Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of this New Testament book. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39). “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 to morrow, 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 outside of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest 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 when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:31-35).
“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” (Matthew 24:2)
“Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).
TAKE HEED THAT NO MAN DECEIVE YOU! MANY SHALL COME IN MY NAME, SAYING, I AM CHRIST, AND SHALL DECEIVE MANY! [TAKE HEED! DECEPTION] 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! [SEE THAT YE BE NOT TROUBLED] FOR NATION SHALL RISE AGAINST NATION, AND KINGDOM AGAINST KINGDOM: AND THERE SHALL BE FAMINES, AND PESTILENCES, AND EARTHQUAKES, IN DIVERS PLACES! ALL THESE ARE THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS! 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! [PREPARE TO BE PERSECUTED! PREPARE TO BE HATED] AND THEN SHALL MANY BE OFFENDED, AND SHALL BETRAY ONE ANOTHER, AND SHALL HATE ONE ANOTHER! [MANY SHALL BE OFFENDED! MANY SHALL BETRAY ONE ANOTHER! MANY SHALL HATE ONE ANOTHER] 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! [DECEPTION! INIQUITY ABOUNDING! LOVE GROWING COLD! ENDURANCE UNTO THE END!] 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! THEN IF ANY MAN SHALL SAY UNTO YOU, LO, HERE IS CHRIST, OR THERE; BELIEVE IT NOT! THERE SHALL ARISE FALSE CHRISTS, AND FALSE PROPHETS, AND SHALL SHEW GREAT SIGNS AND WONDERS! INSOMUCH THAT, IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, THEY SHALL DECEIVE THE VERY ELECT! BEHOLD I HAVE TOLD YOU BEFORE! 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. [GO NOT, BELIEVE NOT]. (MATTHEW 10—PREPARE TO BE HATED! PREPARE TO BE PERSECUTED! PREPARE TO BE AFFLICTED!]
When you come to the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew you will encounter two of the greatest chapters in the entire New Testament concerning the Last Days and the end of times. You cannot read these two chapters without being directly confronted with the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus did indeed and did in fact speak of the Last Days, and here within these chapters we find powerful language which was spoken by Jesus concerning those days. It’s interesting and worth noting that what we have in these passages is not only a discourse and dialogue concerning the Last Days according to Jesus, but we also find Jesus speaking of the Last Days using a familiar method of teaching which was found elsewhere throughout the gospel narratives. It is in the twenty-fourth chapter of this gospel narrative we find Jesus speaking quite plainly and quite clearly concerning the Last Days, while it is in the twenty-fifth chapter we find Jesus using parables to teach truths concerning the kingdom of heaven. It is impossible to read the words found in these two chapters and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth which Jesus spoke and which Jesus revealed concerning the Last Days. What makes this truly interesting and intriguing is when you consider these two chapters in light of the words which are found in the final verses of the twenty-third chapter. After just indicting the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy on multiple fronts Jesus would then turn and direct His attention and His focus toward the city of Jerusalem. In the final verses of the twenty-third chapter we find Jesus speaking directly unto Jerusalem and speaking to this ancient city of the great King as the city which killed the prophets and stoned those which were sent unto them. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare and describe how often He would have desired to gather together their children, but the inhabitants of this ancient city would and refused not. It is in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth verses of this chapter we find Jesus proclaiming and declaring a time of great devastation and destruction concerning Jerusalem—a time that would rival that which the ancient city experienced during the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, as well as Zedekiah king of Judah.
