The Last Generation
An Expository Examination of Matthew 24 and 25
Part One - The Beginning of Sorrows
When Jesus’ disciples were directing the Lord’s attention to all the beautiful stonework that adorned the temple in Jerusalem, (Matthew 24:1, Luke 21:5), He did not admired it with them. Instead He said, -
“See all these things? Truly I say to you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
Jesus had previously been reproving the religious leadership and ended His rebuke to them with this warning; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kills the prophets, and stones them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:37,38). Then He stepped over the broken stones and ornaments of that ruin in His mind and proceeded to the Mount of Olives where His disciples would follow Him to ask:
This study is now available in a book format for easy sharing and classroom use. Our new revised edition includes Help for the Hard Times
Order wherever books are sold
“Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?” (Age) (Matthew 24:3).
Jesus knew His comment on the temple’s future would trigger their question about His second coming, so He chose to answer it on the exact location of His actual return as prophesied in chapter fourteen of the book of Zechariah. – Behold the day of the Lord comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the midst of you (verse 1).
For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city (verse 2).
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle (verse 3).
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south (verse 4).
Before we continue on to understand the Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew twenty-four, we have to remind ourselves again, that Jesus is describing the events that would directly precede His second coming. He is distinctly referring to the “Last Generation” before His return. – “Truly I say to you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled” (verse 34).
Therefore we have to realize that while this prophecy contains elements that relate to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, it is a prediction of another future devastation. It is a duel prophecy and correlates to another duel prophecy in the book of Daniel as we shall see as this study progresses.
With all this in mind, let’s mentally gather ourselves with the disciples on the Mount of Olives and listen to the Lord as He answers their questions regarding this last generation that just might be our own.
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Take heed that no man deceives you” (verse 4).
The first characteristic of this last age is spiritual deception. In other words, the truth of the gospel will be under attack. It will be a time of great apostasy as reiterated by the Apostle Paul. – Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there comes a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (II Thessalonians 2:3).
An apostasy from the Christian faith precedes Jesus’ second coming, which is the result of massive spiritual deception that also precedes the revelation of the “antichrist” - the “man of sin.”
We’ll get back to this later on in this study. We have to see that the antichrist cannot be revealed unless there is a great falling away from the truth of the gospel. It is through the gates of apostasy that the antichrist is enabled to make his entrance upon the world’s stage. With this in mind, we see the importance of cleaving to the scriptures and sound doctrine as vital for our protection.
For many shall come in My name, saying ‘I am Christ; (Messiah) and shall deceive many (verse 5).
Jesus reiterates this point throughout His discourse. It is crucial that we understand that the salvation of multitudes of souls are at stake. Jesus declared very clearly that He is the only way a man can be saved. – I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me (John 14:6).
God has orchestrated His plan of redemption for mankind throughout the Holy Scriptures beginning in Genesis. Jesus affirmed who He is through His fulfillment of those scriptures. - And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).
No one before or after Jesus can claim the same legacy, thus verifying Jesus’ claim to be “the only way.” It behooves us to study the scriptures for ourselves to further protect us from spiritual deceptions: for many will come in My name and deceive many.
Current news articles confirm these words from Jesus’ prophecy. Many false messiahs claiming to be Jesus in the flesh are popping up all over the world. Most of them have great followings of the deceived. These false messiahs are operating under the spirit of antichrist, and again, according to the Lord, this is the first sign we are standing on the conveyor belt that is leading us to the end of the age.
Jesus continues to describe the second sign that precedes His return. –
And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet (verse 6).
The time preceding the great tribulation and Jesus’ return would be characterized by continuous wars. There are people today who have grown up never knowing a time without war.
Jesus tells us not to be troubled about this. These things must be. Our natural desire is to try and fight for peace and stop these atrocities, and we should make our voices heard. But at the same time we must realize that war is a judgment upon mankind for its sin and rebellion against God and His people. We are shown in Revelation 9:20,21, that God will reverse His judgments if men will repent of their sins, which sadly, we are shown that they will not. Conflicts will continue and increase until they reach their prophesied climax.
Many people have done a considerable amount of research and have discovered that most of these wars have been deliberately engineered. In the book of Revelation’s chapter thirteen, we see a prophecy of a beast rising from the sea which correlates to Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 7:7,23). Those researchers and historians have linked the operations of those wars as part of a plan to instigate a last one world government or empire that is foreshadowed by the red beast emerging from Revelation’s pages.
There is a principle in God’s word that shows us that evil must come to its fullness before God destroys it (Genesis 15:16). And He uses evil to slay the wicked (Psalm 34:21). The glowering red tower of evil will be allowed to arise only to a point before its final God ordained destruction. We should protest when our governments enter into these deliberately engineered conflicts, as long as we keep in mind that God is in control, this evil is the result of man's sin and God will rain His judgments on all those He knows have conspired to do evil.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…
Again we realize that as long as men refuse to love one another as our God has commanded, these conflicts will continue until Jesus returns, fulfilling the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 2:4 – And He shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Until then: -
…and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places (verse 7).
Famines and disease are the result of war in many cases, but as we look at the research being done today, we can see food shortages in many areas. Strange diseases are becoming more frequent, as well as earthquakes “in divers places.” In other words, earthquakes will and are occurring in places where they had previously not occurred or have been very rare.
We are told in the next verse that;
All these things are the beginning of sorrows (verse 8).
I believe that this period of time relates to Revelation’s chapters eight through eleven. This is the warning period of the seven trumpets. Trumpets in the scriptures are used to call religious assemblies and are blown before a war. Looking at the context of the book, the seven trumpets are sounded before the actual beginning of the great tribulation which in all probability is instigated by a war.
In Jesus’ discourse we are seeing that these environmental judgments which also correlate to the trumpet judgments in Revelation, chronicles the build up towards Jerusalem’s destruction that Jesus’ is foretelling in this prophecy.
During this time of apostasy, famine, disease and earthquakes, there will be an increase in persecution against the Christians.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake (Verse 9).
Today there are more Christians being martyred than at any other time in history. God’s people will be hated by “all nations.” The vortex that is spinning into the prophesied one world government seeks to unify all religions as one for the sake of a false world peace. The Lord’s servants will refuse to compromise and deny the Lord for the sake of a demonically inspired unity. Thus they will be hated by all nations that are being sucked into this last massive deception before the Lord returns.
