The Olivet Discourse
Part 1: Matthew 24:1-11
Matthew 24:1 – 25:46, is termed the Olivet Discourse (speaking authoritatively on a subject) as it takes place on the side of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple Mount. It is the last of five discourses of Jesus that is recorded by Matthew, and arises because of a prophetic statement made by Jesus concerning the Temple. The parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36, with the writings of Matthew being the more detailed.
It is important to recognize that the book of Matthew is written to reveal the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Yeshua the Messiah, to the Jews. So, it must be understood that the Olivet Discourse, although covering general signs of the End Times, has details that relate specifically to the nation of Israel.
The Five Discourses Recorded in Matthew
Matthew records a collection of the five major discourses used by Jesus to instruct His disciples, which are comprehensive and unrivalled in scripture. They are also a very useful guide as a manual on discipleship, being a detailed provision, and meeting all the requirements for a believer to be an effective member of the Kingdom.
Jesus’ Five Discourses
|The authoritative message from the Messiah (Sermon on the Mount)||Chapters: 5–7|
|The authoritative mission of the Messiah’s messengers||Chapters: 10|
|The mysteries of the Messianic Kingdom revealed in parables||Chapters: 13|
|The community of the Messiah revealed||Chapters: 18–20|
|The delay, return, and judgment of the Messiah (Olivet Discourse)||Chapters: 24-25|
Matthew and the Tzitzit
There is a very interesting correlation between the layout of the book of Matthew and the Tzitzit (Deuteronomy 22:12; Numbers 15:38), the tassel that God instructed the Israelites to attach to the four corners of their clothing. A Tallit is a fringed garment, traditionally worn as a prayer shawl by religious Jews. The Tallit has special twined and knotted tassels known as Tzitzit attached to its four corners.
Matthew, through the layout of His gospel copying the Tzitzit, is confirming John’s words, “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God (Jn. 1:1).”
- The Torah instructs that the Tzitzit be on all 4 corners of the shawl, each corner is an al kanfei or “wing.”
- Tzitzit is tied by using 8 threads (one being blue), 5 double knots and 4 windings between the knots.
- The 5 knots signify the 5 books of the Torah, and the 4 windings represent the four letters YHWH.
- The windings of the Tzitzit are twisted a specific number of times. The order is 7,8,11 and 13. The gematria of YHWH is recorded in the adding of the number 7 + 8 = 15 (YH) and 11 (WH).
- 13 has the value of the Hebrew word for “one”: echad. (The 8 threads and 5 knots also equal 13, a second witness to the “one God”).
- The tzitzit is designed to point to the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear o Israel the Lord (YHWH) is our God, the Lord (YHWH) is One (echad).”
- The total of twists equals 39 – equalling the number of strips Yeshua received.
- The list above consists of information gleaned from Dwight A. Pryor, Behold the man, Centre for Judaic-Christian Studies. 2005.
The gospel of Matthew is written by the disciple Matthew (Levi) for the Jews, and depicts Jesus as the King of the Jews, the one who fulfils the promises of the prophets. So, Matthew wrote his Gospel in the pattern of the Tzitzit:
- The five discourses representing the 5 books of the Torah.
- The four sections on deeds representing Jesus as YHWH (the Great I am).
|Word or Deed||Chapters||Tzitzit|
The Context of Matthew 24
When interpreting Scripture, it is always important to understand the context of that Scripture. In Matthew 23, Jesus goes through the seven woes of Judgment against the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. These religious men thought they were better than their ancestors who had killed God’s prophets, yet Jesus stresses that they are no better, and would continue to kill the righteous. He concludes His discourse by stating that as they were no better than their forefathers, the punishment for killing God’s people will fall on them. This judgement is made clear in the parable of the tenants (Mark 12:1-12), where in the parable the land is Israel, the land owner is God, the servants are the prophets and the son is Jesus. The parable starts with the land owner sending his servants to claim his share of the harvest from his tenants, but they are mistreated and even killed. Finally, the land owner sends his son, believing the tenants will respect his son’s authority, but the tenants do not, and kill the son as well. The Landlord then becomes determined to ensure that the tenants are brought to justice. The great sin of the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, is that they do not recognise the authority of the Son of God and kill him, which will result in their judgement.
Jesus ends chapter 23 by moving from a condemnation of the religious leadership of Israel, to a lament over the city of Jerusalem, as he looks ahead to the destruction of the city. A disaster that is the direct consequence of the failings and the faults of the religious hierarchy. Jerusalem, the city that had seen so many of God’s prophets being put to death, will also be the site of the Messiah’s rejection and crucifixion. Jesus mourns over the city that He loves, His message (John 5:39–40), and His protection were rejected, and so the city that has sown to the wind would reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).
“1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”.
Just prior to the start of Matthew 24, Jesus had just lamented over Jerusalem’s continued unbelief. His spirit was grieved and His heart was in pain as He prophesied that He would not return to earth until Israel as a nation cried out: “blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord”. So, as we move on to the start of Matthew 24, the parable of the tenants, and the grief Jesus experienced because of the lack of understanding by the Jews, must remain in the forefront of our mind. The disciples aware of the deep sorrow of their Rabbi, attempt to console Jesus as they make their way up the Mount of Olives. So, they stop and point out to Jesus the magnificence and grandeur of the Temple across the Kidron valley.