In the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth verses of the twenty-third chapter we find and read Jesus declaring unto the city of Jerusalem, as well as to the inhabitants therein that her house is left desolate. Moreover, Jesus would go on to declare that the inhabitants of and the city of Jerusalem itself would not see Him henceforth until they declared, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” What makes the words found in these final verses so incredibly captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that this ancient city of Jerusalem had in times past stoned those which were sent unto them, and they killed the prophets which were among them, and now we find Jesus declaring concerning this city that they were continuing in the steps of their ancestors and fathers with their treatment of the Christ and the Messiah which was among them. It would be as a direct result of the final events of the Passion Week which would take place leading up to the betrayal of Jesus, His subsequent arrest, His being flogged and scourged by Roman soldiers, and ultimately His crucifixion at the hands of the Romans this ancient city would follow in the path of their ancestors and forefathers, for just as their forefathers killed the prophets and stoned those which were sent unto them, so also would the inhabitants of Jerusalem despise and reject the Messiah. In fact, we know from the words which are found in the prophetic book of Isaiah that the Messiah would come and would be manifested, and that He would be despised and rejected—despite the fact that He would bear up our iniquities, our burdens, our transgressions, and our sins. The words and language we find within these final verses of the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is Jesus not only emphatically declaring concerning Jerusalem that they were following in the steps and path of their ancestors and forefathers, but also as a direct result of their treatment of the Messiah during the time and hour of their visitation their house would be left desolate.
It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words which are found in the final verses of the twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative, for Jesus would actually pick up on this theme when you transition into the twenty-fourth chapter of this same gospel narrative. If you begin reading with and from the opening verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that as Jesus went out and departed from the Temple His disciples would come unto Him that they might show unto Him the buildings of the Temple. In response to the disciples showing Him all the buildings of the Temple Jesus would ask the disciples concerning those things which they saw, those things which they looked upon, and those things which they beheld. Jesus would declare unto the disciples that there would not be left there one stone upon another which would not be cast down. These words must be carefully understood, for the words which you find in the opening verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of this gospel narrative continue the theme that was begun in the final verses of the previous chapter. It would be in the previous chapter Jesus would emphatically declare concerning Jerusalem that her house would be left desolate, and would thus speak of a time to come when this ancient city would be surrounded by a foreign army, and when siege works would be set up round about the city. Jesus would speak concerning the city of Jerusalem and would emphatically declare that there was coming a time when the city of Jerusalem would be surrounded by an enemy and adversary once more—much like when the city was surrounded during the days of Zedekiah king of Judah, as the Babylonian army was outside the city with all its siege works. It would be during the days of this final king of Judah that the city of Jerusalem would be placed under siege for eighteen months before the wall would finally be broken through, before the city would be broken up, and before the gates would be burned with fire together with the Temple of the LORD.
The words which we find in the final verses of the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words we find in the opening verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the same gospel must be understood and considered before having a discussion concerning the Last Days and the end of times, for the words which you find in these two sections of Scripture are words that would speak concerning a coming time of devastation and destruction upon and in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. The disciples sought to show Jesus the buildings of the Temple, and yet in the midst of that which the disciples sought to show unto Jesus He would show and declare unto them a greater truth concerning the Temple, concerning the buildings of the Temple, concerning the houses of the city of Jerusalem, and concerning the wall of Jerusalem. In the final verses of the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you find Jesus declaring concerning Jerusalem that her house would be left desolate, and in the opening verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the same gospel you will find Jesus speaking directly concerning the Temple—and not only concerning the Temple but also concerning the wall of the city of Jerusalem, as well as its houses and gates. Jesus would indeed and would in fact speak of the house of Jerusalem being desolate in the midst of the earth, and when speaking unto the disciples Jesus would declare that there would not be left one stone upon another which would not be cast down. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this dialogue and exchange which took place between Jesus and His disciples, for Jesus would proclaim, declare and speak of a time of great devastation and destruction which would come upon the ancient city of Jerusalem as an invading force that would not only surround the city, but would also enter the city and unleash a reign of terror, a reign of devastation and destruction. That which Jesus would speak about would concern the invasion of Judaea by the Roman army, and how the Roman army would lay siege to the city of Jerusalem as the Babylonians did, and as the Roman tenth legion would destroy the Temple of the LORD as they would burn it to the ground.
