David Jeremiah - The Prophecy
During a 2007 interview with USA Today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a shockingly inaccurate prediction. He said, "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to gain any significant market share". He told reporter David Lieberman, "No chance". Ballmer seemed to base his prediction on the notion that iPhones would be interesting to technology nerds, but not to the general population. He said, "I want to have products that appeal to everybody".
Fifteen years later, with more than 2 billion iPhones, it's safe to say Steve Ballmer was wrong. Our world is filled with a lot of people who make predictions, prognosticators and prediction makers, always ready to share their opinions. In fact, in the world today there are 2 million podcasters, 6 million journalists, 375 24-hour news networks, and 5 million ministers, all of them ready to get your attention and tell you what's going on now and what's going to happen in the future. We hear so many voices, so many arguments, so many speculations.
Everybody's got a theory. Everybody's got a slant. I'd like to suggest to you that there's one slant we should trust more than any other, one take we ought to prefer above all the other takes, one opinion we ought to value more than all other opinions. Amid the thousands of shrill voices that are being heard today, we need to listen to one voice, and that's the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ. But you say, "He doesn't have anything to say about the future". It may surprise you to discover that one of the longest messages of Jesus recorded in the New Testament was all about the future, all about your future. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke there is a section referred to as the Olivet Discourse. It is so called because Jesus answers the questions of four of his disciples, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, while sitting on the Mount of Olives.
Now, Olivet was the very place from which Jesus would soon go to heaven, and it's the same place to which he will one day return. I've been there. I've seen it. I get the chills every time I'm there. But even today it's one of the most breathtaking views in all of the world, especially when the morning sun casts its glow across the golden city with its haunting walls, limestone buildings, ancient monuments, its steeples, its spire, and its minarets. Dominating everything in this 38-acre powder keg known as al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims and the Temple Mount to the Jews and Christians, this is Mount Olivet. And the message that Jesus delivered to his disciples on that historic day is the second-longest message recorded of Jesus in the scripture. The only longer one is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 through 7, and that was a public message given at the beginning of his ministry. This is a private message given at the end of his ministry just to four disciples.
My friend and the former pastor of this church Tim LaHaye was a lover of the Olivet Discourse. He wrote this in one of his books. He said, "The Olivet Discourse, delivered shortly before Jesus's crucifixion, is the most important single passage of prophecy in all of the Bible. It is significant because it came from Jesus himself immediately after he was rejected by his own people and because it provides a master outline of end times' events". So in these days that are before us, we're going to talk about the Olivet Discourse.
Now, the setting of this prophecy is in Matthew, where we read in verse 1, chapter 24 that Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and his disciples came up to show him the buildings of the temple. To put our Lord's great prophecy in its proper context, we have to feel the gravity of the moment. This didn't just happen in a vacuum, this happened in the middle of a bunch of stuff that was going on in Jesus's life. This was Passover week, and it was the last week of his life on this earth before he went to the cross. On Tuesday morning Jesus goes to the temple, and there he delivers a blistering rebuke of the Jewish leaders and of the Jewish nation. I may want to just insert here the last week of Jesus's life was a week of great disappointment to him. He cleansed the temple during that week.
You remember what he did. He went in and cast out all the people that were merchandising the gospel, selling stuff where they shouldn't have been, ripping off the Jewish people. He had come and been presented to the Jewish people and they had rejected him, and so he excoriates the leaders and the people that were a part of that rejection. And I'm going to read you what John Walvoord said. He said, "As Christ dealt with spiritual, theological, and moral apostasy in his day in Matthew 23, he delivered the most scathing denunciation of false religion and hypocrisy to be found anywhere. He calls the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites no less than seven times. He calls them blind five times. He labels them fools twice. He calls them whitewashed sepulchers, serpents or snakes, the children of poisonous vipers, and tells them they are in danger of going to hell. It would be difficult to find words more biting than these words of Christ that he used to characterize the religion of his day".