The second temple erected by the Jews returning from exile had been a shadow of Solomon’s splendid temple. Herod the Great, to gain favour with the Jews, had started major renovations to the second temple in 19 BC, which would continue for a further 80 years. For the Jews it was the centre of their culture, so the disciples believed that the grand sight of the Temple would uplift the spirit of their Master. Jesus, however, was dismissive of the palatial buildings, referring to them as “all these”. He brushed off the disciple’s enthusiasm, their error was that they were looking at the outside of the building, for Jesus the buildings were temporary, and He was about to reveal just how temporary they were.
“I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (2b).
This prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman general Titus crushed the Jewish revolt. After a brutal battle to break through onto the Temple Mount from the North, the Romans finally succeeded. After four months of siege fighting, the Roman soldiers had revenge in their hearts, and disobeying the command by Titus to preserve the Temple, they set the building alight. The fire was so intense that the gold plating of the Temple melted down into the cracks of the Temple platform. To loot the gold, the Temple and the Temple platform were dismantled, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy. The religious leaders of the time had converted the Temple from a place of worship to a place of corruption and greed. The disciples saw the exterior; Jesus saw the inner truth.
The Curiosity of the Disciples: Matthew 24:3
“3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’”
On reaching the summit, Peter, Andrew, James and John, disturbed by the unexpected statement of doom for the Temple, approach Jesus privately and ask a threefold question:
- When would the destruction of the Temple take place?
- What the sign of His coming be would be? – related to the establishment of His Kingdom.
- What would be the signs of the age just prior to His return?
For any Jew of the time, the destruction of the Temple would be drastic, and in their understanding would be connected to the end of the age. So, the three questions for them would be part of one event, they did not understand that the Temple’s destruction and the return of Jesus would be two separate events. Their second question has two parts to it, both related to the return of Jesus. When Jesus responds to questions 2 and 3, the answer that He gives is for all mankind, not just His disciples.
When would the destruction of the Temple take place? Luke 21:20
Matthew does not record Jesus’ answer to the first question regarding the destruction of the Temple, Luke however, does, writing:
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near’ (Luke 21:20).
Jesus indicates that the timing for the destruction of the Temple would be when the disciples saw Jerusalem under siege. This prophecy, as was explained earlier, was pointing to the 70 AD Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that more than 1,100,000 Jews perished and nearly 100,000 were taken captive. The Jews suffered great hardships in the defence of the Holy City:
- When famine set in, fights broke out between rival factions of the city defenders over the remaining supplies.
- Homes of the wealthy were raided, and the occupants tortured and murdered in a quest to find food.
- Jews captured by the Romans were crucified in sight of the walls. To break the monotony of crucifying hundreds of victims, the Romans nailed the condemned in different positions.
- The Jews, believing that their Messiah would come and deliver them, and save the Temple, tenaciously fought to the very end. A sign of the brutal combat that took place for the city may be seen in the kitchen of the Burnt House Museum in Jerusalem, where a skeletal forearm is on display.
Because of the prophetic warning given by Jesus in Luke 21, the Christians, most of them being Jews, escaped the city prior to the siege. The Jews felt greatly betrayed by this act and the consequence was a dramatic increase in the animosity between Jews and Christians.
General World Conditions: Matthew 24:6-8
“6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains”.
Matthew records that Jesus started His answer to the disciples by dealing with the last question first, what would be the signs of the age just prior to His return. Many Christians, unfortunately, when interpreting this Scripture are looking for the return of Jesus in the rapture. The book of Matthew is written for the Jews, portraying Jesus as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Therefore, the answer Jesus gives relates to His return as the Son of David, to take His place on David’s throne in Jerusalem. So, it is extremely important to understand that in these two verses Jesus warns against jumping to conclusions and premature excitement about His return. He gives a list of global events, catastrophes that greatly and tragically effect mankind: wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilence (Lk. 21:11). They must not be taken on their own as signs of the end of days, there has always been these great catastrophes that shake the very fabric of mankind, and they will continue to devastate the lives of many in the future.
What we can take from the statement though, is that the Great Tribulation will show a greater increase in these prophesied events, as part of the Trumpet and Bowl judgements, and a consequence of the rule of the Antichrist. The last 3 ½ years before the return of Jesus as King of kings, are “the beginning of the birth pains,” that Jesus is referring to in Matthew 24:8. The intensity of the signs will grow stronger and stronger, just as the contractions of eminent birth intensifies, as the time of Jesus’ return draws near. The frequency of the catastrophes will also see an overlapping of the disasters, there will be no “intermission” for the people of the Great Tribulation to be able recover.
Throughout history great tragedies have been seen as last days events, however, Jesus warns that they cannot be taken as signs on their own. The 20th century had two world wars, but the end was not yet. The true fulfilment of the prophesied wars will be the conflicts that arise in the Last Days, as is recorded in Daniel 11:40-45 between the kings of the North and the kings of the South, which was covered in the last study on the book of Daniel. These conflicts recorded by Daniel, and other conflicts, will progress towards the greatest of world wars at the end of the age – Armageddon.
