Fiery Persecution

The fourth sign of the end of the age is fiery persecution of followers of Christ. Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 24:9). The noun “tribulation” (thlipsis) means “literally pressure, pressing together; figuratively in the NT . . . of sufferings of the end-time tribulation, trouble, distress (MK 13.19).” (Friberg) The verb phrase, “put you to death” means, “they will kill you” (apoktenousin humas). The root word is apokteino, “kill, slay, put to death.” (Friberg)

Hatred towards believers and the persecution and death of believers are part of the birth pains—the period of suffering until the end of the age. This intense suffering of believers is called the Seven-Year Tribulation Period (Rev. 6:9-11).

If you believe the false gospel of health and wealth, you will have a hard time accepting the concept of suffering for Christ. Suffering in sickness and poverty is antithetical to the false gospel of health and wealth, which I call the gospel of “entitlement.” The false gospel of entitlement teaches that you are “entitled” to God’s blessings of health and wealth. Health is your blessing as a child of God, they say. Wealth is your portion if you obey God, they add. However, if the gospel of health and wealth is true, then why were Paul and Timothy sick while obeying God’s will (2 Cor. 12:7-10; 1 Tim. 5:23)? Why was Jesus not prosperous? He owned no home, no bank account, and no cemetery space (Matt. 8:20). Why are godly people now suffering disease and poverty? Why does God praise the life of faith which is the life of suffering and poverty (Heb. 11:26, 36-39)? Yet the true gospel will bring you suffering and pain for Jesus. Suffering for Christ’s name is the result of believing in Christ. Jesus teaches that. The apostles teach that (Acts 5:41; 9:16; Rom. 8:17, 36; 2 Cor. 12:10; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Heb. 11:25; 1 Pet. 4:16; Rev. 12:11).

Who are the nations in the gospel of Matthew that will hate the believers? The nations are the Gentile nations, the non-Jews. “And you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matt. 10:18). The Gentile nations will hate the believers. I believe Islamic nations will play a major role in persecuting believers at the end of the age. Presently, Islamic nations are pressuring believers, banning all Christian gatherings and missionary work. Eight of the Top 10 nations persecuting Christians today are Islamic.[1] We must keep praying for the grace of God for persecuted Christians in many nations today.

Matthew 24 is about intense persecution of all believers. Revelation 6 is also about intense persecution of all believers. John writes about the killing of many believers during the Tribulation Period before Christ’s coming (Rev. 6:9-11). Hence, most likely, Jesus speaks of believers’ sufferings during the Tribulation Period in Matthew 24.

The signs of Matthew 24 are yet future for several reasons. Very few men, if any, claimed to be the Christ before the fall of Jerusalem in CE 70; or even none at all. That there were few false christs in the first century proves that the signs of Matthew 24 were not fulfilled then.

The disciples will only “hear” the wars, and not join it. (Morris) Thus, the signs could not have been fulfilled during the Jewish war against Rome in CE 70, for they will only hear of the wars. More, the disciples did not expect to live until the end of the age.

The gospel was not preached to the whole world during their lifetime. Most believers were not killed during the disciples’ lifetime. The “abomination of desolation” did not stand in the holy place during the apostolic age (v. 15). The “great tribulation” did not happen during their time (v. 21). The darkening of the sun and the falling stars are not yet (v. 29). Thus, the signs of Matthew 24 are yet future. It refers the believers’ suffering for Christ during the Tribulation Period. By that time, which is after the Rapture event, the church will no longer be on earth to suffer in the Tribulation Period (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

The church is never mentioned in Matthew 24. But there is reference to Jewish believers. There is mention of Gentile nations hating believers, implying that the believers are Jewish (v. 9). There is talk of the “holy place” in Jerusalem (v. 15). There is mention of “Judea” (v. 16). Matthew 24 has a Jewish flavor, favoring a Jewish application. The church has nothing to do with these signs. It appears that the church is no longer in the picture when the signs of Matthew 24 will happen.

Why would the nations hate the followers of Christ? Jesus gave the reason, “for my name’s sake” (v. 9). The Greek words are literally translated, “on account of my name” (NASB) or “because of my name” (NRSV) (dia to onoma mou). Jesus is saying, “Because of my name, they will persecute you; they will kill you; and they will hate you.” It implies that they will know who the Christ-believers are. They will know because the believers will proclaim Jesus’ name to them (v. 14). The people will reject Jesus’ name and persecute His people.