The disciples would show unto Jesus all the buildings of the Temple, and in response to that which they would show unto Him Jesus would speak of a coming time of devastation and destruction that would come upon the city. It is important for us to realize and understand that the words which Jesus had spoken here on this particular occasion as both He and the disciples would leave the Temple would directly reference days in the not too distant future—specifically the year 70 A.D.—when the Roman army would invade the land of Judaea, and when the Roman army would lay siege to and destroy the city of Jerusalem. In all reality, this reality might also be alluded to as you continue to read further in the twenty-fourth chapter, for Jesus would speak about a time when the abomination which causes desolation which the prophet Daniel had spoken of would stand in the midst of the Temple. In the twenty-fourth chapter of this gospel narrative you will find Jesus continuing to speak concerning a time of great trouble and tribulation, and how all those within the city would flee and depart from the city that they might spare and save themselves from the destruction and devastation that would come upon the city. Jesus knew that after His death there would be a lull in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and that the city of Jerusalem would remain within and upon the earth, but that a time was coming when the city would be utterly and completely destroyed—and not only destroyed, but destroyed for the second time. Jesus knew and saw a time coming when the wall of the city would be broken through and broken down, when the gates of the city would be broken down and burned with fire, and when the Temple of the LORD would itself be consumed and destroyed with fire. Jesus knew that just as the Babylonians had done in times past, so also would the Romans do in the coming days. Not less than forty years after Jesus Himself would be crucified, buried, raised to life again on the third day, and ascended unto the right hand of the Father the city of Jerusalem would come under siege by the Roman army, and the inhabitants of the city would either be killed with the sword, or would flee the midst of the city. Those who were wise and those who took heed to the words which Jesus spoke would flee the city and flee from the coming wrath—perhaps the coming wrath which John the Baptist spoke about—that they might save and spare themselves from what was to come.
As you read the words which are found beginning to read with and from the fifteenth verse of the twenty-fourth chapter you will find Jesus speaking about a time of great tribulation—and not only a time of great tribulation that would come during the Last Days and at the end of time, but also a time of great tribulation which would take place in the coming days. There were dark and dangerous days which lie ahead for the inhabitants of Judaea—and for the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem especially—and it would be Jesus who would speak of and warn of this coming time of desolation and devastation which would come like a flood. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this, for while I am absolutely and completely convinced the devastation and destruction which would come upon the city of Jerusalem would be in direct response to their reception and treatment of the Messiah, I am also convinced that it is a powerful portent, sign and picture of the coming judgment, wrath, devastation and destruction which would come upon the city. There is not a doubt in my mind that the coming calamity, devastation and destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem would be a powerful picture and sign that would not only point to, but would also reveal the days which would be manifested in the midst of the earth in the Last Days and at the end of time. We cannot read the words found in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters of this gospel narrative and not find Jesus speaking of a coming time of devastation and destruction, but also in speaking concerning that time also providing a powerful picture of the devastation and destruction which would take place in the Last Days. The words which Jesus had spoken during this time would indeed and would in fact be heeded by some who would take warning, as they would flee the city of Jerusalem and would seek shelter and safety from the wrath and judgment which was to come. Consider if you will the following words which are found written and recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter beginning to read with and from the fifteenth verse:
“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 hoestop 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” (Matthew 24:15-21).