The understanding of these warning signs must therefore not be connected to the return of Jesus at the rapture, but rather the return of Jesus at the end of the Tribulation. The book of Revelation is clear on the increase in wars (red horse), plagues, famine (pale horse), and earthquakes (bowl judgements), during the last 3½ Years before the return of Jesus to earth to establish His Kingdom. So, although the “signs” will have a presence, and may even have an increase in intensity towards the last days, the focus of Matthew 24:6-8 is the multiple cataclysms and disasters of the Great Tribulation.
To make the point, let’s review the signs prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:6-7:
“Wars and Rumours of Wars”
“… wars and rumours of wars.”
Despite the continued desire for world peace and the formation of the United Nations in 1948, conflicts around the world continue. There are more than 40 active conflicts around the world at the moment. These wars are taking place in Central Africa, North Africa, The Middle east, Asia and Central America.
The conflicts of greatest concern are:
- Russia – Ukraine: Centred around the status of the Ukrainian regions of Crimea and Donbass.
- India – China: In June 2020, Chinese forces objected to Indian road construction in disputed territories; melee fighting resulted in the deaths of soldiers from both sides.
- India – Pakistan: these two countries have had continual clashes over the disputed Kashmir region, with both countries claiming sovereignty over the region.
- North Korea – South Korea: Both countries are technically still at war with each other, as the Korean War of the early 1950s ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty. The region is still volatile, an example would be that war nearly started in In August 1976, merely because a group of US and South Korean men trimming a poplar tree in the demilitarized zone between the two counties. The North Korean soldiers bludgeoned to death two American officers with axes and clubs.
- Israel – Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran: Muslims want to drive the Jews into the sea, and claim back what they consider to be Islamic land.
- Internal strife in Yemen with Saudi Arabia and Iran supporting opposing sides.
- With the withdrawal of America from Afghanistan, the radical Islamic group the Taliban has taken control of the country. The Taliban are not a unified organisation, but rather a conglomerate of Warlords, who had a common enemy – the USA. The most likely scenario for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, will be that there will now be wars between the different factions, as each Warlord seeks to establish his authority. The possibility also exists that the War on Terror has taken a body blow with the loss of Afghanistan to the Taliban, and that the number of terror attacks in Western countries will increase.
Of the above conflict regions Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel are known to have nuclear weapons, (Israel has never formally admitted this fact), and Iran and North Korea are in the process of developing nuclear weapons.
In conclusion, there is clear evidence that world conflicts are still continuing, but in comparison with the wars in the first half of the 20th century, things have quietened down.
“… and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places”.
Famine has continually been a problem in the world from the time of Joseph to the present day, being caused by war, drought, natural disasters, over population or politics (corruption). At the beginning of the 21st century, famine still threatens over 20 million people across South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia Yemen and Syria. With modern technological advances mankind should always be able to provide food for all – there should not be famine in the world today – yet the scourge continues to devastate countries. With the continued increase in world population, one could argue that this is a sign that is continuing to increase.
Increase in Earthquakes
“… and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places”.
In 2015 the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, revealed statistics that stated that the overall trend showed an increasing frequency in earthquakes.
The statistics revealed that on average magnitude 2 and smaller earthquakes occur several hundred times a day, world-wide. While major earthquakes with a magnitude of greater than 7, happen more than once a month. The extreme range earthquakes of greater than a magnitude 8 and higher, occur about once a year.
The number of deaths due to earthquakes has seen only a mildly increasing trend over the years, despite an increase in the number of earthquakes. This is possibly due to better earthquake resistant technology. However, the devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and the 2011 Japan tsunami are indelibly stamped on people’s memories.
- Information on earthquake activity supplied by: wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists of earthquakes
Earthquakes are Increasing:
|Century||Magnitude ≥ 8.5|
|2001-2020 (20 years)||5|
- The information if the table was attained from: wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists of earthquakes (04/2021)
So, the increase in earthquakes is another of the prophesied signs that may reasonably be argued is increasing over time. However, the greatest of all earthquakes is the last earthquake ever, which is poured out onto the earth at the seventh bowl judgement. This earthquake will be so powerful that it will be, “such as there had never been since man was on the earth” (Rev. 16:18), and then with that judgement Satan’s dominion will be over:
“The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell…” (Revelation 16:17-19).
“There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places…” (Luke 21:11).
For some reason Matthew 24 does not include pestilence as a sign of the time, but Luke does include it. As plague (pestilence) is the result of both the black horse judgement, and the first bowl judgement, it should be included in this study.
Pandemics of the 21st Century:
This particularly contagious virus had raged between 2013 and 2016 in West Africa before reappearing in 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 2 200 people died. Nearly 11 300 deaths have been reported so far.
H1N1 appeared in Mexico in early spring 2009. First designated as “swine” flu, before being declared a pandemic in June of the same year. According to WHO figures, the flu wave carried by this virus has caused the death of 18 500 people.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS, appeared at the end of 2002 in southern China. It is transmitted from the bat to the civet, then from the civet to humans. The civet is a mammal valued for its meat and sold alive on Chinese markets. SARS is particularly contagious; it triggers pneumonia which can prove fatal. From November 2002 through to July 2003, a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS, of these, 774 died.