If you obey Jesus, you cannot keep quiet. True followers of Christ will tell others about Christ. Now if you preach Jesus, get ready to suffer for Jesus.

[1] “Christian Persecution: World Watch List,” Opendoorsusa.org. Cited July 13, 2017. Online: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/

5 Things I Realized About Life Because of Death

Recently, I faced the deaths of three beloved people in two weeks–Zenaida Pineda, Randy Pepito, and Amihan Capao. Zenaida, 58, passed away due to complications of pneumonia; Randy, 59, to cardiac arrest; and Amihan, 50, to breast cancer. They died relatively young. They were close friends and family. Zeny was a vibrant Christian, a grace-giver. Randy was my brother-in-law, talking partner, and friend. Amihan was a sweet, strong woman full of faith in Christ.

Death is a robber. It robs us of joy. Death has robbed me of three people three times in two weeks.

Death is also a door. In Amihan’s final minutes, I told her, “Amihan, death is the door to the next room (heaven). We are on this side on earth. Jesus is on the other side in heaven. Death is the door that stands between heaven and earth. At death, we enter the door to the next room. There, Jesus is waiting for those who have trusted Him as Savior.”

Consequently, I learned five things about life because of death.

1. LIFE IS SHORT. DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOUR TIME IS UP. LIVE FOR GOD.

Check out the timeline in every tombstone in the cemetery. “Henry Trocino Jr., 1965 – ?” The short “dash” in-between the years refers to your lifetime. It’s that short.

1 Peter 1:24-25,

24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

2. LIFE IS GIVEN AND TAKEN BY THE LORD. DON’T ACT AS IF YOU OWN IT.

Job 1:21, “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.'”

3. LIFE IS ONLY UP TO A POINT THAT GOD ALLOWS YOU TO LIVE. DON’T LIVE AS THOUGH YOU’RE THE ONE WHO DECIDES YOUR LIFE SPAN.

James 4:13-15,

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

4. LIFE IS PRECIOUS. DON’T WASTE IT.

C. T. Studd wrote, “Only one life. It will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” This is a favorite quote of my father-in-law, Rev. Andres Pepito.

1 Thessalonians 5:5-8,

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

5. LIFE IS A CHANCE TO SHOW YOUR LOVE FOR OTHERS. DON’T HIDE YOUR LOVE.

1 John 3:16-18,

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Can you think of someone you love that you haven’t told, “I love you”? (e.g. father, mother, brother, sister, friend, brother in Christ, etc.). Tell him today and say, “I love you.” Show your love in many ways–by asking how things are going, by asking how you can pray for her, by listening, by inviting him for coffee, by sharing the Gospel, etc.

Can you think of a strained relationship with someone? Someone you haven’t forgiven? Tell her today that you value her, that you forgive her, and that you love her in the love of the Lord.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Life is too short for avoidable delays.

 

Famines and Earthquakes

Jesus said, “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matt. 24:7).[1] The third sign of the end is natural disasters. It will be “in various places” which means it will be worldwide. Calamities will be all around the world, and not just some parts of it.

The following is a selected list of deadliest famines (at least 10M dead) and earthquakes (at least 200,000 dead) in history.

800-1000, Severe drought killed millions of Maya people

1693-1694, 1.3 to 1.5 M French died due to famine

1769-1773, Great Bengal famine of 1770, 10 M dead (one third of population)

1810, 1811, 1846, 1849, Four famines in China, 45 M died

1959-1961, the Great Chinese Famine, 15-43 M died

1996, North Korean famine, 200,000 to 3.5 M died

1556 Shaanxi, China earthquake, 820,000 dead

1976 Tangshan, China earthquake, 242,769 dead

1920 Haiyuan, China earthquake, 273,400 dead

526 Antioch, Turkey earthquake, 240,000 dead

1138 Indian Ocean earthquake, 230,210 dead

1138 Aleppo, Syria earthquake, 230,000 dead

Then Jesus added, “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains (Matt. 24:8). The phrase “birth pains” (Gk. odin) is the labor pains before childbirth. It means “to suffer intensely (similar to birth pain) – ‘to suffer greatly, great pain.’” (Louw-Nida) It is the beginning of intense suffering, the beginning of great pain.