You know, if I've learned anything from this particular passage of scripture is how awful it is for Jesus to see us playing at church, how it so grieves the heart of Jesus to see people acting like they're something they're not. While the righteous anger of Jesus was expressed in his fiery words against these people, the fact is, and all of us who are pastors or any of us in leadership, we understand this, though he was very angry at their conduct, he loved them. He loved these people. These were his people. At the end of the chapter that precedes the portion of scripture we're going to study, Jesus prays this prayer. He says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. See, your house is left to you desolate, for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
So it was after all these things that on the Tuesday of Passion Week just 3 days before his crucifixion, Jesus, the scripture says, left the temple. That's not just a description of his departure from the edifice, it's a descriptive term that's saying he turned his back on those who had rejected him. He walked away. He walked away from the temple. He left the house desolate. All of that was symbolizing the withdrawal of his presence. And I hope you can visualize this scene and appreciate the moment as our Lord brokenheartedly descended the staircase of the temple, leaving the temple which should have received him and promising that he would never come back again until they were ready to say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord".
And here are the disciples when Jesus is walking away in Matthew 24 coming to Jesus at this poignant moment in his life and saying this. Listen to this, "Teacher, look at the magnificent buildings we have. Look at the impressive stones in the wall of the temple". That's like you and I messing everything up in our lives, not living for the Lord and allowing it to come into the church and destroying the inwards nature of the church, but going around bragging about what great buildings we have, and we have some nice buildings. Do you know the Lord doesn't care about our buildings? In the discussion Jesus is about to have with his disciples, he will speak as a prophet. He will accurately forecast the future of the Jewish people and predict some things that will affect us as well, and you can count on it. What Jesus says will happen will happen.
In the prologue of the book of Revelation, the apostle John gives us one of the most profound reasons for listening to the prophetic words of Jesus. John was on the Isle of Patmos on the Lord's Day, and he saw the one to whom we should listen, and this is how he described his encounter. He said, "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid his right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid, for I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write these things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.'"
Now, let me ask you a question. Who else do you know who has one foot planted in eternity and the other foot planted in time? Who do you know who actually lives in the present and lives in the future both at the same time? That's what the Bible tells us about Jesus. He lives in the eternal present, which means he lives in the past, he lives in the present, he lives in the future. And what he is saying to his disciples is this. "I want to tell you what's going to happen when you get to where I already am". No one who has ever lived or will ever live has a grasp of the future even remotely as firm and complete as the Lord Jesus Christ.
As God he sees the whole parade of history from the beginning to the end, we see little snatches of it. The Almighty sees it all, and Jesus Christ's God tells us what is going to happen in the future. And you know how he knows what's going to happen in the future? He's already there. He lives in the future. Nobody can do that but Jesus. When Jesus says, "This is what's going to happen," you can count on it. He knows. And Jesus in the subject of the prophecy said to his disciples, "Do you see all these things? You want to talk about the temple? Let me tell you about the temple". "'I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.' Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us...'" "Lord, when is this going to happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age"?
And this is a really critical part of this whole scenario because the disciples hear Jesus say that this temple is going to be destroyed. Jesus responds to the disciples's awe of the temple by sitting down with them on the Mount of Olives. In that culture, sitting down was the posture a teacher would take before he was to give an important lesson. This is the final teaching recorded for us in the Gospel of Matthew, and it is Jesus's most important lesson on the world of the end and what it will be like when that time comes. From the Mount of Olives, Jesus and his disciples would have had a staggering view of Jerusalem and the temple complex. Jesus is sitting there with his four disciples, and they're looking over across the valley at the temple, and they're asking Jesus the question, "What does all this mean"? It was the place and the moment that Jesus uttered this unbelievable prophecy.