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another (verse 10).
There is a disintegration of the character of the people and overall lack of love which is fueled by the instability of the times. The Apostle Paul details the characters of the people which makes these times so “perilous.” - This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come (II Timothy 3:1). For men shall be lovers of their own selves, (a symbol of this self-love is an increase of homosexuality) covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent (without self-control), fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness (religion),but denying the power thereof: (the atonement through which the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit is received) from such turn away (II Timothy 3:3-5).
And many false prophets shall rise and deceive many (verse 11).
This is Jesus’ second warning about spiritual deception. Demons work to influence people’s spirits, preying on their weaknesses and basic self-centeredness, creating the disintegration of character that the Apostle Paul has described. The false prophets that the devil engineers into society feed and enflame the basic carnality in human nature. Their messages are designed to feed the flesh within a veneer of spirituality. A true messenger from God will not divert from the authority of the first century apostles who promoted a true spirituality and a selflessness that reflects Christ.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold (verse 12).
Love for our fellow man is the glue that holds the fabric of society together. Because of the increase in “iniquity” there is also an increase of fear. When we love, we make ourselves vulnerable to another, but fear of being harmed, or not having love reciprocated, will cause many to withdraw into their loveless shells for self-protection. As Christians we are called to follow Jesus’ example of selfless giving. His perfect love for us and in us, casts off all fear. Jesus’ disciples will continue to serve and exhibit the love of God for others through them, in spite of the risks.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (verse 13).
In other words, those who cleave to the truth of the gospel will not be deceived into leaving the faith, and thus will receive the outcome of their faith, the salvation of their souls (I Peter 1:9).
The scriptures show us clearly that we must remain in the faith in order to be saved. If we deny Jesus by embracing the deception that all other religions are valid, then we have accepted another version of the gospel that was not taught by our founding apostles. We can be assured that if we fall into this error, that Jesus will deny us (Matthew 10:33). Those faithful disciples will be the ones sowing the seeds of truth in spite of a multitude of obstacles.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come (verse 14).
Through the use of modern technology the gospel has been broadcast over the entire world, as "a witness to the nations.” Every government in every country today has heard of Jesus the Messiah, and many have rejected him, including His own people in the nation of Israel. These descendants of Abraham have the heritage and the prophecies that reveal the identity of the true messiah, yet they have refused to receive Him, opening the door to their own condemnation. This is one reason that Israel will be a catalyst for the catastrophe that is to come upon the world, known as “the great tribulation.”
Part Two - The Great Tribulation and the Second Coming
As we look back across the landscape of Jesus’ words from our pinnacle of the present, we can see that all the things he told us that would be “the beginning of sorrows” are happening at this moment in time. If you don’t believe that, then you really haven’t been paying attention to what is being reported from various news outlets all over the world, Christian and secular.
We are swiftly approaching the event that Jesus has christened “the great tribulation,” in verse twenty-one of His verbal portrait of the times we are actually living now.
While the initial events leading up to this catastrophe have and are being fulfilled at this moment, as of this writing we are awaiting the fulfillment of the sign that will catapult the world into an age of darkness.
When you therefore shall see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place; (whoever reads, let him understand :) (verse 15 from Daniel 9:27).
Jesus is referring us back to Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks in the ninth chapter of his prophecy. This again is showing us that Daniel’s prophecy is also a duel prophecy. In verse twenty-six we are shown Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD, after an “anointed one” is killed. The Messiah Jesus was killed and the city was destroyed forty years afterward, as Jesus prophesied (Luke 19:43, 44). We note that the “prince that is to come,” the antichrist, emerges from the people who destroyed the city. So this prophecy is predicting two events, one in 70AD, and the future appearance of the one who is to desecrate the holy place. We can conclude that there may be another attack on Jerusalem which enables “the prince” to gain control, as he comes from the people who attack the city. We are shown in Zechariah’s prophecy that Israel is to experience another captivity prior to the Lord’s return (Zechariah 14:1,2).
Bible prophecies are a bit like the analogy that is used of the tapestry. When we look at the backside, the threads look unorganized and don’t make any sense until the tapestry is turned over and we can see the completed picture. Likewise, the individual threads of the prophecies that relate to these end times are woven throughout the scriptures, and we really can’t understand the completed picture until those events are fulfilled. But we can, through the help of the Holy Spirit, begin to connect those individual threads together to form a basic picture of what we need to understand the most to help prepare us for what lies ahead.
As I have previously mentioned, Jesus’ describes the “beginning of sorrows” which correlates to the warning period of the trumpets in Revelation chapters eight through eleven. At the end of chapter eleven, the seventh and last trumpet sounds, (Rev. 11:15) signaling that time is coming to its conclusion. We can assume that after the sounding of that seventh trumpet the antichrist will be revealed.
In Jesus’ discourse He does not give us any details as to how the antichrist gains entrance to the holy of holies. It may be through a war, or some other means. Most assume that in order for the holy of holies, the inner court of the temple to be desecrated, the temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem. As of this writing there is a concentrated effort to rebuild the temple. The Jews believe that their messiah will not come until it is completed. Their messiah, as the scriptures reveal is the “prince that is to come” that desecrates the holy place. Only the high priest is allowed to enter that sacred space to make a yearly atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus has already made that sacrifice. To resume a system that God has decreed as no longer necessary is an act of rebellion and a desecration in itself. The Apostle Paul shows us that the antichrist will enter that space and demand worship, proclaiming that he is God (II Thessalonians 2:3,4, Daniel 11:37). This is a communist. We see an example of this operating in North Korea where the country’s leadership is the object of worship for the people and it is their religion.
We know that it is also prophesied that there is to be a final one world government/empire that will be ruling the world before Jesus returns. Daniel sees this empire in Daniel 7: 7, 23, and the Apostle John reveals it in Revelation’s chapter thirteen. The antichrist will emerge from this empire (Daniel 7: 7,8,20,21, 24, 25,) and be placed in a position of total control over the world and its economy (Daniel 11:43).
A deliberately engineered third world war may be a major instrument in enabling the last empire to come into its fullness. In spite of the devastation that war may inflict upon the planet and the lives of its inhabitants, Jesus does not see that destruction as the great tribulation. That event occurs only after the antichrist attempts to take God’s place as the object of worship. This desecration of the inner court is the sign for the inhabitants of Israel to flee to the mountains. –
Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains: (verse 16).
