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Thoughts on the Olivet Discourse

April 25, 2013 Leave a comment

jesus-olivet-discourseTo understand the Olivet Discourse (Mtt 24-25) we need to back up and look at the whole context of the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew, the tax-collector, is a Jew writing a Gospel to the Jews. He quotes the Old Testament more than any other Gospel writer. Matthew has 93 quotations compared to Luke 80, Mark 49 and John 33. A general theme throughout Matthew is that Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy and that He is Israel’s Messiah. Many scholars point out this is why Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, although it is clearly not the first chronologically.

In Matthew we also observe that Jesus was rejected by the Jews (His own) and that they crucified Him as the “King of the Jews”. The seeds of this rejection are sown from the opening pages of Matthew, at the time of John the Baptist, as he preaches to and baptizes the people of Israel.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance… The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mtt 3:7-8,10)

This obviously does not sit well with the Pharisees and Sadducees, who we will later see questioning Jesus’ motives and miracles.

When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mtt 9:11)
But the Pharisees said, “By the prince of the demons, He casts out demons.” (9:34)

Later in the ministry of Jesus, as He taught and healed throughout the land of Israel, Jesus pushed things with the religious leaders even further by eating grain and healing “on the Sabbath“.

In doing so, the anger and evil of the Pharisees comes to a head.

But the Pharisees went out, and conspired against him, how they might destroy Him. But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. (12:14-15)

Shortly after this “withdrawal”, Jesus clarifies who the kingdom of heaven belongs to and distances Himself from the Jews by declaring that Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (12:50)

At Jesus’ “triumphal entry” (Mtt 21), near the end of His life, He rides into the city of Jerusalem on a lowly foal of a donkey; a visual display of not just His humility but how He has been rejected by the Jews.

In Mtt. 23 Jesus delivers His strongest possible rebuke against the scribes and Pharisees with seven consecutive “Woes”; seven being the number of completion.

Finally we arrive at the Olivet Discourse, Mtt 24-25. Jesus has just said to Jerusalem (and Israel) that their “house is being left to you desolate!”(23:38) Seemingly oblivious to this rebuke, the disciples instead point to the beauty and majesty of the Temple.

“Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mk 13:1)

Jesus’ response to His disciples is right where we dive into the Olivet Discourse and here is where wide-ranging interpretations have run amuck for centuries.

Rightly Divide the Word of Truth.

The first thing to do is to rightly divide these two chapters. (By the way, these two chapters are really one prophecy, so ignore the chapter breaks – which is a good Bible study tool in any case!)

As the disciples turn their attention to the “wonderful buildings”, Jesus tries to get them back on track in regards to His rebuke and cursing of the Jews (“FROM NOW ON you shall not see Me…” 23:39)

He starts with the coming destruction of Jerusalem which was predicted by Daniel.

“The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” (Dan. 9:26)

Jerusalem would soon be destroyed, surrounded by armies, and “nation would rise against nation, earthquakes, famines, false prophets, terrors from heaven, etc.” (Luke 21)

All these things would happen in the ensuing forty years before the Jerusalem would be surrounded by her enemies (the Roman army) and completely destroyed, so much so that “not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (24:2)

Arousing their attention, the disciples then ask three questions (24:3):

1. “When will this happen?”
2. “And what will be the sign of Your [second] coming?”
3. “What will be the sign of the end of the age?”

The first question belongs to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. and is answered by the prophesied events of Mtt 24:4-14. However, in 24:6 we are told that all “those things must take place, BUT that is not the end [of the age].”

We must read this chapter carefully and realize that verses 13-14 are the transition verses which move us towards the Last Days and declares that “the one who endures to the end [of the age] shall be saved” and that the “gospel of the kingdom must first be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, AND THEN the end shall come.”

What are the signs “of Your coming and of the end of the age”

The second and third questions are yet future and are answered in 24:15 – 25:46.

The sign of Jesus’ Second Coming (Q. #2) is the “abomination of desolation” written about in 24:15. This reference comes as a surprise to modern readers but did not come as a surprise to the disciples, who were well versed in the OT prophets. Jesus often rebuked the religious leaders with the refrain: “Have you not read…” (Mtt 12:3,5; 19:4; 21:16,42)

Remember, too, that Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives privately discussing these things with His disciples (24:3). They knew what he was talking about!!

The “abomination of desolation” is a clear sign, contrasting the unclear signs or events of “wars and rumors of war”, famines, plagues, false prophets and earthquakes. These others things were called “merely the beginning of birth pangs” (24:8) and were not signs of the end but forerunners that where to express that more is coming. These conditions will again occur on the earth “at the time of the end” and are seen in the Four Horsemen of Revelation 6 (conquest, war, famine, and pestilence).