First of all, he makes a profound prediction. He says, "Disciples, do you not see these things"? And he points to the temple. "I say to you that not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down". What was Jesus doing when he made that prediction? If we're not careful, we miss the meaning of it. What Jesus is about to do is to file his credentials as a prophet. You know, the Old Testament says that you know a prophet by whether or not what they prophesy comes true. And if it doesn't come true, he's a false prophet. And you don't get a 90% or an 80%, you have to be 100%. In the book of Deuteronomy it says, "He who says something that is not true is not a prophet". And in the Old Testament, they stoned that person.
Well, Jesus knew exactly what would happen and when it would happen, and he spoke with precision, and he said, "This incredible facility that you're looking at across the valley there, it will be flattened, it will be totally destroyed, and it will never appear again the same way". Now, I have to ask you to stop for a moment and think about how absurd that must have seemed to the disciples. I mean, Herod's temple complex was one of the wonders of the ancient world. The reconstruction process had begun 15 years before Christ was born, and had been going on for more than 40 years. It was not actually completed until AD 64, and even at this stage it was a magnificent temple built of stones that weighed many tons, some of them 20 feet long and 12 feet high. These stones were carved out of stone quarries that were underneath the city of Jerusalem, and they were cut precisely to size and with great labor using rollers and earth inclines to raise them to their proper height they were fitted into the buildings of the temple.
Listen to this, there was no mortar between the stones of the temple. They were lockstep together and carved out in such a way that they were built one upon another, and those great buildings were built in that way. Herod was trying to rival Solomon's temple because Haggai said that the latter temple would be greater than the first one, and he employed 10,000 skilled workmen, 1,000 priests acquainted with fine work and wood and stone, and he doubled the original area of the temple mount by constructing huge supporting walls, and the temple complex became a source of tremendous pride for the Jews. If you wanted to talk to a Jew about something that turned their crank, it was the temple.
And Josephus wrote, "It is the most amazing structure of all we have seen or heard both in its construction and scale and in the lavishness of every part and splendor of its holy places". The temple was one of the most expansive, majestic, important buildings in all of the world, and here is Jesus saying it's all going down, and you have to wonder what's going through the minds of the disciples. "Is Jesus gone off the deep end here"? So the precise performance of this is pretty amazing. Fast forward to AD 70. The Roman general, Titus, built wooden scaffolds around the walls of the temple buildings, a tactic never before used. He piled the scaffolds high with wood and other flammable items, and he set them all on fire, and the heat from the fires grew so intense that the temple structure was weakened and the Romans were able to dislodge the giant stones from one another, prying them off one by one and throwing them into the valley below.
And soldiers sifted through the rubble that was left on the temple site trying to find any of the gold that had melted into the ruins. All that remained on the site was flattened exactly as Jesus had said. In less than 40 years after Jesus's prediction, the temple was destroyed, and today the location is a walled compound within the Old City of Jerusalem. It's the site of the Dome of the Rock to the north and the al-Aqsa Mosque to the south. In the southwest stands the Western Wall, the retaining wall of Herod's Temple Mount. One of the keys to to understanding Jesus's words about the world at the end is to understand that his prophecies are always fulfilled exactly as he said they would be. Nothing illustrates that truth more powerfully than Jesus's prophecy concerning Herod's temple.
In this prophecy, because both the prophecy and the fulfillment have already happened, we are able to verify the accuracy of Jesus's words. We see what Jesus said and then 40 years we see what happened, and we realize they're one and the same. What then should we think about the things he has predicted that are yet to be fulfilled? We can have every confidence, men and women, that precision will be in the phrase that describes the fulfillment of Jesus's prophecy. If Jesus said it, you can take it to the bank. If Jesus said it, it will happen. You know why? 'Cause he's already there. He's already there where he says we're headed. And that's when the disciples asked Jesus the next two questions. They said, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age"?