Why are they being told to flee? Because the antichrist will seek to destroy all who refuse to bow to Him as God. This would include Christians, Jews and Muslims. While great differences exist in their belief systems, Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe that there is one God, the God of Abraham. Jesus is telling these ones to run and hide because their lives are in danger. The next two verses are similar in their warnings.
Let him which is on the housetops not come down to take anything out of his house: (verse 17).
Christians living in a village in the Middle East were attacked by militant Muslims. The Christians fled, but later one young man returned to his house to collect some goods. He was murdered by his Muslim neighbors.
Neither let him which is in the field return to take his clothes (verse 18).
Jesus is saying, “Get out quickly.” He is also showing us that we all need to be spiritually detached from the things of this life as a preparation for what is to come. In Luke’s version of Jesus’ sermon, we are told to “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). Don’t look back, and long for the things of this life that you need to let go of when the time comes. If you are too attached to the things of this life, and turn your gaze back upon what you must leave behind, you can become immobilized in your spiritual walk with the Lord and will not be able to move forward to the safety of those mountains; the new heights the Lord wants you to attain in your relationship with Him.
And woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days (verse 19).
Escaping to the wilderness with a newborn or young children is terrifying as any refugee knows. Being pursued by a blood thirsty monster is a nightmare come to life. The devil hates what God loves, and God loves little children who represent the pure, simple trust He loves to see in anyone who comes to Him. The attack on children in these last days is intensifying and will cumulate in the time of darkness that Jesus is describing.
But pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day (verse 20).
The Lord is showing us here that God will respond to prayer, and certain physical elements of this time of persecution can be altered through intercession. We are to pray continually, without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17), which means we must always maintain our connection with God for our protection.
Jesus’ reference to the Sabbath pinpoints His remarks here specifically to the religious Jews who observe the Sabbath. This represents those Jews in Jerusalem who would not bow their knee to worship the antichrist, a man proclaiming to be God.
We can’t help but see the similarities of the antichrist’s demand for worship and the extreme form of communism that is enforced in North Korea at this present time. The religion of that country is called Juche, which is the worship of that nation’s dictator and his family. This is also similar to the emperor worship of the ancient Roman Empire, of which the latter day one world government is a form.
The attempt by the antichrist to eliminate anyone who will not worship him, is the great tribulation.
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be (verse 21).
This event correlates to Daniel 12:1, and is referred to as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30: 6,7). It’s a blood bath, the moment in time when the devil is permitted to vent his rage for the last time.
Many Christians believe that this time period only applies to the Jews, but there will also be many Christians on earth at this time. While a remnant will be removed or protected from this season, many Christians will have also come to the Lord during this time, mostly through supernatural means (Revelation 14:6) as open evangelism will be extremely difficult or impossible.
And except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened (verse 22).
At the same time the antichrist is trying to eliminate all those who will not cooperate with his mandates, the plagues described in Revelation’s chapter sixteen have developed into their fullness. There is so much destruction that this time must be shortened or none would survive spiritually as well as physically. The term “elect” refers to God’s chosen in the Messiah, not just Jews as some have assumed (Colossians 3:11,12, II Timothy 2:10, I Peter 1:2). There are still many Christians and Messianic Jews struggling to survive during this season. While they are fully assured of their salvation they have been given by faith in the Messiah Jesus, the Jews and others who realize that the antichrist is not the messiah are still searching for deliverance.
Then if any man shall say to you, lo, here is messiah, or there; believe it not (verse 23).
After the Jews realize that the antichrist is not the messiah, they will be candidates for even more deception. Desperate for the deliverance that is promised by his appearance, Jesus warns them through this sermon, that it is a vain thing to believe that help will be given through any mere man, when the Son of God has already delivered them from the bondage of death through His sacrifice.
Jesus warns us again of the spiritual deception that is here now and will still be operating during this time of persecution. -
For there shall arise false messiahs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (verse 24).
The demonic power of witchcraft will be interwoven with clever words counterfeiting the truth. Unless God’s people are firmly grounded in the words of Jesus and His apostles, they will be candidates for deception. Any doctrine that can be refuted by the scriptures is false, even though the corrupt words are accompanied by “miracles.” The false prophets in Pharaoh’s court withstood Moses for a time, showing us the power witchcraft has to deceive. All those who refuse to abandon the simple purity of God’s word will not be deceived. It is your lifeline in the storm.
Behold, I have told you before (verse 25).
This short reminder is one we need to keep implanted in our minds and hearts. Jesus has reaffirmed to us that the greatest danger we face is spiritual deception.
Years ago I had a dream where I was standing in a tower. In the distance I saw fish swimming in the sea and they were being eaten by manatees. Manatees are vegetarians, they don’t eat fish, but they gave rise to the mermaid legends. So what I was being shown was people represented by the fish being devoured by myths symbolized by the manatees.
At this moment false doctrine is rampant in the church. Cults and New Age religions are gaining in popularity. Many Christians are being deceived into believing that they can be saved by leaving Jesus for Judaism. There is an increase in witchcraft in the United States. The darkness of this present time is going to intensify. Soak yourself in God’s word and protect yourself from deception. Be assured that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). The Son of God is not a liar.
Wherefore if they shall say to you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not (verse 26).
Today the Jews are eagerly awaiting the advent of their messiah. We are shown here, that even after the antichrist is revealed, the Jews are still seeking deliverance through their concept of the messiah, a man who will come and deliver them from their captivity. Their prayers and seeking will be answered, but not in the way they have planned.
Jesus continues to show us that His coming will be a totally supernatural event.
For as lightening comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (verse 27).
In other words, His coming will be as a great light and power that splits the darkness, coming from above, and not according to a man’s expectations. It will be a supernatural event.
For where ever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together (verse 28).
Jesus is indicating here that His coming will be at a time of intense persecution and death. There will be many carcasses, and predators, symbolized by the eagles or vultures. These scavengers will be triumphing in their supposed victories over the seeming destruction of God’s people, specifically the Christian church. But every time a Christian is martyred for their faith, his soul immediately ascends from his body in victory to be included in the Lord’s expanding army.
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 (verse 29).