But when the future disciples of “the end of the age” (for now we are answering the 2nd and 3rd questions) will see the “abomination of desolation” they know that they are to “head for the hills” and leave Jerusalem in a hurry. (24:15-28) A great tribulation, such as the world has never seen since the beginning of time, would soon fall upon Jerusalem and the surrounding land.

By using other Biblical texts (Dan. 9-12, 2 Thess 2, Rev 13) we can piece together this incredible sign of the abomination of desolation — when the antichrist, the man of sin and lawlessness, is revealed and takes his place in the temple as god and demands that the whole world worship him. He will set up a “talking image“ of himself in the Most Holy Place and for 42 months seek to wipe out the Christian faith and rule the world for satan.

This event coupled with the “great tribulation” (24:21) — which will occur after the setting up of the image — will be immediately followed by the glorious return of the Lord. This is readily agreed upon by most Bible teachers and is the answer to the 3rd question: “What will be the sign of the end of the age?”

“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (24:29-31)

In many ways the coming antichrist is nothing more than the “rod of God’s anger” and will be used to bring His wrath one final time upon Israel, God’s chosen people. We have seen this imagery and wording before in the book of Isaiah:

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
I send it against a godless nation [the people of Israel]
And commission it against the people of My fury
To capture booty and to seize plunder,
And to trample them down like mud in the streets. (Isa. 10:5-6)

We learn from Zechariah that a remnant will survive the great tribulation, a third, and they will see the coming of the Lord and will remain alive on the earth to be the leaders of the Millennial church.

It will come about in all the land,”
Declares the LORD,
“That two parts in it will be cut off and perish;
But the third will be left in it.
And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” (Zech 13:8-9)

Yours for the Coming King,

Jeff Gilbertson

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The Pilgrim Church speaks out…

April 23, 2013 Leave a comment
Burning of Jan Hus at the stake

Burning of Jan Hus at the stake as a heretic (1415)

The history of the church of Jesus Christ for the past 2000 years has been one of great successes and great failures and to speak out against the corruptions and abuses of the church has a long, painful history. The book The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent documents the pathway of the forgotten saints from Pentecost to the Twentieth Century and is truly a remarkable story! It traces the story of the pilgrim church, the true church, the wheat church, that has always existed and will always exist.

“The silver-stream of believers” as one historian puts it.

One of the first “pilgrim churches” that comes into church history (1150s in France) were the Waldenses, “a reaction against the great splendor and outward display existing in the medieval Church; it was a practical protest against the worldly lives of some contemporary churchmen.” (Cath. Encyclopedia.)

Two hundred years later came John Wycliffe (1350s), sometimes called “The Morning Star of the Reformation”. He wrote The 18 Theses, opposing the rule of the Catholic Church. He believed that a great contrast existed between “what the Church was and what it ought to be”, and he saw the necessity for reform.

The Lollards, followers of John Wycliffe, posted their “The Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards” on the doors of Westminster Hall in February 1395. This document contained statements protesting, amongst others things, against the state of The Church, the Priesthood, and Clerical Celibacy.

This was followed later by Luther’s famous Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. Luther was outraged that church members had “paid money for what was theirs by right as a free gift from God…. Within two weeks, copies of the Theses had spread throughout Germany; within two months throughout Europe.” (Wikipedia)

A common theme is that a pilgrim church movement often crystallizes their beliefs by writing Theses or, as with the Lollards, their Conclusions.

I offer this blog today for the world-wide church of pilgrims to present their theses and conclusions of misuses and abuses against the church so that we can keep the faith pure, spotless and without wrinkle.

WRITE ON!

Jeff Gilbertson

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Sober Reflections on the Parable of the Ten Virgins

April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

"Five of them were foolish and five were wise."

“Five of them were foolish and five were wise.”

Many in the Church today read right past the many prophetic, Second Coming passages found scattered throughout both the Old and New Testaments, treating the Bible as if it were only a devotional book!

In addition to these passages, there are many “prophetic parables” spoken by Jesus that expressly define the kingdom of heaven (or better said: “the professing, visible church”) at the end of this age — an age towards which we are rapidly and unmistakably heading.