In Matthew chapter 24, verses 4 through 14, Jesus begins to answer the last two questions that were put to him by the disciples, and he says, "I'm going to tell you what's going to happen just before I return". Why do you need the temple story? You need the temple story to validate the fact that what he's going to tell you is true. How do you know it's true? Because he said it, it happened. You can witness it. He's going to say some things now that haven't yet happened. Some of them are beginning to happen right now. And the reason why the temple story is so important is because you need to understand this is not conjecture, this is not Jesus's best guess about what's going to happen, this is Jesus saying to you and to me, "If you want to know what the future looks like, I'm going to tell you what's going to happen before I return. And listen carefully because I'm not kidding, I'm not making this up, this is the truth".
In Matthew 24, verses 4 through 14, Jesus says this. He said, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows".
Jesus said that in the end time, before he comes again the second time, there will be deception by false Christs, there will be dissension between the nations of the world, there will be devastation worldwide, there will be deliverance of believers to tribulation, there will be defection of false believers, and there will be declaration of the gospel to the whole world. Jesus said, "If you want to know what the future looks like, here it is. These are the things that are going to happen".
Now, I'm not going to break them down today, but I'm just going to ask you this question. Do you see any signs of any of that stuff happening? I mean, you look around today and you say, "Wait a minute. I think there's something about that in the Bible". And then you go to the Bible, and you read it, and it's kind of astounding really that you would have a book in your hands that could tell you what's going on and what's happening today. These are the progressions or signs that we will talk about in these next weeks, things that Jesus say will happen before he returns, some of which are already starting to happen. The setting of the prophecy and the subject of it.
Now let me give you the secret to unpacking all of this. This is a really interesting thing. The secret is found in the 8th verse of the 24th chapter where Jesus says, "All these are the beginning of birth pains". Now, I don't want to make this uncomfortable for all the women, but this is a good illustration. In order to help us understand how these predictions will unfold, Jesus employs a graphic picture, and one that may have special significance to many women.
Now, birth pains at first, from what they tell me, I don't have any personal knowledge of this, but what they tell me is they aren't intense at all. I'm told these initial stirrings are really more uncomfortable than painful. A woman may feel one such pain and then not feel another for 20 minutes or more, but as birth approaches the pain gets a little more intense and the pains get closer together. And when you reach a stage where the pain is very intense and those pains are gripping you with regular frequency, you know you better get to the hospital or you're going to give birth in the backseat of the car. Paul uses this very illustration in his letter to the Thessalonians. He says that the return of Christ will come as a thief in the night, unexpectedly, quietly, and suddenly, and he uses the same figure.
Listen to these words from 1 Thessalonians 5. "But concerning the times of the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, 'Peace and safety,' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they shall not escape". So what Jesus wants us to know as we study this section of the scripture is this. The things that are going to happen in the future will not be all-of-a-sudden experiences. They will be like birth pains, with the frequency and intensity of each event gradually increasing. You'll be able to watch it. You'll be able to see it. You'll be able to experience it. Even as we are now we're seeing things happen that we never dream would happen in our lifetime, but they're happening and they're becoming more frequent and more intense. So the setting of it, and the subject of it, and the secret to it.
Now let me give you the scope of all of this. Wilbur Smith is a prominent scholar of the previous generation. He called the Olivet Discourse the most neglected words of Jesus Christ. From my perspective he is right, and I think I know the reason why. Some who have written about this passage of scripture have buried it in history. They want us to believe that everything Jesus said to his disciples on the mountain that day, all of it was fulfilled in AD 70 when Titus destroyed Jerusalem. Several of these writers have tried to convince us that the second coming of Christ actually happened in AD 70. So if you do the math on that, we are living today somewhere in the middle of the eternal state of heaven. And if you think that's possible, just watch the news tonight and you won't have to worry about it anymore.