These signs in the sky are also referred to in Joel 3:15 and Isaiah 13:10, as preludes to “The Day of the Lord”– The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come (Joel 2:31). This time frame also includes the destruction of Babylon described in Revelation chapters seventeen and eighteen.
The darkening of the sun and the moon could be caused by a massive super volcano eruption, which would darken the sun and cause the moon to turn red. While there also maybe an abundance of literal falling stars, stars are symbolic of fallen angels. This shows us that the “powers of the heavens,” the demonic activity that has been manipulating mankind is being disrupted by the Lord’s power. Most likely, He is sending forth His angels to prepare the way for His coming and the removal of His people.
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: …
The darkness causes the light of the Lord’s cross which is the sign of the Son of Man to shine even brighter above the heads of the people.
As of this writing, the cross, this symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity, is being removed and desecrated in communist countries all over the world as God’s people suffer persecution for their Christian faith. The cross now shines above the heads of their persecutors, totally beyond their abilities to remove.
…and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, …
The sign of Jesus’ cross suspended in the sky above the heads of all mankind, is a signal to those who have resisted the Gospel, that time for them is up and doomsday has arrived.
There is a precedent in the scriptures of some events happening not in precise order. For example, in Revelation twenty-one, verses twelve and thirteen, we see in verse twelve, that everyone is standing before God to be judged. The following verse describes how they got there. In other words, the events are described in reverse. We see a similar occurrence in relation to Matthew’s verse thirty. When Jesus returns, He comes with a massive army of angels and believers (Rev. 19:14). For this to happen the saints need to be gathered. So we can see verse thirty-one occurring before the tribes of the earth actually witness Jesus’ coming in the clouds.
…and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (verse 30).
This period of time correlates to the destruction of the Babylonian system described in Revelation chapter eighteen. We note it is at this time the remaining believers are called out of Babylon in verse four. This correlates to Matthew’s verse thirty-one.
And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, (trumpets are used to call religious assemblies) and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (verse 31).
I believe it is at this time, between the appearing of the cross in the sky, and Jesus’ actual return, two events are taking place; Babylon is being destroyed and the marriage supper of the Lamb is being celebrated in heaven.
In order for there to be the great union of God and His people in heaven, every saint must be gathered together. This will be the only time in church history that there will be no Christians on earth.
In I Thessalonians 4:16,17, the Apostle Paul is teaching from Jesus’ account in here in Matthew. Paul tells us that “the dead in Christ will rise first” and they who are alive (or have survived as the Greek indicates) will be gathered with the Lord. Many people misinterpret this event as the rapture, but it is the pre-wrath first resurrection.
After the destruction of Babylon and the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Lord and His saints descend fulfilling the remaining portion of Matthew’s verse thirty.
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh: (verse 32).
Historically the fig tree has been associated with Israel, therefore many have interpreted this verse to mean that when Israel becomes a nation these events will happen. These events undoubtedly affect Israel, but Jesus is merely showing us that when we see all these things taking place then Jesus’ return is imminent. Remember, we are still waiting for the antichrist to be revealed, which is the catalyst for the great tribulation; the great persecution of all believers in the God of Israel.
So you likewise, when you shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors (verse 33).
When we study the book of Revelation, many details of this time frame are revealed. We see “the beginning of sorrows” described in Revelation’s chapters eight through eleven. The “sorrows” released upon the earth during this time are progressive, affecting one third of the planet initially. These afflictions develop in intensity and frequency until they are affecting one hundred percent of the planet as described in Revelation’s chapter sixteen, during the time of the beast’s reign and the eventual destruction of Babylon.
Verily I say to you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (verse 34).
“This generation,” is again the last generation before Jesus’ return when everything the Lord has described has come to its fullness.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, by My words shall not pass away (verse 35).
What the Lord Jesus Messiah has spoken in this prophecy will surely come to pass, and the prophecies concerning the earth’s destruction will also be fulfilled as prophesied (II Peter 3:10-11, Revelation 20:11, 21:1, Isaiah 65:17).
These words have been given to us so that we should prepare, spiritually as well as physically in some cases. The spring that precedes summer’s destruction has begun to bloom. The time of preparation is upon us.
But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only (verse 36).
Jesus told us that He speaks the words that are given to Him by His Father (John 3:34, 14:10, 17:8). I believe that one reason why the exact time is not revealed is because it is affected by prayer and man’s conduct. God permits time to continue because His servants are continually working to bring souls into God’s kingdom, and for this reason, time expands to accommodate the harvest, because God is not willing that any should perish.
But as the days of Noah were, so shall the coming of the Son of man be (verse 37).
Here the Lord shows us that in the period of time before the Lord returns, this last generation, the spiritual climate will be a duplication of the period of time that preceded the great flood.
We return to the days of Noah chronicled for us in Genesis chapter six. We read in verse five : - And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5).
This corruption cannot be separated from the demonic influences that are unleashed upon the earth at this time; as “in the days of Noah,” when the sons of God, the rebellious angels intermingled themselves with the seed of men (Genesis 6:1-4). Likewise demon influences will be the controlling influences upon the bulk of mankind, demon “iron” mixing with clay, as prophesied in the book of Daniel (Daniel 2:33).
Because the corruption of evil has become the norm, people function in this new world humanistic order they have produced as if it is the preferred environment, disdaining righteousness, and mocking those who choose to separate themselves from that corrupt world and cleave to Jesus.
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark (Verse 38).
Apparently the people who have created this world that operates in total opposition to God’s word, don’t have a clue that anything is wrong, just like their predecessors who died in the flood. People were going about their business as usual. –
And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be (verse 39).
The ones who have embraced evil over good, replaced light with darkness, chosen their own ways above the ways of God, are going to reap the consequences of operating in opposition to the will of the Almighty.
Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left (verse 40).
We saw in verse thirty-one that Jesus sends His angels to remove His people. This event will occur first and as I have mentioned, the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place while God’s judgments on earth are building to a climax. While many will perish during this time through natural disasters, these particular verses describe an instant removal of the wicked that occurs at Jesus’ actual return. For clarification, we need to return to the description of Jesus’ second coming in Revelation chapter nineteen, verses eleven through twenty-one. Within these verses we read: And out from His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations:
During this time there is a war against God’s people, symbolized by the battle of Armageddon. Jesus is returning to avenge the persecuted. So what we are seeing in Jesus’ instructions is the removal of the persecutors, those who oppose anyone who believes in the God of Abraham.