False christs, wars, and disasters are the beginning of intense suffering. It is the beginning of a process of pain and suffering leading up to the messianic kingdom of God. (Morris) To the Jews, “birth pains” refer to the “period of suffering” just before the birth of the messianic age. (Hagner) They believed that before the Messiah shall set up His kingdom, there will be a period of great troubles and tribulations.

The signs of war, death, famine, and earthquakes are part of the seals of Revelation 6. John wrote,

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (Rev. 6:3-14).

After 72 years of the United Nations, there is war in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Sudan; and the UN cannot stop it. We see many false christs, wars, and calamities. But don’t be alarmed. It is part of the plan of God. They are signs of the end, before the birth of the Messianic age.

God is in control.

[1] The NKJV has “pestilences,” based on the Textus Receptus and the Majority Text (cf. Lk. 21:11).

Fights Between Nations

Jesus said, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matt. 24:6). The second sign is the hearing of wars and rumors of it. Hearing about wars include hearing about pain and suffering in wars, as in Marawi and Syria today.[1]

As of June 16, 2017, the total death toll in Marawi is 310.

Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the 4th Civil Relations Group, said based on the records of Joint Task Force Marawi, a total of 26 civilians have been killed by Maute while 1,629 have been rescued by troops, local government units and civil society organizations.

He said 225 terror group members were killed while 208 firearms were recovered.

On the government side, 59 have been recorded dead.”[2]

Hearing about wars and reports of wars will raise alarming thoughts. It will bother other people, but it should not bother the disciples. Jesus said they should not be “alarmed” (throeo), which means, “be disturbed or frightened” (Gingrich); “being suddenly troubled inwardly” (Friberg). The reason is that it “must take place” (v. 6). It must take place in the sovereign plan of God for this world. It is necessary for it to happen in the sovereignty of God. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1, emphasis added).

When we hear of wars, we may think that the end is here now. However, Jesus said, “But the end is not yet” (v. 6). Wars must take place, but the coming of Christ is not yet. The coming judgment and messianic rule of Christ is not yet. The end of this present age is not yet. The start of the coming messianic age is not yet. Rather, the end will happen at a time of God’s choosing.

Tell the person to your right, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Then tell the person to your left, “Trust God.”

Jesus continued, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24:7). The verb “rise” is passive voice—“nations will be raised against nation.” God Himself shall cause the rising of nations against nations. “And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, each against another and each against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom” (Isa. 19:2). The rising of nation against nation might be due to a hunger for power and oil as by Nazi Germany in World War II. It might be due to terrorist caliphates like ISIS in Syria.

But the real reason is that it is the sovereign plan of God.

[1] The Jews have heard about the themes of wars, famines, and earthquakes in their literature (2ApocBar 48:30-41; 70:2-3, 8; 2 Esdr 9:3–4; Sib. Or. 2:154–73).

[2] Amita Legaspi, “Marawi death toll now 310 —military official,” GMA News. Cited June 17, 2017. Online: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/614751/marawi-death-toll-now-310-military-official/story/.

False Christs

switchback_3I count ten signs of the end of the age before the coming of Christ.

“And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray’” (Matt. 24:4-5). The verb “see” (blepo) means “beware” (Gingrich) or “be on your guard.” It is an imperative mood—a command. Jesus commands us to “see,” to “beware,” and to “watch out.” The verb phrase, “leads you astray” is from planao, “cause to wander fig. mislead, deceive Mt 24:4f.” (Gingrich) Beware that false christs will not deceive you.

The first sign is that “many” will claim that they are the Christ and will deceive many. To come in Christ’s name is to use the name of Christ or to claim the messianic title of Christ. That is the first sign of the end of the age—false christs and their false teachings.

Today, our Filipino version of a false christ is Apollo C. Quiboloy. He claims to be the “appointed Son of God.” He applies Jesus’ words to himself in John 7:29, “I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” But this appointed Son of God did not come from the Father. Jesus was born of a virgin; but Quiboloy was born of a non-virgin mother. Jesus was sinless; but Quiboloy is a sinner. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God in heaven; but Quiboloy is in Davao City. Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world; but Quiboloy has his kingdom in Davao City.