Actually, some theologians have said that the entire Sermon on the Mount has already been fulfilled. Not possible. Others believe that Jesus's words have nothing to do with today's world. They say that prophecy concerning world conditions does not kick in until after the rapture. When I was a student in seminary, this is what I thought, and this is what many Christians think today. The result of such thinking is this. "If the words Jesus said don't affect me, then why should I study them? Why should I care"? But the words of Jesus recorded for us in three of the four Gospels are for us today. They are for me, and they are for you. One pastor that I read said, "The disciples were not learned men, and Jesus's purpose was to give them clarity and encouragement, not complexity and anxiety. The intricate interpretations that are sometimes proposed for this passage would have left the disciples utterly dumbfounded. It is preferable to take Jesus's words as simply and straightforward as possible".
As I've studied this chapter, I am convinced that we have in the first eight verses a picture of what is happening at the end of this present age, introducing us to the period of time after the rapture. We've limited our study for this particular series to the first 14 verses of Matthew 24 because the first 14 verses are the verses that affect us now. These verses describe our Lord's words that apply to us at this critical hour of history. These verses describe what life will be like on this earth as we move toward the time of the rapture, but here is the key to our application. It is true that the signs of Matthew describe the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period. In fact, they line up perfectly. If you study the book of Matthew chapter 24 and you study Revelation 6 where Jesus unfolds through John the apostle what's going to happen in the tribulation, it's uncanny. They're exactly the same.
Let me just tell you what. Jesus agrees with John and John agrees with Jesus, and they tell us these are the things that are going to happen. But after the rapture, those signs will be solidified and during the first half of the tribulation there will be the things that we read about a few moments ago. They will happen. But they will not begin to be felt as birth pains are felt after the rapture, they will begin now. In the days building up to our Lord's return for his own, we will begin to feel the pain of those signs that we're feeling right now. For instance, one of the signs is let no one deceive you. We're going to talk about that. Have we ever lived in a day when deceit is so rampant? And you know what the problem is? You don't even hardly know what deceit is 'cause nobody knows what truth is.
If you don't know what truth is, how do you know what deceit is? We live in a time of increasing deceitfulness, increasing lack of truth. All of these signs that Jesus said would increase as we move toward the end, they've started. I'm not going to predict when Jesus comes back. I don't have the right to do that. The Bible tells us not to do that, but it also tells us we're to be aware of the signs of the time. In fact, one time Jesus scolded some people because they didn't do that. We need to be aware of what's going on, and I'll give you the reason for that in just a moment. As I mentioned earlier, what Jesus shared in the Olivet Discourse is not some ivory tower approach that has no impact on our lives. The significance of this prophecy is this. First of all, Jesus wants you to know about the future. Are you aware of that? He always was preparing his disciples about the future.
In Matthew 24 and in Mark he says, "See, I have told you what's going to happen so you would know". Unless we have a firm grasp of what the Bible teaches us about the future, we cannot properly handle the strains of everyday life. If we think that what we're going through right now is all there is and there's nothing coming that's better, pretty discouraging. In fact, even when you know what Jesus says about the future, if you're not careful and you watch too much television, you can get really depressed. So the Bible passage about the return of Christ is written to us for a practical purpose, not to help us become better theorists of history, but to motivate us to obedience.
Number two, Jesus not only wants to teach us about the future, he wants to transform us for the future. He wants us to be ready for the future. "These things," he said, "I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble," John 16:1. In other words, if you grasp what I am telling you about the future, you won't fall all over yourself, you won't get into a panic mode when some of these things start to happen. You won't say, "Oh my goodness, what's going to happen now"? Because you already know what's going to happen now, 'cause you read about it in the Bible and you know that God is up to something and that there's going to be a great moving across the globe as we move toward the end of time.
The days are coming when the hand of God will move in astounding ways, and if we know the Word of God, we won't be taken by surprise. We will find ourselves not in panic, but in excitement about what we see the Lord doing. He wants to teach us about the future, he wants to transform us for the future, and then most of all he wants us to trust him with the future, and I think this is the most important thing for us in all of this. Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or next week or next month, but here's what I do know. I know the one who knows. I know the one who's in control. I know the one who sits above it all, who's not surprised by, you know, a little girl that came to me once said that Jesus never says oops. I like that because he never says, "Oh my goodness, look what happened".