Two woman shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left (verse 41).
There are those living at that time who the Lord knows will be His at His return. These are the ones we see in verse thirty- two of chapter twenty-five, the survivors of the nations that the Lord gathers for His judgment. In other words, when the Lord returns He is only going to remove the wicked. The widow struggling to survive, the poor, the humble, the victims of the evil system will be spared. The Lord knows the heart and He knows who will receive their Liberator with gladness.
Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come (verse 42).
With this statement the direction of His discourse begins to change. He is now focusing His attention on the spiritual conditions and preparation of His people. This theme continues from this verse to the end of His teaching which commences at verse forty-six of chapter twenty-five.
We are to watch, be aware of the times and prepare ourselves accordingly. Detach, get rid of the extra carnal baggage that would keep you earthbound. This world is not your home.
But know this, that if the goodman (master) of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up (verse 43).
Jesus likens His coming to a thief. He is coming to steal His people out from their captivity in this world. It will be swift and instantaneous, like the lightening He mentions in verse twenty-seven. We want to be spiritually prepared when He comes. If we are, we will not be ashamed before Him at His coming (I John 2:28). The Lord uses this parable of the thief to illustrate the benefits of spiritual awareness. We can prevent the destruction of the house of our works, if we guard our doors from evil intrusions.
Therefore you be also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes (verse 44).
Even though we can be prepared by discerning the signs of the times, we won’t know the precise day and hour of His return. Date setting is unbiblical. We must always be ready and guard our walk on a daily basis.
Jesus continues to illustrate what He expects and what our behavior needs to be in the remaining verses of this chapter and chapter twenty-five.
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? (verse 45).
Only the faithful and wise will be rewarded for their service in due time. Until then, those who are faithful and wise will serve obediently, thinking not of their rewards, but focused only on the ministry to which they have been appointed.
Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when He comes shall find so doing (verse 46).
God expects us to be serving Him in some capacity all our lives. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It’s not a part time job. Even if we are physically disabled or elderly, we can minister and serve the Lord by praying. Prayer is the foundation of all ministries and without faithful prayer warriors the work of the gospel cannot go forward.
Truly I say to you, That He shall make him ruler over all His goods (verse 47).
Throughout church history, the Lord has been recruiting those faithful and wise servants whom He has chosen to rule and reign with Him when He returns. We witness the “called, chosen and faithful” returning with Him in victory in Revelation’s chapter nineteen. These ones are given the authority to rule with a rod of iron, with their Lord. This is the heritage of the wise and faithful.
But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My Lord delays His coming; (verse 48).
Complacency gradually puts the believer’s relationship with the Lord at a distance. The complacent are not walking with Jesus and communing with Him on a daily basis. These ones lose the awareness that God is ever present and the beneficial restraints of that relationship gradually dissipate.
And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; (verse 49).
This is an illustration of the fruit of a life that is no longer actively seeking the Lord, and is not abiding in the Vine of Christ (John 15). The fruits of the Holy Spirit which are only produced through union with the Lord are nonexistent, resulting in meanness and unrestrained carnality. What the Lord is describing here is a “religious spirit.” This is a soul that professes a belief in the gospel, but has never experienced the Spirit’s regeneration. The Apostle James tells us that the devil’s believe and tremble (James 2:19). What makes the difference between a believing devil and an individual is a changed, holy life.
The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looks not for Him, and in an hour that he is not aware of (verse 50).
Whether that coming is at the Lord’s physical return, or at the moment of death, we are warned by these verses to guard our walk carefully so that we should not be ashamed before Him at His coming. Many who profess belief in Jesus, do so only with their mouths, but their hearts are far from Him. The Lord knows then that are His. And, let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity (II Timothy 2:19).
Jesus tells us that those who have not obeyed Him in this life will be subject to His chastening at His judgment seat. Those who have earned many stripes will receive them as promised (Luke 12:47,48).
And shall cut him in two, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (verse 51).
The Lord is not mocked and we mock Him when we willfully sin. We will reap what we have sown in this life, good and bad. Most of all, those who have failed the Lord in this way, will not hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
We note here that those hapless believers are cut in two. This is a severing of the heart. When they appear before Him, there is a judgment made on those two areas of their disobedience, meanness and carnal self-indulgence that has resulted in harming others through their selfishness. The sword of the Lord’s word convicts them, figuratively cutting them in two, severing away their religious pretensions. They are appointed the rewards of hypocrisy and share in the torment of regret at the loss of rewards and are plunged into spiritual agony of soul. Thus they experience the same symptoms of those appointed to hell, “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Needless to say, these “evil and wicked” religious ones do not get to rule and reign with the faithful and the wise.
Jesus here is describing the judgment of the souls that will be gathered before Him at His second coming. The description of this event, “The judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10), is continued in the following chapter twenty-five, which is part three of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse.
Part Three – The Judgment Seat of the Messiah Jesus
In the last verse of chapter twenty-four, we have been shown the outcome of those who have not taken their walk with the Lord seriously. The picture of the hypocrites being cut in two by God’s words and the resulting agony of their conviction is still fresh on our minds as Jesus continues. We have to remember as we begin, that God’s concern for the spiritual condition of His people is His primary concern.
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom (verse 1).
This begins another parable of the kingdom. Here Jesus uses an analogy to one of the marriage customs of His day. After the engagement ceremony, the bridegroom leaves to prepare a home for his bride. Jesus’ other reference to this practice is found in John’s gospel. - In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2, 3).
The ten virgins are a similitude of His church that has many members. The Lord shows us here that they are all waiting for His return; “going out to meet Him.” All the virgins, or the entire church is waiting for His arrival.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish (verse 2).
We see the word “wise” is used again here, relating this group to the wise and faithful servants of Matthew 24:45. Wisdom is a gift from God and we are told to ask for it and He will give it to us (James 1:5). These virgins asked, and the asking indicates a relationship and closeness with God. The other five who are labeled as “foolish,” obviously were not seeking the things that are important to God.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: (verse 3).
These foolish ones did not anticipate how long the wait would be, and did not bring a backup supply of oil for their lamps. The oil represents the Holy Spirit, and again, this indicates a lack of spirituality in these ones who are viewed here as being spiritually unprepared.