2009 swine flu pandemic
The 2009 swine flu pandemic killed an estimated 284 000 people world-wide. The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, annual influenza epidemics result in about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths. So, this outbreak was well within the expected consequences of flu each year for the world population.
Covid 19 shut down the world, imprisoned people in their homes, and by the end of 2020 had claimed over a million lives world-wide. According to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, on the 30 of September 2021, there was a total of 233,645,614 corona virus cases, with 4,781,106 deaths.
Increase in STDs
Sexually transmitted disease (STD): An infection transmitted through sexual contact, caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites.
In the 20th Century, the advent of penicillin and other antibiotics led to an effective cure of bacterial STDs. So, in the 1960s, the decade of free love, all the major STDs could be cured. This medical marvel led to a general perception by people that STDs were more of a nuisance than a threat, so promiscuous conduct continued. In the 1970s with the eradication of small pox man held the belief that disease would eventually be conquered by medical advances. Then the 1980s arrived, and so did Herpes and Aids. Now there was no cure, so the disease was for life, and the contracting of the AIDs virus would bring about a slow painful death. Overall, the number of sexually transmitted disease has increased fourfold since the 1960s.
These Four New STIs Are on the Rise:
- Mycoplasma genitalium. Scientists have known about Mycoplasma genitalium since at least 1981, but the CDC first acknowledged it as an STD in 2015.
- Neisseria meningitidis. Meningitis is a swelling of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
- Shigella flexneri: a bacterium passed on by direct or indirect contact with human faeces.
- Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV): An uncommon genital or anorectal (affecting the anus and/or rectum), an unusual strain of Chlamydia.
The information on STIs was attained from: health/std-sexually-transmitted-diseases-partner/index.html. (04/2021).
In an era when medical advances should have brought “pestilence” under control, the multifaceted sinfulness of man has ensured that this is not the case; whether it is drug resistant bacteria through the misuse of antibiotics, the development of deadly virus strains in laboratories, or the promiscuity of mankind, the modern world continually sees new and deadly diseases making appearances. However, to argue that pestilence is on the increase would be a hard sell, as there have been many devastating plagues in history. In the mid-1300s the Bubonic Plague (Black Death) killed an estimated 25 million people. Smallpox is credited with doing more to conquer the Americas than the colonial powers, decimating the indigenous populations. Also, smallpox is estimated to have killed more than 300 million people between 1900 and 1980, when the UN declared the disease to have been eradicated. Last century had three major flu outbreaks, the 1918-20, which was responsible for at least 50 million deaths worldwide, then both the 1957-58 and 1968-70 flu outbreaks killed between 1 million and 4 million each.
To use the catastrophes listed by Jesus as evidence of the near return of Jesus for the rapture of His Church, is an exegetical error. An error which has consequences which Peter refers to in his second letter:
“knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
The repeated claims by Believers that a catastrophic event is a sign of the soon return of Jesus, results in people becoming resistant to the use of prophecy as an evangelical tool. The return of Jesus becomes a joke, with people saying “where is the promise of His coming?”. The rapid occurrence of the wars, earthquakes, famine and pestilence, all occurring together during the Great Tribulation is the fulfilment of Jesus’ warning.
Apostacy (24: 4-5, 11, 24)
The outstanding sign for the Bride of Christ, on the soon return of their Bridegroom at the rapture is – apostacy. While listing the signs of His soon return, Jesus names them each one by one, except for His warning of spiritual deception, which He stresses three times:
- Vs. 4-5: “‘And’ Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray (deceives you). For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ (anointed),’ and they will lead many astray’.”
- Vs. 11: “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray”.
- Vs. 24: “For false christs (anointings) and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”.
The dominant sign of the soon return of Jesus will be the many deceptions by false prophets and false christs, who will prepare the way for the Antichrist – the great deceiver who will blaspheme God and oppose Jesus.
The list of false messiahs from the time of Jesus is extremely long, from Simon bar Kokhba, who lead a revolt against the Roman Empire (AD 132-135), to the modern times with Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, shooting at the White house attempting to kill the Antichrist (President Obama) in 2011. There have always been people claiming to be the messiah; at times, in the market in Tel Aviv, you will be able to hear the latest individual proclaiming to all that will listen, that they are the long-awaited messiah. There are presently seven well know individuals who make the claim that they are the reincarnated Jesus:
- Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez (USA).
- Apollo Quiboloy (The Philippines).
- Alan John Miller (Australia).
- Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop (Russia).
- Wayne Bent (USA).
- Inn Cristo (Brazil).
- Jose’ Louis de Jesu’s Miranda (USA).