It is quite obvious when reading the final words written in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same book that Jesus knew a time of desolation and devastation was coming upon the city of Jerusalem, as well as upon the land of Judaea. Jesus knew and was well aware of the awesome and tremendous truth that times of great calamity and chaos would come upon the city of Jerusalem, and that days of wrath and judgment would be manifested upon and in the midst of it. The words we find in verses fifteen through twenty-one of the twenty-fourth chapter point to and reveal the awesome truth that there would be those who would take heed and there would be those who were able to receive the warning and word of the LORD and would take flight into the mountains. There would be those who would hear the sound of coming destruction and devastation, and as a result would flee to the nations and lands round about the city of Jerusalem. In fact, we know in the New Testament book of Acts that one of the portents and precursors to the devastation and destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem was the great persecution which would break out against the early Church. It would be the great persecution that would break out during the days of Saul of Tarsus which would cause countless Jews and Christians to flee from Jerusalem, and flee from Judaea into the surrounding nations and lands. It was for this reason Saul sought to journey unto Damascus, for there were Christians and followers of the way which were present in the city of Jerusalem. Scripture is unclear what would and what could have happened to Saul—much more the Christians which were in the surrounding cities, nations and lands—had Saul not encounter Jesus on the road to Damascus and been wonderfully and powerfully converted. The great persecution we read about in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles would speak of a great persecution that would break out against the early Church during the days of the apostles, and how that great persecution would indeed and would in fact cause countless Christians to flee from the midst of Jerusalem, Judaea, and perhaps even Galilee as well. One thing we know for sure is that it would be during the days of Saul of Tarsus a great persecution would break out against the early Church, and how that persecution would cause countless Christians and followers of the way to flee from and abandon their homes as they would escape from the great and terrible persecution that would come upon the city.
PERSECUTION A SIGN OF JUDGMENT? PERSECUTION A PRECURSOR TO JUDGMENT? PERSECUTION A PORTENT OF WRATH? It is as I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in these two chapters of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words found in the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles that causes me to consider the tremendous reality whether or not persecution is both a sign and a portent of judgment and wrath to come. The more I consider the persecution of the early Church, and the more I consider how countless Christians within the early Church would flee from Jerusalem in the midst of the persecution which would first break out against them within the city of Jerusalem, the more I can’t help but think about and wonder if persecution is indeed a sign and portent of a judgment and wrath which was to come. It’s interesting and worth noting that if you study the history of the early Church you will find that while persecution against the early Church would indeed and would in fact begin in the city of Jerusalem, it would eventually spread throughout the surrounding regions, and would even find its way into Europe and Asia. What’s more, is that there would come a time when it would no longer be Jerusalem which would persecute the Christians the followers of the way, but it would be Rome itself which would persecute the Christians and the followers of the way. There would come a time when Rome itself would essentially and figuratively pick up the mantle of persecuting the Christians and persecuting the early Church as they would torture and imprison many, as they would crucify others, as they would send others into the arena to be slaughtered by wild beasts, and as others would be burned at the stake. The narrative and account of the early church in the days leading up to the invasion of Rome in the midst of the Judaea and upon the city of Jerusalem would point to and reveal the awesome and incredible reality that persecution might very well be both a sign and a portent of judgment and wrath which was to come. It might very well be that when you see, behold and witness persecution beginning to take place and manifest itself in the midst of the land it was a sure sign that judgment and wrath was on the horizon and would be manifested in the land.
There is something deeply profound about this concept of persecution taking place in the midst of the city of Jerusalem—and not only in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, but also in the surrounding cities, nations and lands—that would stand as a powerful sign, witness and portent of what was to come. I sit here today considering the persecution which would break out against the early Church in the city of Jerusalem, and I consider the persecution which would break out against the Christians within and throughout the Roman Empire by Rome itself, and how persecution itself might very well be a powerful sign and portent of that which was to come. I can’t help but think and consider how persecution, how affliction, how oppression, and how affliction would be that which would serve as a warning that judgment and wrath was on the horizon, and that those who were able to take heed, and those who were able to be warned would remember the words of Jesus and would respond to His words. There is not a doubt in my mind that the persecution which broke out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem which would cause the early Church to scatter among the nations and lands would be a sign of a great persecution which was to come—and not only of a great persecution which was to come, but also of judgment and wrath which was most certainly to follow. What’s more, is that not only would the persecution which would break out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem be a sign and portent of greater persecution which was to come, but the persecution that would break out in the midst of the Roman Empire by Rome itself would also stand and serve as a powerful sign and portent that judgment and wrath was on the horizon. Once the persecution would begin in the midst of the land, and once Rome itself would essentially pick up that mantle of persecution, it would be a powerful and emphatic sign, warning and message that judgment and wrath was indeed on the horizon, and was indeed coming. It would be the persecution which would break out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, as well as the persecution which would break out from Rome itself that would serve as a warning and word of caution to those which were in the land that wrath and judgment were on the horizon, and that the words which Jesus had spoken would begin to be fulfilled—at least in part—during those days and in their midst. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which our Lord Jesus spoke concerning the coming persecution which would be manifested in the midst of the earth during those days:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak For it not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciples that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops, And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:16-28).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the Temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36).