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps (verse 4).
These virgins had prepared themselves spiritually for the long wait.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept (verse 5).
As we watch these sleeping beauties rest together, they all look alike. We cannot immediately distinguish the apostate ones among the Lord’s church.
And at midnight there was a cry made, “Behold, the bridegroom comes; you go out to meet him” (verse 6).
According to the Hebrew wedding customs an announcement is made to the public prior to the groom’s arrival, which is designed of course to notify the bride. It’s always a surprise because she never really knows the exact time of his arrival. Likewise, neither do we know the exact time when Jesus will arrive for us.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps (verse 7).
“He’s coming!” We can imagine their excitement as they arise to light their lamps so He can find them in the darkness, and they can see their way to Him.
And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out” (verse 8).
Because the foolish virgins were not spiritually prepared for the long wait, the apostasy of the times had taken its toll. The oil, which again is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17). They had let the truth of the gospel diminish and they had no reserves. They had not retained their focus on Jesus and the doctrine that God established through the words of our Lord and His founding apostles. They had accepted the lie that all religions are valid, negating Jesus’ declaration that He is the only Way to the Father (John 14:6). The truth of the gospel that could save them had dwindled from their belief system, leaving them in the darkness.
But the wise answered, saying, “Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but you go rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves” (verse 9).
A relationship with God cannot be attained through anyone else, but the Lord Jesus. That relationship is established through faith, repentance, reading God’s word, and prayer; daily communion with Him. No one can give it to you, it must be developed on your own. You can be encouraged in your faith and strengthened by others and initially receive the gospel through their witness, but it is up to the individual believer to seek the Lord.
Because of this lack, the foolish virgins had lost the faith that could save them. They are told to go and buy their own oil. This is also very significant considering the times they are in. The second coming occurs after the tribulation (Matthew 24:29). It is at this time that Jesus sends His angels to gather His elect, His virgins. By this time the beast’s empire has come into its fullness and the mark of the beast has been implemented. No one can buy or sell without that mark (Rev. 13:16,17). In view of this, It is quite apparent that the five foolish virgins had taken the mark and were able to purchase goods. Their lukewarmness, complacency and lack of Bible knowledge had enabled them to be deceived. The warnings in God’s word against taking the mark of the beast are very specific. – And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb Rev. 14:9,10).
Obviously the foolish virgins had neglected God’s word, or not taken it seriously, or even worse, had allowed apostate teachers to assure them “that’s not what it means;” assuring them that they were saved and could disobey God in this area and they would still be accepted. They believed a lie. The judgment against the foolish five are dire.
And when they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut (verse 10).
The wise virgins who maintained their faith “that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), who never denied that Jesus is the Messiah, the only way to heaven, and therefore did not take the beast’s mark, are promptly received by the Lord.
Jesus is the only door, or entrance to heaven. The wise were permitted entrance through that door, and it was firmly closed behind them, signifying that the time of evangelism is over and the wrath of God is to be poured on the nations, the beast empire and the false prophet.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” (verse 11).
This verse reminds us of Jesus’ warning; “Many will come to Me in that day saying, Lord, Lord, and I knew them not.” (Matthew 7:21,22). His response is echoed in His reply to the foolish.
But He answered and said, “Truly I say to you, “I know you not” (verse 12).
In the scriptures there are only two things that can cost a believer their salvation; denying Jesus (Matthew 10:33) and unforgiveness (Matthew 6:14,15). Those who continuously, willfully and deliberately practice sin have never been saved in the first place, according to the original Greek in I John 3:9. “Whosoever is born of God (born again) does not commit (continuously practice) sin.”
Taking the mark of the beast is compromising with a system that denies Jesus is the messiah, and an agreement must be made to join this system in order to buy and sell. Therefore taking the mark, is the equivalent in God’s eyes to denying His Son.
The foolish virgins had taken the mark and Jesus could not recognize them as His own, because they had denied Him. The oil of the truth had run out in their lamps, they did not see Him as the only way.
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man comes (verse 13).
We won’t know the day or hour, but as the content of these chapters have shown us, the signs will reveal the season, that last generation before Jesus returns.
While we watch for that event, He also comes at the unexpected moment of our death. No one knows the precise moment when our decease will be. The Lord is showing us we should be prepared to meet Him at any time. To underscore the need for perpetual spiritual readiness, Jesus gives us yet another parable to illustrate this principle, using material elements to illustrate spiritual principles.
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods (verse 14).
The man travelling is Jesus, the far country represents heaven. After Jesus’ resurrection He ascended to His Father in heaven. The goods He left with His servants represents the gospel and their ministries. The word servants is actually slaves in the original Greek. We are the Lord’s slaves that He has purchased with His blood.
And unto one he gave five talents, (coins of gold) to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several (one’s own) ability; and straightway took his journey (verse 15).
The money in this instance represents ministries. In the original Greek, talents are coins of gold. In other words, what these servants have been given is valuable. The purpose of these ministries is to fulfill the Lord’s purposes and expand His kingdom by sharing the gospel, discipling and serving others. Each amount is given in proportion to the individual’s ability to use them.
Then he that received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them another five talents (verse 16).
The talents, which is a term used to designate an amount of money is doubled. The word talent, as it is used today, also applies to a person’s particular talent or gift. This individual used the inherent gifts he was born with to expand God’s kingdom.
And likewise he that had received two, he also gained another two (verse 17).
Even though this second individual had not been given as much as the first, he achieved the same results with what he had, and his money was doubled as well. In other words, even though his ministry was smaller than the other servant, it was equally fruitful in the Lord’s eyes.
But he that had received one went and dug in the earth, and hid his lord’s money (verse 18).
This servant, even though he was technically employed by his master and was expected to do something with his abilities for God’s kingdom, did absolutely nothing. He hid what he had been given in the ground, which means, he spent his life working for earthy goals at the neglecting of the spiritual, or that which is the most important to God.
After a long time the lord of those servants came, and reckoned with them (verse 19).
This verse is a reference to the judgment seat of Christ. We all must stand before the Lord to give an account of what we have done in this life (Romans 14:10).
And so he that had received five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold I have gained beside them five talents more” (verse 20).
It sounds like this servant was quite pleased with the results of his efforts to help expand God’s kingdom. There is nothing more satisfying than winning a soul for Jesus.
