one of the single greatest dangers found within the Last Days is that of deception, for just as the serpent beguiled Eve in the garden with and through his subtilty, so he can and will seek to deceive man and women through false teaching, through false doctrine, and through false prophets, false apostles, false teachers, false brethren, and even false Christs. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh chapter of the second New Testament epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints beginning with the first verse. Additionally, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle unto the churches in Galatia in the first chapter. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in each of these epistles written unto churches which were established in Asia:
“Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through His subtility, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that comets preachers another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye have received another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which use have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things. Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?” (2 Corinthians 11:1-7).
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).
Through the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples on this particular occasion we come face to face with the tremendous reality that two of the greatest dangers facing men and women during the Last Days are deception and offense, as the devil will seek to raise up false Christs and false prophets to deceive, and will seek to raise up men and women who will persecute the saints of God. One of the most important realities we can and must learn concerning the Last Days is that Jesus didn’t prepare us to be loved, accepted and respected by men and women, but rather to be hated. It’s worth noting that when Jesus spoke concerning the last days, He not only prepared us to be hated, but He also prepared us to expect attempts to be made to deceive us. If we are truly honest concerning the Last Days, we must recognize and understand that we can absolutely and without a doubt expect attempts to be made to deceive us, and if it were possible to deceive even the very elect. At least three times within this particular passage of Scripture Jesus mentioned deceit, and He mentioned it in direct connection with false Christs, false prophets, and even those who claimed and professed they are Christ. I have recently come to believe that when Jesus spoke of false Christs and when Jesus spoke of many who would rise up and profess they are Christ, and when many would rise up as false Christs, He wasn’t referencing those who would emphatically make the declaration that they are Christ Himself, but rather that there would be men and women who would rise up professing to be Christ’s and to belong to Christ. I am convinced that some of the greatest dangers facing the Church in the last days—at least within the church itself—is that of false Christs and that of those who make a profession that they are Christ’s, and yet Christ never knew them, for they were and have been workers of iniquity. I believe with everything inside me that in these Last Days we have great need to spend our time guarding our hearts and our minds against deceit, for the enemy and adversary can and will use deceit in order to derail and shipwreck us in our faith in order that he might remove us from the kingdom of heaven. Deceit, offense and anxious and troubled hearts are some of the greatest dangers facing the saints of God in the last days, and we would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand how many men and women right now are living with blinders on, living with hardened hearts, living under the dark shadow of the hypocrisy of religion, and those who have allowed their hearts to be troubled, anxious, fearful and afraid.
I mentioned that within this particular chapter there is not only the mention of the dangers surrounding the Last days, but also the signs of the last days—that which points to the reality that we are living in the Last Days, and that which confirms that the return of Jesus Christ is closer than we can think or imagine. As I bring this writing to a close I leave you with the signs of the end times which Jesus presented unto His disciples which are found within this particular passage—signs which aren’t and weren’t intended on leading to speculation concerning the hour when Jesus can and will return, but rather letting us know we are living in the last days and to diligently strive to ensure that we have an unshakeable and unbreakable endurance within our hearts and spirits during these troubled and perilous times. I leave you with the signs of the times which were mentioned and revealed by Jesus Christ when speaking unto His disciples and are recorded for us in this passage of Scripture:
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilence, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8).
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:15-22).
“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: 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. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect form the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31).
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35).
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but my Fathe only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the dark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:36-42).