You may think you will never face a final judgment but you’re mistaken as it cannot be avoided. Whatever way you choose to interpret prophecy on the end times, we are told that “it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Many look to the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 as Jesus’ teaching about the end of days and His return. It can be a difficult teaching to fully understand and I suppose none of us will truly fully understand until that time comes that the veil is removed and these prophecies are finally fulfilled.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” – Matt. 24:3
It seems to me the disciples are asking 3 different questions.
- When will this happen?
- What will be the sign of your coming?, and
- What about the end of the age?
In the following passages in Matthew 24 Jesus answers those three separate questions, though not necessarily in order of asking.
When will this happen?
Not when will the end time happen but when will Jesus’s prophecy of the temple’s destruction happen?
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Matt. 24:1-2
Understanding the complexity of the questions, I believe Jesus next deals with all the questions on the whole and warns the disciples to not be deceived in any of these areas.
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. – Matt. 24:4-5
He then goes on to describe what is about to happen prior to and the ultimate destruction of the Temple.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matt. 24:6-14
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand — then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. – Matt. 24:15-21
These events occurred leading up to the time of the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
What will be the sign of your coming?
I believe Jesus now jumps to their second question.
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” – Matt. 24:23-28
“Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. – Matt. 24:29
This passage seems to allude to the Tribulation period just prior to His return.
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. – Matt. 24:30
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. – Matt. 24:31
This sounds allot like the so-called rapture and the time of final judgment.
What about the end of the age?
I believe He then describes the time following the destruction of the Temple.
Judgments of the Tribulation Period
Furious and frustrated over his blazingly imminent end, Satan is gearing up for a monumental, last-ditch effort to capture the souls of men and women. Satan is an adversary who wishes to harm us by denying God exists and/or attacking His character. Raging psychopath, liar and mass murderer that he is, Lucifer’s mind is consumed with his mad ambition to take as many captives as possible with him into the dark pit.
The last seven years of the “age” is known as the Tribulation Period when God will pour out great judgments upon the world because of the sins and wickedness of men. Although not the ultimate judgments, these terrible judgments associated with the Tribulation Period are pictured as seven seals opened (Revelation 6), seven trumpets blown (Revelation 8-9), and seven bowls poured out (Revelation 16) in God’s last effort to reconcile man to God through the grace of Christ.
Modern liberals claim that a loving God would not harshly judge mankind, even though Scripture is very clear that God’s righteousness demands judgment. Others try to explain away the time of great distress as something that occurred in the troubles of the early church culminating in the destruction of the temple in AD70. Still, others ignore the Tribulation Period because they are convinced they will not have to endure it as they will be raptured before it begins.
Regardless of when the tribulation period occurs, man will still not avoid God’s final judgment.
Incredibly, even after God pours out His judgments upon men, they will still defy Him.
At the end of this Tribulation period all the armies of the nations of the world will be gathered together in the valley of Armageddon just north of Jerusalem. It will start with little wars and grow and grow until there will be a great climax “Armageddon.” They will be there to destroy Israel but Jesus Christ shall destroy all of these armies at His Coming. (Zech. 14, Isa. 13:1-18). Already we see the armies gathering in that vicinity as we see the stage being apparently set for this great slaughter.
A Time of Distress Like No Other
Mankind has suffered tribulation throughout the ages but here is distinguished a future tribulation unlike any we have experienced. It is a seven year period that comprises Daniel’s 70th week ending with the second coming of Christ and the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom.
Our Lord told us not to be troubled, because these are only the beginning of “birth pains” [Matt. 24:8]. I believe that God is warning the world. The world has broken His covenant and has gone away from Him and these events are warnings designed to turn us to Him. And what we have seen thus far is just a prelude. The warnings are going to continue during the next few years, even building in intensity. After these warnings, the real judgment is going to come.
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. – [Matthew 24:15-28]
Revelation 20 – 22
Great White Throne Judgment
“And I saw a great white throne, and Him sitting on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And a place was not found for them. And I saw the dead, the small and the great, stand before God. And books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead in it. And death and hell delivered up the dead in them. And each one of them was judged according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
All unbelievers will be judged by Christ at the “great white throne,” and they will receive their punishment according to the works they have done. Dire consequences await those whose name is not written the Book of Life. The Bible is very clear that unbelievers are storing up wrath against themselves and that God will “give to each person according to what he has done” (Romans 2:5-6).
Regarding the Doctrine of Hell, Charles Colson writes in his book, “A Dangerous Grace”…
“When the Church does not clearly teach the doctrine of hell, society loses an important anchor.”
“In a sense, hell gives meaning to our lives. It tells us that the moral choices we make day by day have eternal significance; that our behavior has consequences lasting to eternity; that God Himself takes our choices seriously.
When people don’t believe in a final judgement, they don’t feel ultimately accountable for their actions. There is no firm least holding back sinful impulses. As the book of Judges puts it, there is “no fear of God” in their hearts, and everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
The doctrine of hell is not just some dusty theological holdover from the Middle Ages. It has significant social consequences. Without a conviction of ultimate justice, people’s sense of moral obligation dissolves; social bonds are broken.
People who have no fear of God soon have no fear of man — no respect for human laws and authorities.”
Excerpted from A Dangerous Grace Daily Readings by Charles Colson, pg. 22.
Judgment Seat of Christ
Believers will also be judged, only at a different judgment called the “judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10). Since Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to those who’ve accepted Christ as their Savior and our names are written in the Book of Life, we will not be punished, but rewarded for our deeds. Because our sin was judged at the cross, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
The Signs Are All Around Us
We’ve become a proud people, lovers of self, boastful, profane, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, despisers of all that is good.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. [2 Timothy 3:1-5]
There are many people in this world who believe they are following God – they go to church on Sunday and are going through the motions of their faith. Yet, they have permitted a moral rot to infect this world and will be largely responsible for bringing us to the threshold of judgment. They are those “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Men will reject the truth until God will turn them over to the “strong delusion” of the Antichrist who will cause them to believe a lie and be damned [2 Thessalonians 2:9-12].
A day of reckoning will come.
There will be an end.