Jesus was poor; but Quiboloy is rich. He receives all the cash gifts sent to him by his followers directly. (Can we do that here in GGCF? Probably the fastest way for a Pastor to get rich is to receive all the offerings in the church.) Jesus did not have much money; but this appointed Son of God is a multi-millionaire. Reportedly, he donated a helicopter to candidate Rodrigo Duterte. Jesus did not own a house; but Quiboloy owns a mansion. Jesus suffered and died on the cross; but Quiboloy is living in luxury, enjoying the lifestyle of the rich and famous. I never dreamed that a false christ in the Philippines will rise and deceive many in my lifetime.

What will these false christs do? Jesus said, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). They will perform signs and wonders—miracles. There is no question that false christs can perform miracles. But their power can only come from the Devil.

To be led astray is to be led from the right path to the wrong path. These false christs will lead many astray from the true path of God’s Word to the false path of their false teachings.

Watch out for UAE teaching—unbiblical, anti-biblical, and extra-biblical teaching. Unbiblical teaching is teaching that has some Bible in it but not according to the Bible. Anti-biblical teaching is teaching that contradicts the Bible. Extra-biblical teaching is teaching that adds a teaching to the Bible that the Bible does not teach.

How many people will these false christs deceive? “Many” (Matt. 24:5; cf. v. 11). They will deceive “many” people. The deception of many people by false christs is certainly a sign of the end of the age. Conversely, the “many” followers are not necessarily a sign that their leader is faithful to God’s Word. A large church does not mean that the Pastor teaches the truth of the Bible.

What Will be the Sign of the End of the Age?

At this time, they have reached the Mount of Olives. Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives “opposite the temple” (Mk. 13:3). “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’” (Matt. 24:3)? They asked him two questions. The first question is—“When will these things be?” The second question is—“What will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”

You might ask, “Isn’t the second question two questions?” No, it’s only one question. In the Greek, there is only one article, “the” (to), linking both nouns “sign” (parousias) and “end” (synteleias) with the conjunction “and” (kai)—“the” sign (1) of your coming “and” (2) of the end of the age—thus making it one whole question.[1] The disciples believed that Jesus’ coming will be the end of the present age and the beginning of the messianic age. (Edersheim; Constable) Jesus said earlier, “You will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt. 23:39). Thus, the end of the present age refers to the time when Israel will welcome the coming of Jesus just before the beginning of His messianic kingdom (Jer. 29:22; 51:33; Dan. 3:6; Hos. 6:11; Joel 3:13; Zeph. 1:3).

There is a story told by Dr. Joseph Stowell, President of Moody Bible Institute, as he visited a home for mentally handicapped children. While walking through the corridors, he noticed that the windows were covered with tiny little hand prints. He asked the director, what they were all about. The director replied, “The children here love Jesus and they’re so eager for Him to return that they lean against the windows as they look up to the sky.[2]

The disciples were eager to know when will be Jesus’ coming. Their questions cover the destruction of the Temple, the sign of Jesus’ coming, the gospel of the kingdom, and the end of the age. It has nothing to do with the church. There is no mention of the church or the rapture of the church. I stress this fact because many think that Matthew 24 is about the suffering of the church. No, it’s not about the suffering of the church, the body of Christ, but the tribulation of believers before the second coming of Christ. The church is not part of the story of Matthew 24.

For the disciples, the coming destruction of the Temple points to only one thing—God’s judgment on the last day. (Hagner) They were thinking probably of Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the coming judgment of the Messiah (Zech. 14:1-4). In the past, Jesus connected His coming with judgment. “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27-28). In their frame of mind at the time, the disciples knew that the destruction of the Temple means judgment at the end of the age. Thus, they asked the questions, “When shall these things be and what is the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”

They wanted to know, not because they were curious. They wanted to know, not because they were afraid. Rather, they wanted to know the details so that they can be prepared for it.

Jesus then answered them in a discourse that came to be called, “The Olivet Discourse,” since it was delivered on the Mount of Olives. Jesus’ discourse covers Matthew 24:4-25:46, two chapters in all.

Are you ready for the judgment of God when Jesus comes again? Are you ready to face Jesus when He comes? Do you want to know how to get ready when Jesus comes? You can get ready by trusting Jesus today. You can get ready by repenting your sin today. You can get ready by accepting Him into your heart as your Savior. You can get ready by obeying Him every day.

[1] Granville Sharp’s Rule [S. E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Sheffield: JSOT, 1994), 110–11. Contra D. A. Hagner, the single article governs the twin issues of the sign of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age, and not necessarily the destruction of the temple.