Each of these passages found within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew points and alludes to a time of persecution that would come upon the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ. It would be when Jesus sent His disciples out two by two for the first time that He would speak of them being delivered up to councils, being scourged in synagogues, and being brought before governors and kings for the sake of His name. Furthermore, Jesus would go on to speak about brother delivering up brother to death, the faither delivering up the child to death, and how children will rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death. What’s more, is Jesus would go on to declare unto His disciples that they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and would then immediately follow this up with emphatically declaring and speaking unto His disciples concerning being persecuted in one city, and when they were persecuted in one city they were to flee to another. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that when Jesus sent His disciples out two by two for the first time He would send them out having prepared them for persecution, having prepared them for affliction, having prepared them for opposition, and having prepared them to be hated of all men for His name’s sake. Jesus sent His disciples out to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves—to love their neighbor as themselves, and to love their enemies with the same love they loved their brothers—and in the midst of that environment and world Jesus was sending them into they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake. This is actually quite interesting when you take the time to think about it, for when Jesus sent His disciples out He didn’t send them out to be received, to be welcomed, and to be embrace, but to be hated of all men for His name’s sake. Jesus would even prepare His disciples for entering into houses and cities and those present in the midst thereof would not only not receive, but would also despise and reject them and their message. Jesus would go on to emphatically instruct them to shake the dust off their feet when they enter into house or city and were not received by those to whom they brought the word and message of the kingdom. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful truth, for it helps shine a tremendous spotlight on to the words which Jesus would speak unto His disciples as they were leaving Jerusalem, and as they were leaving the Temple.
There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest signs and portents of judgment and wrath is the persecution of the saints of the most high God. I firmly believe that one of the greatest signs and warnings concerning judgment and wrath which was to come is persecution breaking out against the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ. In fact, this reality is aptly demonstrated and painted for us—not only in the prophetic book of Daniel, but also in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. It is in the prophetic book of Daniel we find this ancient Hebrew prophet writing and speaking concerning the persecution and war of attrition that would be waged against the saints of the most high God, and how the beast can and will seek to not only wage war against the saints, but will also seek wear them out. It is in the prophetic book of Daniel we encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that the beast can and will rise up against the saints of the most High, and will wage a great and powerful war of attrition against them that he might wear them down. In fact, so great would this persecution be that Jesus Himself would say that unless those days were shortened no man would be saved. This is an all important truth and reality to recognize and understand, for it not only points to what the prophet Daniel prophesied and spoke during his days and generation, but also what the apostle John saw during his days and generation when he received the revelation of Jesus the Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the most powerful signs and portents concerning judgment and wrath is the persecution of the saints—and not only the persecution of the saints, but the outright despising and rejecting of them. We know for a fact that the early Church was persecuted first within the city of Jerusalem, and that it was that persecution which would force them to flee into the surrounding cities within Judaea—and even unto the surrounding nations and lands. We also know that Rome itself would be the second major city—and not only major city, but kingdom and empire within and upon the earth—that would take and pick up this mantle of persecution of the saints of God. It would be these two persecutions which would break out against the early Church that would ultimately signal the judgment and wrath of the LORD that would break forth within and upon the earth, and would ultimately manifest itself in the midst of and upon the city of Jerusalem. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the words which are found in both the prophetic book of Daniel, as well as the words which are found in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ:
“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousands times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and through brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns that were in his head, of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the mog 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. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take way his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:9-28).