The key to interpreting the three warnings given by Jesus, is that they refer to false prophets and people who have false anointings, not just people claiming to be Jesus. In the modern age we do not only have those who have made the claim to be the reincarnation of Jesus, but more importantly, we also have groups who claim a Christ Spirit through anointing. The New Age religion, which is strongly influenced by Eastern Religions, holds to pantheism, where God created from himself, so the whole universe is divine, including human beings themselves – man is a part of God. Thus, mankind through following a path of enlightenment is able to attain godhood – the New Age term being “the Christ is awakened in you”. Therefore, according to their belief, an enlightened New Ager is equal with Jesus, and will be the guru (teacher) to lead others on the path to nirvana. The New Age movement is pluralistic (all religions have a part of God), and therefore have been strong advocates of a one-world-religion, and a one-world-government. Benjamin Crème a prominent New Age spokesman in the 1990s, revealed that the New Age movement’s messiah, the Lord Maitreya, was the coming master that will be the fulfilment of the hope of all religions.
New Age philosophy has had a major effect on Western thought and ideology, even becoming a strong influence in apostate Christianity. An example is the Prosperity Theology, with its focus on serving self rather than God. They believe that the power of positive thinking can influence reality, so an individual with enough faith can imagine a prosperous future for themselves. This visualisation of desires in prayer, is a practice which has its origins in the Eastern meditation technique called maya, which is the reality an individual can create by the power of their thoughts and emotions.
The Prosperity Faith is heretical, believing that Jesus gave up His Godhood and came to earth as a mere man, therefore all the miracles of Jesus were performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. They deny the hypostatic union of Jesus, i.e., that He was both all man and all God. Paul records in his letter to the Philippians that Jesus humbled Himself under the Father, operating only under the will of the God the Father (Philippians 2:6-9), He did not give up his Godhood as the Prosperity cult claims. Using their false doctrine, they claim to be equal with Jesus, men (and women) who operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. More than one Prosperity Theologian has made the heretical statement, that they are equal with Jesus, and given themselves the revered name – “I am”. Each Prosperity Theologian therefore fits the definition of a false christ!
The Wafer God
An interesting point regarding false messiahs is found in verse 10, where Jesus warns the disciples that if they are told He is in the “inner rooms,” not to believe it. The Greek word translated as “inner room,” or “secret chambers” is Tameion. Strong’s Concordance gives us the actual meaning of Tameion: “a dispensary or magazine, ie. a chamber… generally used for storage…”
Roman Catholics believe in transubstantiation – that the host when prayed over by a priest becomes the body, soul and divinity of Jesus. The host, or sun disc eucharist, is carried in a monstrance, which is decorated with sun rays, and is worshipped by the congregation. The remaining hosts are stored in a container – which is a “dispensary or magazine” within the Church. The reason for this is “to provide a focal point for prayer and worship of Christ and his real presence” (1).
Apostacy in the Last Days Church is extremely important, and deserves to be covered in some detail, so in this study on the “Big Five” prophetic scriptures, we move on to 2 Thessalonians 2 next, where once again the issue of the apostate church will be covered, including examples of Apostate Christianity in the 21st Century. In this study I will record “The characteristic of the Apostate Church”, which was compiled by Alan Vincent (2), following which, I will give details on the important topic that all Believers need to be aware of – the apostate Ecumenical Movement.
(1) “Questions and answers on the Eucharist: Proclaiming faith in the new millennium,” Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, 2000, Harrisburg, Knights of Columbus booklet.
The Characteristics of the End Time Apostate Church:
- Some will depart from the faith (1 Tim 4:1).
- The religious beliefs and religion of those in the end time church will be misled by deceiving spirits (1 Tim 4:3).
- People will not only be seduced or misled by evil spirits but will heed doctrines of demons (i.e. they will accept false ‘religious truths’). (Gal 1:7; 2 Cor. 11).
- The time will come when people will not endure (tolerate, put up with), sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3-4).
- People will attend the church that tells them what they want to hear (i.e. what appeals to their desires). (2 Tim 4:3).
- People will turn aside from truth, to myths and fables. (2 Tim 4:4).
- Even ministers in so-called Christian churches will deny Jesus Christ (i.e. they will deny the atoning work of Christ, and even Christ himself). They will even speak evil of the truth. (2 Peter 2:12).
- It will be a dangerous time (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
- People will increasingly have an OUTWARD appearance of religion but possess no INNER reality of what they profess. (i.e. they will have a form of godliness but deny the power of what they profess to believe in). (2 Tim 3:1-5).
- Things will get worse and not better. (2 Tim 3:12).
- People will joke about and mock the second coming of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:3-4).
- People will abandon true faith and follow a substitute (false) christ. (Math 24:5; 2 Thess. 2).
- Great signs and wonders will be used to deceive even Christians (Rev 13:13-17).
- The above list is from: Alan Vincent, Propheticalert: http://www.alan-vincent.com/apostatechurch.htm. (10/05/2013).
THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT
The first Ecumenical assembly was held in Amsterdam in 1948, where the motto “One World, One Church” was adopted. The Ecumenical Movement is aimed at establishing a one world unified church, ecumenical being derived from the Greek “oikoumene” which means “the whole inhabited world.” There are two major ecumenical organisations, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the National Council of Churches (NCC). Both have the aim of bringing together all Christian denominations, with the ultimate aim of uniting all world religions. This ideology could be clearly seen at the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) held in Canberra Australia in 1991. More than 300 denominations, consisting of roughly 500 000 members, attended the conference. The apostate nature of the assembly was made clear when the delegates attending the ceremony passed through the “cleansing” smoke of an aboriginal fire, the opening ceremony being conducted by Australian aboriginals who worship nature – animism, which is the belief that plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena have living souls. The second key note address of the conference was given by Ms. Chung Hyun Kyung of the Presbyterian Church of South Korea. With candles burning on either side of her she invoked the spirits of the dead by reading names printed on a list, which included Hagar, Uriah, male babies killed by Herod, Joan of Arc, Jewish holocaust victims, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Biko, Martin Luther king Jr., Malcom X and lastly, “the spirit of the Liberator, our brother Jesus, tortured and killed on the cross”. Jesus is listed as a man, not the Son of God, and put on the same level as an Islamic militant. Pluralism (all religions worship the same god) has been a trademark of the WCC for years, and is becoming more predominant within the organisation over time.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the well-known English journalist, author, media personality, and satirist observed this characteristic in the early days of the WCC when he visited the 1968 meeting at Uppsala in Sweden. Muggeridge commented “One may be excused for noting that the institutional Christianity is inexorably extinguishing itself. At Uppsala, one could clearly see that they agreed on almost everything as they believed almost nothing. They reminded me of a group of drunks that I observed in a country pub, in my youth. Individually they would have fallen over, but collectively they managed to stay upright.”
The Catholic Church seized the opportunity brought about by the desire of Protestant churches to have unity, and at the Second Vatican Council (1962-64), a Decree on Ecumenism was issued by Pope Paul VI, which revealed the goal of the Catholic Church to bring Protestants back into the fold of the Mother Church.
The proclamation determined that Protestants were no longer “heretics,” but were in future to be referred to as “separated brethren”. As the Catholic Church sees itself as the true church, their ecumenical activity has the goal of bringing Protestant churches and other religions under the authority of the Pope. This is made clear in paragraph 4 of the Decree on Ecumenism which states “…when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose…” The ecumenical deception of the Catholic Church has worked, in an interview with Time Magazine (October 16 1989) Archbishop Runcie of the Church of England told them that he had given a special ring to Pope John Paul II, explaining that the ring was “an engagement ring” between him and the Pope as a promise of the future union between the Church of England and the Catholic Church.
The definition of ecumenical, then, for the Pope and the Catholic Church, is to bring all churches under the pagan traditions of the Catholic Church. It is these traditions that the Reformation Fathers so protested against, and that they were willing to die rather than submit to the Roman Church’s vile practices.
The Ecumenical Movement often cites John 17 as scriptural evidence for their ideology. In this Scripture, Jesus prays for His disciples and asks God the Father to protect them “so they may be one” (John 17:11). However, this interpretation of John 17 does not match up with Scripture, as scriptural unity is based on the right discerning of the Truth of the Word of God, not on tolerance of a variety of different teachings that are an abomination to God.
When men allow false teachings into the Church to support an ideology, the result will be an apostate Church. Apostasy refers to a falling away from the true faith, which is based on the Word of God. An apostate Church is, therefore, a Church that denounces the Word of God and introduces practices that are not in line with Scripture. They are counterfeit churches which profess to have value but are worse than worthless, because they do not add value to a person’s life. Instead, they corrupt and decay the individual’s relationship with God. Jesus is the only way, so the Apostate Church must make Jesus less, to be equal with other faiths. For example, in Catholicism Mary has become co-redeemer with Jesus, and it is Mary that is their intercessor.
Jesus warned that in the last days the spiritual deception would be so strong that if it were possible “even the elect” would be deceived (Matthew 24:24). Regarding the spiritual deception of the last days Gary Kah in his book The New World Religion writes “what better way to deceive believers than through a false unity which has the appearance of Christianity, but is actually rooted in pantheism and the occult (1)?”
The effect of the liberal approach to theology that ecumenicalism brings to a church can be seen in actions such as the Presbyterian Church in America, which banned the impressively moving song In Christ Alone from their song book in July, 2013. The reason given for this puzzling decision was that in the third stanza, the song has the lines: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.” Liberal theology rejects a wrathful God, so for a song to stress that the death of Jesus on the cross was to appease the wrath of God is totally unacceptable. The very foundation of the doctrine of salvation is eroded by this action, as the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross becomes meaningless. A wrathful God does not fit in well with the ecumenical gospel of love, which depicts a god who opens his arms to embrace all faiths.
In the same week as the announcement of the banning of In Christ Alone, came the equally shocking news that at a launch of a UN campaign promoting homosexual “rights,” the very liberal Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu stated that he would rather be in hell than go to a “homophobic heaven.” Tutu went on to say that he “would not worship a God who is homophobic”. It seems that the retired archbishop has trouble with the concept of a righteous, holy God, whose love for mankind was so great that he sent his only Son to die for their sins (John 3:16). On the same day that this shocking announcement was made, Pope Francis, during a press conference on his flight back from the World Youth Day in Rio, made the comment “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?” The Pope indicated that he would prefer to see gay people integrated rather than marginalised, signalling a more tolerant stance on homosexuality by the Catholic Church. The attack on the Word of God will continue as Satan prepares the world for the doctrines that the Antichrist will bring.