[2] Text Illustrations, Sermoncentral.com. Cited June 10, 2017. Online: https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-david-daniels-stories-faith-763?ref=TextIllustrationSerps.

When a Church Building is No Longer Important to God

“But he answered them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’” (Matt. 24:2). The verb “thrown down” is one word in the Greek, katalusethai, from the noun, kataluo, “detach” (Gingrich); “literally, of buildings with their stones destroy, demolish, dismantle (MT 27.40).” (Friberg)  Jesus is saying, “There will be left here no, not one stone upon stone that will not be detached, dismantled, and destroyed.” Not one stone will be left upon a stone. It means that the Temple will be leveled, flattened, and crushed. This is the solemn declaration of Jesus. The Temple, as they know it, will be totally, absolutely, and completely destroyed.

If you were a Jew in Jesus’ time, the destruction of the Temple would be scandalous and unimaginable. The Temple was the center of Jewish life. (Constable) Without the Temple, there is no Jewish life. Consequently, Jesus’ opponents hated Jesus’ prophecy so much that they used this same prophecy against Him during His trial and execution (Matt. 26:61; 27:40). (Chouinard)

But Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled 40 years later. In C. E. 70, the Romans defeated the Jews in Jerusalem and burned the Temple to the ground, only six years after its completion. (Walvoord; Constable) “Ornate gold detail work in the roof melted down in the cracks between the stone walls of the temple, and to retrieve the gold, the Roman commander ordered that the temple be dismantled stone by stone.” (Guzik)

The Temple of Solomon was once devoted to God’s glory. But the Jewish people’s repeated rejection of Christ has caused its devotion to destruction (Matt. 23:37-39; Lk. 19:44). It is possible to dedicate a church building to God at first. But it is equally possible to forget the glory of God and instead, to promote the greed of man in the same building (Matt. 21:12-13).

Several centuries ago in a mountain village in Europe, a wealthy nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to his townspeople. He made a good decision. He decided to build them a church. No one was permitted to see the plans or the inside of the church until it was finished. At its grand opening, the people gathered and marvelled at the beauty of the new church.

Everything had been thought of and included. It was a masterpiece.

But then someone said, “Wait a minute! Where are the lamps? It is really quite dark in here. How will the church be lighted?” The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls, and then he gave each family a lamp, which they were to bring with them each time they came to worship. “Each time you are here'” the nobleman said, “the place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to church, some part of God’s house will be dark”[1]

For Jesus, it is not man’s glory but God’s glory that matters. Beautiful church buildings do not impress Jesus. He is more impressed with the beauty of His people, the church–the beauty of the character of Christ in their lives. Further, the devotion of His people is more important to Jesus. The salvation of people is more important to Christ.

A church building is but a tool to glorify God by making more disciples who will become worshipers of God. If we use our church building in ways that do not promote God’s glory, then our church building may no longer be important to God.

I’m not saying that we should not build church buildings. We badly need church buildings, esp. when the rent is rising. God built the beautiful Temple of Solomon for His glory. But God destroyed the Temple because it no longer glorified God. A building is no longer important to God if it no longer gives glory to God.

[1] “Sermon Illustrations,” Sermonsplus.co.uk. Cited June 10, 2017.  Online: http://www.sermonsplus.co.uk/Illustrations.htm

Jesus’ Prophecy About the Destruction of the Temple

Jesus and His disciples were going away from the Temple and going up to the Mount of Olives located east of the Temple area. Then His disciples pointed to Him the buildings of the Temple. Mark wrote, “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (Mk. 13:1; cf. Lk. 21:5)! Doubtless, they have noticed the Temple with admiration for its beauty and significance.

The Temple was Herod’s renovation of the second Temple of Solomon. It took Herod more than 80 years to expand the Temple. It was famous for its shining beauty and massive stones.

“The Jewish historian Josephus says that the temple was covered on the outside with gold plates, that were so brilliant that when the sun shone on them, it was blinding to look at. Where there was no gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that strangers, from a distance, thought there was snow on the temple.” (Guzik)

“The Roman historian Tacitus reported that it was a place of immense wealth . . . Some of the stones measured 40 feet by 12 by 12 and weighed up to a hundred tons, quarried as a single piece and transported many miles to the building site.” (MacArthur)

The Prophetic Declaration

The disciples were evidently impressed about the Temple. But Jesus threw water into their fire. “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” (Matt. 24:2). Matthew used the adversative conjunction, “but” (de), indicating a strong rebuttal of their impression about the Temple. Jesus introduced his prophecy with the words, “Truly, I say to you.” With the verb “say,” the word “truly” (amen) is used “to emphasize that what is being said is a solemn declaration of what is true.” (Friberg)  Jesus is making a serious prophetic declaration about the Temple.