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it” (Daniel 8:23-27).
“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:13-17).
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? 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. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 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. And all that dwel 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. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:1-10).
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And 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 dwel on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:11-18).
Each of these passages points to the tremendous reality that in the Last Days there is going to be a tremendous persecution that is going to break out in the midst of the earth—a persecution that will not be directed toward those within the world, but a persecution that will be directed toward the saints of the most High God. Within the prophetic book of Daniel we not only find the language of “making war with the saints,” but we also find the language of seeking to “wear out the saints. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for not only is one of the signs and portents of the judgment and wrath persecution which can and will break out against the saints of the most High God, but persecution of the saints can and will be the means of the enemy and adversary to wear out and break down the endurance of the saints. It is no wonder, nor should it be any surprise that when sending the disciples out two by two, as well as when speaking of the Last Days Jesus would speak of the need for endurance, and would emphatically declare that those who endured would be those who were saved. It is this reality and concept of persecution against the saints that must be carefully considered and understood, for one of the greatest tools the enemy can and will use in the Last Days to wear out and make war with the saints is going to be that of persecution. We within the United States of America have been blessed to have been able to worship in any house of worship we choose and desire, and have been able to name the name of Jesus the Christ freely without any fear of repercussion or consequence. While there have been times within recent months and years when Christians have experienced “mild” persecution as it pertains to speaking out against sin, iniquity and transgression, we have seen absolutely nothing like what the Christians in the Middle East, and what the Christians see in Islamic and Communist countries have seen in Asia. There is a tremendous freedom that is found within the Unite States that guarantees our ability to worship and serve Jesus the Christ with our whole hearts, and we have yet to see any type or form of persecution—the likes of which Scripture reveals and points to. There have been very few within the United States who upon this soil and upon this ground have experienced persecution the way Scripture describes. It was while speaking concerning the Last Days Jesus would speak unto the disciples concerning the Last Days, and how it would be during the Last Days the enemy and adversary would flood the earth with an increase of persecution, deception, and even offense. Consider if you will the following words which are found within the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“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? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 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. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. 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 23:5-14).
“…And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man 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 shall 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 cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:22-28).
As you read the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that when Jesus spoke of the Last Days—while He did in fact speak of times of great trouble and tribulation, He would also speak of the dangers, the struggles, and the conflicts the saints of God and disciples of Jesus can and will face. Upon reading the words found in these verses you will find Jesus speaking of deception which would arise from the manifestation of “false Christs” which will emerge on to the scene and who will unleash a flood and torrent of destruction in their path and in their wake. I have previously written concerning this reality and have thought and considered whether or not there will actually be an increased number of individuals who will declare that they are indeed the Christ. The more I have thought about and considered this the more I began thinking about and wondering if what perhaps isn’t a more accurate rendering, and perhaps a more accurate interpretation is many who will arise during the last days and will make the claim that they are “Christ’s”—a claim of possession rather than identity. In other words, there would be those who would rise up in the last days and will make the claim that they belong to Christ—and even that they are followers and disciples of Christ, and yet are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing and false brethren. It was Jesus Himself who spoke of false prophets and false teachers, and it was the apostle Paul who spoke about false brethren who would themselves creep in unaware claiming and professing to be disciples and followers of Christ and yet were not. It would be unto the churches of Galatia the apostle Paul would write unto them that there were false brethren who crept in unaware to spy out and spy on the liberty they had in Jesus the Christ. I am convinced that such a statement and such a reality is directly linked to that which Jesus the Christ spoke within this passage of Scripture when He spoke that many will rise up in His name, and many will rise up claiming to be Christ’s and Christ followers. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest dangers the true disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ face in the Last Days comes from those false brethren who creep in unaware among the body of Christ, and those who profess and pretend to be someone and something they are not that they might appear as ministers of light. This should be no marvel—as the apostle Paul wrote—for even the devil himself masquerades himself as an angel of light.