Paul warned that the rapture will not occur until there is a falling away from the faith, which will allow for the rise of the Antichrist, “for that day (the rapture) will not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3 [KJV])”. The rapture, it seems, cannot be far off.
The spirit of the Antichrist was at work in the early Church, which was plagued by Gnostics, Nicolaitans, false teachers and false prophets who brought error into the Church and sought to corrupt Christianity. In recent times we have the philosophy of liberal humanism, Eastern religious, New Age teachings, and pagan beliefs which have become part of the sermons given by men proclaiming to be teaching the Word of God. Paul warned of this in his first letter to Timothy, when he said that “in the latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Those churches that incorporate these false teachings will become part of the Apostate Church, which in turn will eventually be incorporated into the one-world religion that will be controlled by the Antichrist.
Again, it is Paul who warned in his second letter to Timothy, of the Apostate Church’s corrupt teachings when he wrote – “men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This turning away from sound doctrine to teachings that suit the morals of modern man will result in mankind becoming so divorced from God that they will see the Antichrist as their saviour. Evidence of this may be seen in the “designer Christianity” of post modernism, where everything is relative to the wants and needs of the individual.
The Ecumenical Church by embracing all religious groups will produce a religious empire that will tolerate no interference. The idea of a gospel message that tolerates all manner of sins and seeks for unification with the Catholic Church is an anathema to Bible based churches. Ironically, the Ecumenical Church that shows tolerance towards all faiths, will not tolerate, intolerance. The greatest sin to the Ecumenical Church is intolerance, so the Bible based churches who reject their philosophy of permissive unity, will be targeted by them for persecution. Eventually however, at the time of the rapture, that hindrance to their evil doctrine will come to an end. In the absence of the True Church of God, the Apostate Church will, under the authority of the Antichrist, rise to a position of power and dominance, eventually assimilating all religions into its ever-broadening fold.
The ugly truth is that the apostate, harlot church is no longer a conglomerate of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, liberal protestant churches and pseudo-Christian cults. Unfortunately, now even groups that were considered “evangelical” are becoming part of the lie that is ecumenicalism. The falling away that Paul warned of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (KJV) has become a reality with the eroding of the Church of Christ Jesus to a remnant. The Church in the West is under attack and the weapons of the enemy are the ecumenical love gospel, post-modern relativism, Prosperity Theology driven by the love of money, Replacement Theology and the rise of anti-Semitism, Liberation Theology, humanism, eastern religion and New Age ideology. “Christians” now measures themselves by the standard they themselves have created, standards that influenced by humanistic, worldly ideals. Each person measures themselves according to standards that they have set for themselves, as seen through their own eyes, that they are good, moral, decent and religious people.
(1) Kah, Gary. The New World Religion. Zondervan, 1999.
List of ecumenical Apostate Church’s compromises with the world:
- Fornication (sex before marriage)
- Same sex marriage
- Pluralism – we all worship the same God – man can be God!
- Arbitrary divorce
The Ecumenical Movement will persecute the Evangelical Church
The Ecumenical Church is rooted in Babylon Mystery Religion, with its goal to unite all the religions of the world. The belief that all religions worship the same god (Pluralism) has become a central focus of the Ecumenical Church. This motivation is in direct conflict with God and rebels against His provision of His son – Jesus – as the perfect and only way for mankind to be restored in relationship with Him. This rebellion by the Ecumenical Church defines it as the Apostate Church of the End Times, and reveals that it is part of the Whore of Babylon, “Mystery Babylon the Great,” a one-world dominating religion which directly opposes Jesus and His provision of salvation.
The rebellion against God by the Ecumenical Church is going to see the true Church of God being thrust center stage in direct conflict with the Ecumenical Church. Which in its growth as part of the Whore of Revelation, will see the true Church of God as an obstacle to its ultimate goal of a one-world-religion. Unable to influence the true Church to follow its ideology of permissive unity the Ecumenical Church will turn on the Bible based, fundamentalist churches and try to destroy them. Evangelical Churches that are blind to this reality and unprepared will be easy targets. A key phrase that will be used by the Ecumenical Church to emphasize the isolation of the true Church will be “fundamentalist”, a word that has been bastardized by the Mainstream Media, to group Born Again Believers with extremist, militant, religious groups.
Those Evangelical Churches who have continually avoided taking a stand against ecumenicalism, who have refused to teach End Times prophecy and warn of the move towards globalisation, with a one-world government and a one-world religion, will struggle to explain the cause of, and reason behind their being targeted for persecution to their congregations. Not able to give the correct encouragement and support to their flock, these churches will most likely collapse and no longer serve their community.
Scripture reveals the reality of this persecution through the sibling conflicts repeatedly recorded in the Bible. The older sibling who is out of relationship with the Lord persecutes the younger sibling. The Babylonian religion (apostate faith) founded before Judaism and Christianity behaves as the older brother, who in rebellion against God persecutes the younger brother, the child of promise.
Examples of the sibling rivalry that through typology prophetically reveal the conflict that will occur between the Ecumenical Church and the true Church of God are:
- In Genesis 4: Cain the older brother, because of pride, kills his younger brother Able.