It is a negative future. Jesus said, “There will not be left here.” The word “not” in the English version does not capture the Greek. In the Greek, there is the double negative, o me, “no not.” The Greek can be translated thus, “There will be left here no not a stone upon stone” (o me apethe hode). The double negative is “for the purpose of stating denials or prohibitions emphatically.”[1] The “ou + the indicative denies a certainty, ou me + the subjunctive denies a potentiality. . . ou me rules out even the idea as being a possibility.”[2] The verb “left” is aorist subjunctive. Hence, there is no possibility whatsoever that there will be left one stone upon another.

If you go visit our apartment building in A. Lopez, you will see the very thick walls inside. The thickness may be 8-10 inches thick. It’s so thick that you cannot break through a wall with a hammer. You cannot hear people talking in the other room. You can shout inside the room without anyone hearing you.

The phrase “one stone upon another” in the Greek is literally, “stone upon stone” (lithos epi lithon). Literally, “There will be left here no, not one stone upon stone.” Jesus emphatically removes any possibility that one stone upon stone will be left in this Temple.

[1] H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927), 266.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 468.

Signs of the End But Not of Themselves the End

Starting today, I launch an expository sermon series on “Signs of the End But Not of Themselves the End,” based on Matthew 24-25. For so long, I haven’t preached on Bible prophecy. Now I’d like us to begin with Jesus’ discourse on the signs of the end of the age. The signs of the end are not themselves the end, but signs of the end. (Hagner) The present age covers the interim period of Jesus’ first coming and second coming. It began in the time of the Jesus and will end in the second coming of Jesus. The signs of the end of the age are the signs before the second coming of Christ.

Scholars have debated on the exact meaning of Jesus’ discourse. Yet scholarly debates should not stop us from studying it. Remember that Jesus’ disciples were simple folks, not scholars. Jesus did not say these words to confuse them, but to clarify to them. He did not say it to discourage them, but to encourage them. (MacArthur) Matthew did not write his gospel to scholars, but to simple Jewish people.

Thus, we will study Jesus’ words in a straightforward manner. We will read it plainly, literally, and normally, following the historical-grammatical method of interpreting Scripture. As David Guzik noted, the literal fulfillment of the destruction of the Temple should make us expect the literal fulfillment of His other prophecies in the chapter. (Guzik)

Jesus’ teaching on the signs of the end is important for several reasons. Jesus’ teaching is fundamental and critical. Hence, the starting point of knowing the signs of the end is the teaching of Jesus. Jesus wants us to be aware of it, and not be ignorant of it. We are now living in the last days—the period of Jesus’ first and second coming. We are seeing several signs of the last days—wars, earthquakes, false Christs, false prophets, and persecution of Christians. If we know the signs of the end, then we can be ready any time for the end.

In my next post, we will tackle Matthew 24:1-3, which introduces Jesus’ discourse.

The Purpose of Salvation

Salvation is for the purpose of making us heirs of eternal life. “So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:7). Note the conjunction, “so that” (hina), which indicates purpose. The purpose of our justification is so that “we might become heirs.” This is the main verb, the main point of this last clause. God saved us so that we shall become heirs of the hope of eternal life.

Paul wrote, “In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Tit. 1:2). In one sense, we have received eternal life. But in another sense, we still hope of eternal life. We have eternal life, but we are not yet living the eternal life. We will still die. It is an eschatological tension. We have received eternal life already, but we don’t live it yet. When Jesus comes, our hope of eternal life will become a reality.

But our hope of eternal life is sure to happen. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Rom. 6:22). We have a sure hope—eternal life. We will become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Conclusion

Paul repeats his exhortation for us to devote ourselves to doing good work to others. “Be ready for every good work . . . those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Tit. 3:1, 8). Be ready to do every good work; live the new life.

We were once ungodly, slaves to sin, hated and hating others. But when the kindness and love of God appeared, He saved us. God has transformed us from the old life to live the new life. Devote yourselves therefore to doing good things to others.