One of these prophetic parables is found in Mtt 25: The Parable of the Ten Virgins. This parable offers us a “prophetic glimpse” of the kingdom of heaven as it will be ON EARTH at the end of this age; at the Second Coming of Jesus. The parable has a very sobering message as Jesus symbolically suggests that the church “at the end of this age”, the church who has waited for the return of their Bridegroom (and fell asleep waiting!), could well be a mixture of 50% wise and faithful and 50% foolish and careless!

If this is a new thought for you I offer up this quote from B. W. Newton, British author of more than 200 published works in the 1800s:

“The kingdom of heaven is continually used in the Gospel of Matthew to designate that body which professes the name of Christ. They profess to be subject to the heavenly laws and to be guided by the heavenly Spirit of that heavenly One who is now glorified in the heavens.” (taken from The Prophecy of the Lord Jesus):

George Müller (1805-1898), well-known preacher and philanthropist, wrote of B.W. Newton — “I regard Mr. Newton as the most accurate writer on religious themes of the nineteenth century.”

    To confirm this time frame let’s look at the parable itself:

    At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.” (Mtt 25:1-2 NIV)

    “At that time…” must indicate that the time frame is the “end of the age” or the “day of the Lord” as seen in the context of the preceding parable of the Faithful Servant (Mtt. 24:42-51) and the entire text of the famous Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24.

      As we have read prophetic parables are common in Matthew (chs. 13,22) and compare the “kingdom of heaven” to the visible, professing (and ultimately “mixed”) church at the end of this age —

      Tares: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat… The enemy who sowed them [tares] is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.

      Dragnet: The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind… So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous.

      Marriage feast: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son… Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.

        Clearly we see mixture in what Jesus called “the kingdom of heaven”; wheat and tares, good fish and bad fish, and good and evil wedding guests.

        The parable of the 10 Virgins continues this comparison of the kingdom of heaven including the good and the bad. The intent of this parable is to illustrate what will be the true condition of the End Times church; the world-wide church that professes Christ to be their Lord and Savior.

        “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” (25:5-6)

        In the course of the long delay of the bridegroom to meet his wedding party, the real condition of the virgins’ hearts becomes immediately clear – the wise were prepared and lit their lamps while the foolish were unprepared and had no extra oil for their lamps!

        If the bridegroom had not tarried, all would have been well. It was his delay that was so fatal. Time reveals their shallowness. We may have grace to live passably for a short time, but the requisite is to endure to the end; to be shining in the light of God whenever Christ shall come. W.F. Adeney (emphasis added)

        ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ (vs. 11)

        Not only is the shallowness of the five foolish virgins revealed by the sudden appearance of the bridegroom but their clumsy effort to buy oil at the “midnight hour” leads to the awful reality that they came back “too late for the party” and the door is shut!

        Dear Church, we need to take seriously that the door is shut on those foolish (careless) virgins for eternity!

        Augustine has well said of this moment:

        “They came looking for mercy when it was time for judgment.”

        Just to be sure on this point, I believe we can discover the full meaning and truth from a similar passage in Luke were a door is also shut and not opened!

        “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ (Lk 13:24-27)

        The life lessons we learn from this parable are sobering and far-reaching.

            > It declares that a simple profession and outward conforming to the ways of Christ without a passionate and persevering heart for Him is deadly! It is striking to hear that Jesus predicts that five of the ten were careless!
            > It shouts out the necessity of being ready and waiting for His return, which most likely will happen at not only an unknown hour but an inconvenient time as well!
            > It cautions us ultimately that a time is coming when the door will be shut for good and, as in the days of Noah, after he entered the ark and the door was shut, there came destruction on all of those who found themselves on the other side.

        “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.” (Lk 12: 35-36)

        For the soon coming King,

        Jeff Gilbertson

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        The Second Coming will not be like the First Coming. (J.C. Ryle)

        April 16, 2013 Leave a comment

        crowned with thornsThe second, personal coming of Christ shall be as different as possible from the first.

        He came the first time as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was born in the manger of Bethlehem, in lowliness and humiliation. He took on him the form of a servant, and was despised and rejected of men. He was betrayed into the hands of wicked men, condemned by an unjust judgment, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, and at last crucified between two thieves.

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        He shall come the second time as the King of all the earth, with all royal majesty. The princes and great men of this world shall themselves stand before His throne to receive an eternal sentence. Before him every mouth shall be stopped, and every knee bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

        May we all remember this. Whatever ungodly men may do now, there will be no scoffing, no jesting at Christ, no infidelity at the Last Day. The servants of Jesus may well wait patiently. Their master shall one day be acknowledged King of kings by all the world.