- Galatians 4:22: Records the struggle between Abraham’s two sons, one son Ishmael from the bonds woman, Hagar, and one son Isaac from the free woman, Sarah. Ishmael targets Isaac for ridicule (Genesis 21:9).
- In Gen. 25:22-23: the Scripture reveals that “the older shall serve the younger,” the false religion will have to serve the true faith. This is revealed in the story of the twins Esau and Jacob. Through prophecy God reveals that Esau the first born will be spiritually inferior to his younger brother Jacob, and it will be Jacob who receives the promise blessing from God. The narrative records that Esau sought to kill Jacob, and Jacob had to flee for his life (Gen. 27:41).
- In Genesis 37: Joseph’s brothers hated him because they were jealous of the promise given to him. Joseph the righteous younger brother is persecuted by his older brothers.
- In 1 Samuel 17:28: David’s older worldly brother mocks and ridicules him, just prior to David’s representing God in battle against the Philistine, Goliath.
So, just as the children of promise in the Old Testament were persecuted by their older brothers, the children of the flesh, so too the Church that is under the promise of God will be persecuted by the Ecumenical Church – the Apostate Church which is born of fleshly desires. Setting up its own standards for worship of God, the Ecumenical Church has become blind to the Truth and no longer serve God but themselves.
I have gone into a reasonable amount of detail in explaining apostacy and ecumenicalism, in order to stress the importance for Believers not to be focusing on the attention-grabbing catastrophic events as signs of the last days. The Sign that the Bride of Christ should be concerned about is the growing apostacy in the Church. God is going to define his True Church in the days before His return, and the two key aspects of that definition will be the Word of God as the foundation of our faith, and support for the nation of Israel, as the centre of all End Times prophecy. Replacement Theology churches are going to have to make a tough decision, do they hold onto the Anti-Semitic doctrine of Replacement Theology and become part of the Ecumenical Church, or do they renounce the foul doctrine and face persecution as part of the Bride of Christ. So, for the remnant Church, the sign that the return of Jesus for His pure spotless Bride is near at hand, is the growth of the Apostate Church, and the intensification of the persecution of the remnant Church.
What Disciples Can Expect: Matthew 24:9-10
“9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake”.
Having given the warning not to jump to conclusions about major catastrophes, Jesus then moves to describe what His disciples must expect during the time between His ascension and second coming at the end of the Tribulation. The warning Jesus gives is one He has repeated before: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. … If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well” (John 15:20). In the period after Jesus ascends to heaven and before He comes again, His disciples should expect to be persecuted. The intensity of the persecution could be such that Christians believe the end is near, but persecution like catastrophes will always be occurring, it does not mean that the return of Jesus is near.
Please do not get confused, Jesus is referring to the continued persecution of believers through the ages, which will culminate in the greatest persecution of the saints ever during the Great Tribulation. I have linked the triple warning of apostacy, given by Jesus, with the Last Days move of the Ecumenical Church towards a one-world religion. In the time just prior to the rapture, the Lord will use persecution to refine his true Bride. So, there is a double indicator of the soon return of Jesus for His Bride – the growing momentum of the Ecumenical Church to becoming a one-world-religion, and because of intolerance towards this, the Remnant Church will face persecution.
From the time of Emperor Claudius AD 52, to the end of Diocletian reign in AD 305, the early Church experienced persecution by the Roman Empire. Rome was tolerant of the religions of the nations they conquered, as long as they include the Roman Emperor as one of their gods, and made sacrifices to him. The only two faiths that refused to do this were Judaism and Christianity; the Jews however escaped persecution by saying that they would make sacrifices for the Emperor.
Christians living in the West today, live in areas of religious tolerance, but that is not the case for Christians living in the Middle East, Asia and Africa (above the equator). Every day, on average, 13 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, and another 5 are abducted, according to the 2021 World Watch List (WWL). These Christians live under the threat of violence, persecution and intimidation daily. Converting from Islam to Christianity is a death sentence in many cases, but certainly reprisals can be expected – acid being thrown in the face of Christian converts has become popular.
Both the books of Daniel and Revelations record that God is going to give authority to the Antichrist to persecute the saints (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:7). So, during the Great Tribulation, believers in their multitudes (Rev. 7:9-10), will be persecuted and put to death for refusing to worship the Antichrist as God. The apostle John reveals that all who worship the beast will receive a mark on their forehead, or on their right hand, which will allow them to buy and sell goods (Rev. 13:16-18). The Antichrist will therefore be able to identify those who refuse to worship him, so, the last 3½ years will be like living as a Jew in Nazi Germany, with the False Prophet having his “SS” secret police hunting believers down.
“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (Matt. 24:10).
Any time there is persecution, there are those weak individuals who will turn and side with the persecutors for their own benefit and protection, betraying those they called friend. The group that Jesus identifies as falling away are the nominal “Christians”, born into Christian traditions, or part of a social group, with no life changing salvation. Throughout history, from the Roman persecutions, to the Inquisitions, to the communist crack downs on religion, Christians have been betrayed, and handed over to persecuting authorities. The greatest intensity of betrayals will occur during the False Prophet’s persecution of those rejecting the Antichrist as God, during the Great Tribulation.
End of Part One: Matthew 24:1 – 11