His lord said to him, “Well done, you good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: you enter into the joy of your lord” (verse 21).
This is what every believer should want to hear the Lord say, “Well done.” The wise servants recognized that we are expected to work for the kingdom during our lifetimes. He is watching us, testing us to see who will qualify to rule and reign with Him at His return. He is basically selecting us for certain leadership positions during His millennial reign (Rev. 20:4). These rewards are based on what we are able to achieve for Him now. We note again that the word “faithful” is used here again. The faithful serve.
The “joy of the lord” indicates a position of intimacy with God. Being in His presence is described as “fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11). Our rewards are spiritual. Therefore the reward of the faithful is to be brought into the presence of God and be blessed by a continuous feeling of overwhelming joy. It is a gift beyond measure.
He also that had received two talents came and said, “Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them” (verse 22).
This servant, again, even though he had been given a smaller amount, achieved the same results as the first servant. He used what he had been given to the best of his abilities.
His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: you enter into the joy of your lord” (verse 23).
This servant’s reward is exactly the same as the one who technically had a bigger ministry. In the Lord’s eyes they were equal. The one who labors faithfully in church, no matter what the task, his service is viewed as just as important as the mega preacher who fills stadiums. It is the faithfulness that is rewarded, no matter what the task, small or large. It doesn’t matter to God. He is evaluating faithfulness.
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you that are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strawed (scattered or winnowed): (verse24).
This servant had an understanding of his master’s character. He was strict. God is loving, but strict. There are risks with any endeavor for His work. We are shown that His servants will endure persecution for their efforts to evangelize. God does not promise protection in every circumstance, yet, He expects us to move forward for His work in spite of the consequences. This hapless servant was afraid to move at all.
And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: lo, there you have what is yours” (verse 25).
This servant had made no contribution to the Lord’s kingdom at all. His fear of launching out beyond his comfort zone immobilized his productivity. He wasn’t concerned about winning souls out of fear he would be ridiculed. He thought filling a pew every week was enough. He was wrong.
His Lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: (verse 26).
This servant knew that his master would require him to do something with what he had been given; He gathers where He has not sown. I believe that this is a reference to mission fields that are barren of the seed of God’s word. He relies on His servants to spread His word in these areas, even though there are great risks involved. Apparently this unfruitful servant was aware of the needs and did nothing when he knew what his Lord expected of him.
You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with interest” (verse 27).
We are judged according to knowledge (Luke 12:47). This servant was fully aware of the Lord’s commission to all believers to share the gospel. If we can’t accomplish this physically, we can give ourselves to prayer. This servant was putting his talents in the earth. He was focusing on earthy endeavors. If we can make money in earthly achievements, then the least we can do is contribute to the Lord’s “bank.” We can give our money to support missionaries and other ministries. This also contributes to expanding the Lord’s kingdom, earning Him “interest,” - souls. Again, this servant did nothing, even though he had full knowledge of what was expected of him.
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents (verse 28).
This illustrates a spiritual principle of the Lord’s divine judgments. Those who have neglected their gifts and have not used them for His service, will see them diminished. Those who have been faithful will see their efforts increase supernaturally.
God is a wise businessman. He recognizes talent and increases those who are the most productive for Him.
For every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has (verse 29).
If one is not diligent and is lukewarm in their relationship with the Lord, the prospect of falling away from the faith during times of persecution can become a reality. This principle refers us back to the parable of the ten virgins. Those who permitted their lamps to go out, succumbed to the world’s deceptions and suffered the consequences.
And you cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (verse 30).
This is the same judgment God awards to the disobedient servants we saw in Mathew 24:48-51. Thus this parable of the talents is designed to add a bit more detail to those verses that conclude chapter twenty-four.
The brilliant joy that is the reward of the faithful is contrasted to the reward of outer darkness, signifying that the distance the unfaithful servant put between himself and the Lord in his lifetime, removed him farther and farther away from the light of that intimate joy. It is a choice we all have to make. I think we have to stop for a moment and thank the Lord for His warnings that are always for our benefit and spiritual development.
The spiritual condition of His people is the Lord’s utmost concern after the salvation of the lost. He loves all of us too much to leave us where we want to be, especially when our desires are not aligned with His. As we have been shown by this parable of the talents, it is up to us to respond to HiIs workings in our lives; and those who are the wise and faithful will do so – faithfully.
The previous thirty verses and verses forty-four through fifty-one of chapter twenty-four, are concerned with the spiritual condition of the believer, preparing us to be “ready” for the moment when our Lord returns, whether at the end of the tribulation or at the end of our sojourn in this life. The remainder of chapter twenty-five deals with the events that will occur when Jesus returns.
When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: (verse 31).
We were shown in Matthew chapter twenty-four, that Jesus returns supernaturally. In Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 14:4), His feet land on the Mount of Olives, splitting it in two. A massive amount of angels and the Lord's returning saints will blanket the sky, obliterating the sun allowing the piercing light of God’s arrival in His Son to blow back the veil of lies that have covered the minds of the nations.
The Jews today believe that the messiah will be a mere man. They are wrong.
And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides His sheep from the goats: (verse 32).
When Jesus returns He removes the wicked as we saw in verses forty and forty-one of the previous chapter. What remains will be “The Least of These,” the victims of those wicked religious and government leaders and other evil people that have preyed upon the helpless. These least of these, are also those who are “left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem” - Zechariah 14:6. We are shown in Zechariah 14:1 that Jerusalem goes into another captivity before the Lord returns. We see in Revelation 11:8, that the Lord sees her as “Sodom and Egypt.” As is His pattern was in the Old Testament, when Israel sinned, He sends her enemies to correct her and then He chastened her enemies. Ezekiel records this time in Ezekiel 38-39. Israel’s and the church’s enemies are punished in the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-18 ) which occurs when the Lord returns. So the “nations” are those whom God has spared, or survived from that final catastrophic war.
The following verse thirty-three is the fulfillment of its foreshadow in Ezekiel’s chapter thirty-four.
And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left (verse 33).
It’s obvious that how we treat others in this life affects our positioning with Jesus at His judgment seat.
Then shall the King say to them on His right hand, “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (verse 34).