The more I think about and consider the narrative surrounding the Last Days the more I am absolutely and completely convinced that three of the enemy’s and adversary’s greatest tactics and weapons in the last days are going to be deception, persecution and offense. The Last Days are going to be some of the most difficult, some of the most challenging, and some of the most oppressive days in all of history, and it is the Last Days which will not only see the manifestation of the judgment and wrath of the LORD, but will also prepare and make the way for that judgment and wrath to be manifested. You cannot read the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ and not encounter and come face to face with the strong reality that the days leading up to the Last Days can and will be days that are filled with great trouble and tribulation, and in the midst of that trouble and tribulation there will also be certain and specific tools which can and will be used by the enemy and adversary. I firmly believe that the enemy can and will seek to mount a full scale assault and attack on the believers during the last days, and that his initial source of attack is going to be deception—deception through false brethren, deception through false teachers, deception through false prophets, and deception through those who profess to be Christ’s and those who profess to be followers of Christ and those who walk with Him. Moreover, the enemy can and will seek to use lying signs and false wonders in the Last Days that he might further seek to deceive the elect and deceive the saints of God. It is absolutely unmistakable to read and consider the words found in Scripture concerning the Last Days, for I firmly believe the enemy can and will use deception as his first major assault and attack upon the saints of God. The enemy can and will seek to deceive the elect, and deceive the saints of God through a variety of means he has at his disposal that he might bring as many people into the lake of fire and brimstone as possible. The enemy and adversary knows that his time is short and that he has but a little while, and he knows what the scripture says about his final plight and demise, and he is working on ensuring that he brings as many people with him throughout history to that terrible and frightful place.
With all of this being said—as much and as certainly as the enemy and adversary can and will use deception as a means to assault and attack the people of God and the disciples of Christ, he will also use persecution as a means to assault and attack the people of God. IF you read the narrative of the early Church you will find that there were constant dangers from false prophets and false teachers who would creep in among the churches of God introducing false doctrines so as to deceive the elect and the people of God. Many of the letters which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches was to combat this false teaching, and even the apostle Paul when writing unto Timothy in both letters, as well as the apostle Peter and Jude wrote and warned about the dangers of false teachers and false prophets in the Last Days. Even the apostle John would write about antichrists which would go out from among them, and Jesus Himself—when calling for letters to be written and sent to the seven churches of Asia—would warn these churches and congregations about the rampant deception that was present among them in their midst. What’s more, is that within these letters you will also find Jesus speaking about persecution, which was and will always be one of the greatest tools and weapons in the hands of the enemy and adversary. Persecution of the saints in the midst of the earth has always been and will always be one of the greatest weapons and tools in the hands of the enemy—particularly and especially if he cannot destroy you through deception. If the enemy and adversary cannot assault and assail you through deception then he will seek to wear you down and wear you out through persecution, through suffering, through affliction, and through opposition. There is not a doubt in my mind that persecution and suffering is not only a matter of the enemy and adversary making war against the saints of the living God, but also about seeking to wear them down and wear them out in a war and battle of attrition. I believe that persecution, affliction, opposition, trial, and trouble can and will be used of the enemy and adversary as a means to seek to destroy those whom he perhaps cannot destroy through deception. Please keep in mind that there will indeed be those whose hearts and minds can and will be deceived, and they will allow themselves to be carried away with strange doctrines and divers lusts.