Jesus is in control of it all. He's on top of it all. It's interesting that Jesus never did really answer to the disciples's questions fully. For instance, when they asked him, "When are these things going to happen"? He never told them when the temple was going to be destroyed. Jesus is not obligated to give us the answers to every single question we ask. What Jesus wants us to do in the midst of all the uncertainty we face today is to learn how to trust him and to believe that "While I don't know the answer, I know Jesus, and Jesus knows the answer, and I can trust in him". And learn how to trust in him when it looks like everything's going to hell in a hand basket. Jesus is still on his throne. Nothing has caught him by surprise, and nothing will ever catch him by surprise. He is the sovereign God, and he is in control, and you can trust him. You can trust Jesus in the midst of what's happening today, in the midst of what's going to happen tomorrow.
Pastor Mark Mitchell told this story as a picture of our lives in the world of the end. He said, "Several years ago I was running a marathon. I trained hard to be as prepared as possible, but there's a part of a marathon that's always hard to prepare for. A marathon is just a little over 26 miles, but experts tell you never to train for more than 20 miles. So that's what we all did, and that means that the last 6 miles of a marathon are no man's land, and you're up for grabs. You don't know what you're getting yourself into. You may hit a wall. You may have cramps. You only know that it's going to be tough, but somehow you're going to get through it because you've trained to get there the best you know how, and you will be ready, and you will be able to cross the finish line".
When we read a passage like we read in Matthew 24, it's like we're reading about the last 6 miles of a marathon. We know it's going to be hard, we know there's nothing we can do now to replicate what it will be like then, but Jesus has told us what to look for and how to be prepared so that we can cross the finish line. We prepare by resting in the fact that God is sovereign and whatever happens to us is part of his plan. We prepare by trusting that he's creating opportunities for us to bear witness, and he'll give us the words we need when we need them. We prepare by learning to endure hardship so that when greater hardship comes, we don't fall by the wayside. We prepare by refusing to allow ourselves to buy the lie that the things of this world are the most important things and give up the eternal things for things that will pass away. We prepare by praying each day for God's strength to face whatever the last 6 miles of life may hold for us.
When I write a book or do a series, sometimes I get interviewed, and you can always count on one question always at the end of the interview. It goes like this. "Dr. Jeremiah, if you would want people to take any one thing from this, what would it be"? I have anticipated that question for this and for the rest of what we're going to talk about, and here it is. It's frustrating as it can be not to be able to do anything about all the things that are wrong. All of us want to be a part of what's going on so we can try to make it better, but, ladies and gentlemen, here's what you need to understand. All that's happening together around us today, all of it, obviously we need to do what we can, but we're not here primarily to make that all better. That's all here to make us better. That's all happening so that we can be strengthened and become good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
God is allowing these things to build us into the kind of people we need to be. We don't know what the last 6 miles of this marathon is going to be like, but we know it's not going to be easy. So let's get ready. Let's do our homework. Let's do our study. Let's stay strong. Let's don't get blown off course by all the craziness that goes on around us. Let's understand that we may not be able to control the things that are wrong, but we can control the space that's in us called our heart and soul so that we can be the people of God no matter what happens.
That's my prayer for all of us. I can't change the world, I can change David Jeremiah because God is at work in my life, and he's at work in your life. He wants you to be better than you are. He wants me to be better than I am. He wants me to be stronger, to be more knowledgeable, not to be panic-stricken when something happens I don't understand, 'cause God is in control and we have a great God. And listen to me. When he says it, it happens. When he prophesies it, he fulfills it just as he did with the temple. Nothing falls short of the sovereignty of God, and he's already told us in his book what the last chapter is. One day we're going to stand with him with our hands up high in victory, and we will be across the finish line, but in the meantime God is calling us to be his people in the transformational time that we're going through, and that's my hope for all of us, that we won't be victimized, but that we will be victors in Jesus Christ. Can I get a witness? Amen, amen.