God operates through His foreknowledge (Romans 8:29, I Peter 1:20). He knows from the foundation of the earth who will be faithful to Him. Seeing those souls through the lenses of eternity, He instigated His plan of redemption through the sacrifice of His Son to retrieve their souls from condemnation. At last this remnant receives the reward that had been prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me in: (verse 35).
It seems compassion is a characteristic of these chosen ones.
Naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came to Me” (verse 36).
God has called us to meet the needs of the people in our sphere to the best of our capacity. We need to understand that these needs are spiritual as well as physical. When we share the Gospel, we are quenching their spiritual thirst, we are clothing their nakedness with the covering of salvation; we are feeding them eternal life, releasing them from the prison of their sins and healing their souls.
Then shall the righteous answer Him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and fed You? Or thirsty, and gave You drink? (verse 37).
These ones that Jesus is addressing were doing what comes naturally, as they were allowing themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit to serve others in their lives. They never connected the people they were serving as being the Lord Himself.
When did we see You a stranger, and took You in? or naked, and clothed You? (verse 38).
The questions continue as they recall the many encounters they had with people in their lifetimes. It’s true that not every event in their lives in this area turned out perfectly; yet, God was evaluating motives and read the desires in the hearts of His people to do His will in spite of their flawed human natures.
Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and came to You?" (verse 39).
The people they served had no status. The sheep were not serving others for any personal gain. Surely, if they had equated the needy as being the Lord Himself, they would have served Him. But there was no other motive for inconveniencing themselves for another’s welfare other than compassion. They were being tested and they passed those tests in their lifetimes.
And the King shall answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the Least of These My brethren, You have done it to Me” (verse 40).
We clearly see here that Jesus identifies with “The Least of These,” the poor, the disenfranchised, the failed sinner. The sheep never allowed prejudice to intercept their service to others. They practiced the selflessness that Jesus exemplified by His sacrifice for them on His cross. They are His disciples who took His word seriously and applied it to their lives.
Some people interpret Jesus’ statement “My brethren” to mean that He is just referring to the Jews, people of His earthly nationality. We can see however, that Jesus is identifying with everyone that needs physical care and the nourishment and covering that the Gospel provides.
Many people mistakenly believe that the Jews do not require a belief in Jesus to be saved because they are under a covenant with God just because they are descendants of Abraham. This doctrine is not supported by the scriptures. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by Me,” - John 14:6. The Apostle Peter gave his first sermon to the “men of Israel” and required them to repent and believe the Gospel (Acts 2:22,38). Jesus instigated the prophesied New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31,33) and only those who receive it can be saved as the scriptures clearly show.
In the beginning of this passage we were shown that the Lord has gathered all the remaining nations before Him. So we see only three categories in this assembly, the sheep, the goats and the nations, of which the Jews are only a part. The sheep have worked to serve the Least of These of those nations. They have obeyed the Lord’s commandment to preach the Gospel to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike.
Now the mood begins to change as we watch Jesus’ smile fade as He turns to face the goats waiting expectantly at His left hand.
Then shall He say also to them on His left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devils and his angels: (verse 41).
This is coming as a great shock to the goatherd. Apparently their guide in life was not the Holy Spirit. They apparently had allowed themselves to be guided by another spirit in their lifetimes and will be gathered with those who also have rebelled against the Lord’s desires and instructions.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: (verse 42).
We return to the counterpart of this indictment in Ezekiel 34. We see that the Lord is severely reprimanding the leadership of His people in verses two through ten. This apostate leadership did not feed the people, but fed themselves at the people’s expense. – The diseased you have not strengthened, neither have you healed that which was sick, neither have you bound up that which was broken, neither have you brought again that which was driven away, neither have you sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty you have ruled them (Ezekiel 39:4).
As we have seen, sharing the Gospel can be the equivalent of satisfying someone’s spiritual hunger, and quenching their spiritual thirst. Apparently the goat’s priority was not obeying the Lord to share the Gospel. Losing a soul to hell was not a big deal to these self-serving goats.
I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited Me not (verse 43).
Obviously the goats were not concerned about what was truly important to the Lord. This lack of concern and apparent disregard for the needs of others and what God’s word says concerning the poor, was blatantly neglected.
In shock, the goats sputter a response. –
Then shall they also answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You? “ (verse 44).
They might have added, “We would have done it to You, You’re the head Guy.” Obviously this camp had become respecters of persons. Their motives for any kind of religious service had nothing to do with self-sacrifice. Their motives for service were entwined with greed and self-advancement, as illustrated for us in Ezekiel 34.
Then shall He answer them, saying, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the Least of These, you did it not to Me (verse 45).
The Apostle James tells us that the devils believe and tremble (James 2:19). What makes the difference between a believing demon and a disciple is our response to the Gospel and the Lord’s leading in our lives. Demons can’t praise Him and demons won’t serve Him or repent.
The evidence of a genuine salvation is a changed life. The Apostle John tells us that “He who does righteousness is righteous” (I John 3:7). These religious goats apparently never permitted the Lord to have His way in their lives. And most likely, as did the rejected virgins, allowed the pure truth of the Gospel to slip away. They apparently are also of the same spiritual alignment with the unfaithful servant who hid his talent in the ground, bearing no fruit for God in their lifetimes. In other words, these goats were never genuinely saved in the first place.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (verse 46).
We watch Jesus lead His faithful flock into the Promised Land of eternal life, as the goats are herded into their final destination reaping what they have sown in their lives.
The sheep continue moving forward, following their Shepherd as they have always done in their lifetimes. They know nothing else.
Jesus turns to look at all those who are still watching from a distance, and the Lord says to us all, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
We can return to the beginning of Jesus’ discourse, and review the things that we have been shown. We witnessed the devastations that will precede His return as He described them. We have heard His warnings about spiritual deceptions, and we have been shown the reward of the faithful. As always, we are given the option to heed the warnings and obey, or take our place with the unwise. We have been gathered with the nations, the sheep and goats, and we realize that His church has been shown a picture of her future. We will be in one of those two categories that will be separated to stand on either His right hand or His left. He is giving us all the opportunity to repent now while we still have life and breath.
The door to the future is open and we are being moved toward the events it harbors. The faithful will follow the Lord with confidence no matter what the future holds. The path to eternal life is in the wake of His footsteps.
Copyright 2019 by H. D. Shively
Bible Bites | Cafe Logos Homepage