        (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels – J.C. Ryle)

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        “Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct.” (JC Ryle)

        April 12, 2013 Leave a comment

        Spoolknitting silver thread and spool diy necklaceLove should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct. Kindness, gentleness, long suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys, — these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily, — these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart.

        Few are to be found even among grown up people who are not more easy to draw than to drive. There is that in all our minds which rises in arms against compulsion; we set up our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of a forced obedience. (How should a child be trained by John Charles Ryle)

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        Satan’s end-time strategy: Pluralism, sensuality and riches

        April 10, 2013 Leave a comment

        Click to enlarge

        Click to enlarge

        One of the most striking, shocking, and (unfortunately) enigmatic images in the book of Revelation is the image of the great harlot sitting on a 7-headed beast in chapter 17.

        Although written of in symbolic terms, this “great harlot” is a real force that will move the planet away from God and towards three things: pluralism, sensuality and riches. This “cord of three strands” will not quickly tear apart and will cause much of humanity to follow in its train.

        The woman sitting on a beast with seven heads and ten horns will seduce all the nations to drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality. She will cause the nations to yearn towards pluralism, sensuality and riches. (B. W. Newton)

        The seeds of this faction are present today even though prophesied by John 2000 years ago!

        And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality. (Rev. 17:3-4)

        Let’s look at those three movements one at a time:

        1. Pluralism

        “Religious pluralism is an attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society.” (Wikipedia) Please note that this is not about tolerance. This is beyond open-mindedness and acceptance of others beliefs. This is a synergism towards an antichristian-ism that will cover the earth.

        In the near future — and even now in a limited sense — there is a satanic “spirit” brewing an intoxicating mix that will seduce all the nations, using the more lustful passions of immorality and wealth to cause humanity to lay aside our old differences about religion.

        Compromise and tolerance, the universal themes of today, will morph into a movement of “united humanity”; a global people with a common creed who will continue where Nimrod left off, and seek to finish the tower and city of Babel -– an arrogant attempt to guarantee our own security apart from God. This in turn will lead to an all-out hatred against true Christianity as John prophesied — “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” (Rev 17:6)

        2. Sensuality

        “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her [Babylon] immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.” Rev 18:3

        Once again we see the great harlot “Babylon” developing a system that makes “all the nations” drunk with immorality and sensuality. Can there be any doubt that Satan will try and pull humanity out of the kingdom of light and into his kingdom of darkness by using our fallen nature; using our basic lusts of the flesh and of the eye?

        Sensuality, the “unrestrained indulgence in sensual pleasures”, will be the Dark Knight’s modus operandi as he seeks to usurp God’s throne with his own. (2 Thess. 2:4) The apostle Paul has warned us as well that “In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-2,4)

        What better way for Satan to rule this earth but by the greased path of sensuality, lust and pleasure!

        3. Riches

        The third strand in Satan’s cord is riches. Wealth. Satan is after worship. He tried to get Jesus to bow down before him and worship him by using riches and glory.

        And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” (Luke 4:5-8)

        Jesus said as much again in the Sermon on the mount: “You cannot serve God and wealth.”

        Having failed with the Son of God Satan will one day offer all the “kingdoms of the world” to the sons of men! He wants the whole world to worship him (Rev 13:4) and will use wealth and riches to produce worshipers of himself!

        “Woe, woe, the great city [Babylon], she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!” (Rev 18:16-17)

        Antichrist will “eat her flesh”…

        In the end, this enticing mixture of pluralism, sensuality and riches will be destroyed by the Antichrist and the 10 nation federation he rules. Antichrist, the head of the last world-empire, wants to be worshiped supremely; and will not suffer any longer the wantonness and decadence of the great harlot.

        You can be sure that when the Antichrist destroys the harlot system that the final end of things is not far off and the return of Jesus Christ to this earth is near!

        “And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.” (Rev 17: 16-17)

        Yours for the Coming One,

        Jeff Gilbertson

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        The Practical Importance of Prophecy (John Cox, 1897)

        April 2, 2013 Leave a comment

        unmaskingThe value and practical importance of prophetic truth is further seen by the worldliness, weakness, and culpable ignorance of those who heed it not.

        Satan well knows that prophecy unmasks his doings and his doom, and that it enables those who heed it to read present things in its light, and so avoid the snares and pitfalls by which he stumbles unwary and worldly Christians.

        He specially hates prophecy, and if he cannot succeed in hiding it from Christians he will, if possible, lead them, by means of false teachers, to accept his crafty and plausible perversions of God’s true revelations. ‘Beware of false prophets’ (Mtt. 7:15; 2 Pet. 2:1-3).

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