Building upon this even further I am convinced that if the enemy and adversary cannot destroy you through deception, and if he cannot wear you down and wear you out through persecution then he will seek to overcome you with offense and offense. You will recall in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew that Jesus declared it is impossible but that offense can and will come and be manifested in the midst of the earth. With this being Jesus also warned against becoming offended in the midst of a world of offenses, and how to guard our hearts from and against offenses. It was Jesus who offered two timely and proven methods of living an unoffended life in the midst of an offended world and in the midst of offense. The first way of guarding our hearts and our minds from offense is to actually speak to and confront those individuals, or that one whom we feel has offended and wronged us. Essentially that which Jesus the Christ suggest and spoke was instead of holding in that which was perhaps done to us, we are to confront our brother and him alone with the offense we believe has been committed. It would be these means which Jesus would suggest would be a powerful guard against being offended, for if we are unwilling to even hold on a possible offense and are willing to address it, then the chances of our being offended are much lower. What’s more, is that Jesus would offer a second method of guarding our hearts from offense, and that is through forgiveness—forgiveness of those whom we feel have wronged us, or those individuals who have actually wronged us. It’s important to note that there is a vast difference between being wronged, and feeling as though we have been wronged by others. There is a vast difference between our thinking and believing others have wronged us, and others actually doing something which can indeed and can in fact wrong and offend us.
It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which are found within these verses and within this passage of Scripture, for in the Last Days the enemy can and will seek to make war against us and wear us out—first through deception, then through persecution, and finally through offense. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this truly awesome and wonderful reality, for it helps us to understand that which not only will be prevalent in the Last Days, but also that which can and will be a sign and a portent of that which is to come in the last days. Persecution, deception and offense can and will be signs and portents of the judgment and wrath which is to come, and it’s important that we recognize and understand this, for we must needs know exactly how the enemy and adversary is going to come against us. It is in the twelfth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ we encounter another one of the enemy’s tactics and strategies—one, however which I am convinced will have its limitations considering what Scripture says and speaks concerning the accuser of the brethren which accused the saints of God night and day being cast down to the earth. WHEN THE ACCUSER IS CAST FORTH FROM HIS PLACE OF ACCUSATION! The twelfth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ reveals and points to yet another way and means the enemy and adversary will seek to make war with and wear the saints and people of God out during the Last Days—namely through accusation, through deception, through persecution and through offense. We have a great need to recognize and understand each of these four weapons and tools the enemy and adversary can and will use during the Last Days, for it is these tools and weapons we must guard our hearts against as we walk through, face and endure the Last Days We have a great need to guard our hearts and our minds from offense, and to do so through biblical confrontation and through forgiveness. I am absolutely and completely convinced that in the Last Days we not only need to guard our hearts and our minds from deception, but we must also guard our hearts and our minds from offense. It is impossible for offenses not to come, and persecution and deception is indeed inevitable, and we have to recognize and understand these realities as we walk through and experience the Last Days—the days in which the ancient Hebrew prophets, the apostles and New Testament authors, and even Jesus Himself spoke about.
As I bring this writing to a close I feel it is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that when Jesus spoke concerning the Last Days He not only warned of days of great tribulation and trouble, but He also spoke of widespread deception, persecution and offense that would be manifested in the Last Days. It would be during those Last Days the love of many will grow cold—and not only will the love of many grow cold, but I am absolutely convinced there can and there will be those who will give up and give in to the pressure and the tremendous weight and burden of the suffering, the tribulation and the persecution that is going to take place. Jesus would warn and instruct His disciples to take heed lest they would themselves be deceived in the Last Days by those professing to be Christ, but He would also call them to patiently and faithfully endure and bear up in the midst of the suffering, in the midst of the tribulation, in the midst of the persecution, and in the midst of the opposition. Jesus would faithfully warn the disciples concerning the dangers and the troubles that would face His disciples and followers during the Last Days, and it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for we must needs take a careful look at our own hearts and lives and whether or not we are going to be those who will faithfully endure during those times, or whether we will be those who will cave under the pressure, and those who will forfeit and throw in the towel. The greatest question you and I must ask ourselves is whether or not we are going to be those who will indeed and will in fact guard our hearts from offense, whether or not we will take heed lest we are deceived, and to bear up and endure in the midst of suffering and persecution in the Last Days, and that we would fully and completely be ready when that moment of the return of Jesus the Christ actually takes place within history.