"I am the vine, you are the branches"
The Second Coming, Part 2
Judgment is Coming
We began last month to look at the end times and what Yeshua had to say about it. We saw that the beginning of Matthew 24 had already occurred during the 1st and 2nd Jewish Revolts. We also saw that the end times began when Yeshua died on the cross and ascended back to heaven. So how far into the end times are we? Let's continue to look at Yeshua's "End Times" dialogue.
Yeshua tells us in verses 23-26, "If anyone says to you ‘Behold here is the Messiah,' or, ‘There He is,' do not believe him. For many false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold I have told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go forth, or ‘Behold he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them." Yeshua once again warns His listeners that false prophets would arise. As we have seen, there were many false prophets in His day. But He is referring to the future, because now He tells them that these false men will do great signs and wonders. When we read in Revelation 13, it tells us of one such deceiver: "I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he exercised all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life."
As believers in Yeshua, it is our responsibility to test the spirits because not everything that appears to be of God is. This is why Yeshua says, "My sheep know My voice and they listen to Me but they will flee from the voice of a stranger." Yeshua warns twice that the elect will have to be very discerning so as not to be deceived. We must remember that the Devil is a deceiver and a counterfeit. He mimics God, even here with the healing of the beast who will be healed from a fatal wound. We also must be careful of wolves in sheep's clothing, for the beast will look like a lamb but be a deadly dragon. Most likely the beast will be someone who is in control of a country, like a Prime Minister or a Dictator; but whoever he is, he will be a smooth talker and most likely from the Middle East. But because of his deception, everyone on earth will pledge their allegiance to him. And they will even wear his mark, for without it people will not be able to buy or to sell.
Yeshua goes on in Verse 28, "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." In Revelation 19, it speaks about the call of the birds to the great supper of God to eat the flesh of kings and commanders, mighty men and horses, the flesh of free men and slaves, small and great, this referring to the battle of Armageddon. Now Yeshua wraps up the end times dialogue with verses 29-31, telling us that immediately after the tribulation, 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 and all mankind will see His coming on the clouds and mourn; and He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet shout and they will gather in the elect from the four winds, from one end to another. There are several places in Revelation where it mentions the sun and moon going dark. The fourth trumpet judgment speaks of a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars being smitten and the fifth bowl judgment speaks of darkness.
If you take the judgments and read them as if they go parallel to each other, you will see that many of them are bringing judgment to similar areas, for example, the sun and moon. You can only destroy something once, so it seems as though there are a series of events that will destroy the seas and the fish. So it's not necessarily that first the trumpet judgments and then years later the bowl judgments. It's the same way when you look at what is going on in heaven: if you take all those sections and read them together, you will see clearer what is happening. There is no time in heaven, so we should not break up the Scriptures to make it appear that what is going on is at different times.
The verses tell us that the powers of heaven will be shaken. Well, Yeshua began shaking the powers of the heavens at the cross when He gained the victory over them and He descended to Hell and took back the crown that Adam lost. Now, He will come riding on a white horse; not like His counterfeit who rode to conquer for destruction's sake, but Yeshua will ride with all of His saints to finish the job by throwing that evil serpent, the Devil, into the abyss for one thousand years. "And I saw heaven opened; and behold a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean were following Him on white horses. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords." Zechariah tells us, "They will see Him whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him."
When Yeshua returns, there will be a great battle. The Scriptures tell us that Yeshua will have a sharp sword in His mouth. This simply means that from His mouth He shall speak the Word of God which is a two edged sword. If you remember, in the Bible it tells us that Yeshua was confronted by the Devil in the wilderness and He fought the Devil by speaking the Word of God to him. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Yeshua tells His followers, "What is it that man can do to you?" The battle is the Lord's, and He will come and finish the battle and He will save Israel, for it says, "For all Israel will be saved." The above Scripture then says that He will tread the wine press.
In Revelation, it talks about two ingatherings; one will be that the angel will gather in the elect, and the other will be the angel who will gather in the wicked. It is this gathering of the wicked that the vultures will come and feast on at a great supper that God has prepared for them, referring to the verse in Matthew 28. Paul tells the Thessalonians, "But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Yeshua. For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord."
Like the second angel that will gather the wicked, the first angel will gather up the elect with the blast of the trumpet. Now, here is where so many Christians are divided. There are those who say we will be raptured before the tribulation, and then there are those who say we will be raptured halfway in between, and then there are those who say that we will be raptured at the end. Well, Yeshua tells us Himself when He will come and gather His elect. He tells us in Matthew 24:29-31 that He will come after the tribulation.
Now, we need to understand this thing we called "The Rapture." Scripture always refers to God traveling on a cloud. So it should not be unusual that He would gather us up in the same cloud that He is riding on. But where is Yeshua going when He comes? He is going to Jerusalem to sit on the throne of King David forever. And so we too will go with Him to Jerusalem along with those who shall rise first, for His kingdom will never end and where He is, we shall be with Him forever. Yeshua goes on in verses 32-35, "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so, you too when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words shall not pass away." In Matthew 16, Yeshua tells the Pharisees and the Sadducees that they could not read the signs concerning His first coming and now He tells the people to read the signs of His second coming.
So what are these signs that we should be looking for? First we must go back to when Yeshua cursed the fig tree. What was the point of that? Well, the fig tree represents Israel. Zechariah tells us that in the Messianic Age everyone will sit under his own vine and fig tree. The vine creates shade and shelter from the heat and rain. Remember the story of Jonah when God allowed a vine to grow and shelter him from the sun? The grape vine provides wine, which represents joy and the fig tree represents food. So Zechariah was telling us that everyone will have everything they need. When Yeshua curses the fig tree, it is because there were no figs on the tree. In so doing, He was symbolically showing His disciples that it was not yet the time of the Messianic Age but that there is a time of judgment coming. We saw this in the dialogue of Matthew 24; judgment did come with the First and Second Jewish Revolts that led to the destruction of the Temple and great persecution for Jews and believers alike. So now Yeshua uses the fig tree again to point to His second coming. So He tells them when they see the branch of the fig tree put forth leaves, the time is near. If Israel is the fig tree, then that is a good place to start. The Bible foretold the gathering of exiles who would return one day to the Land of Israel, and Israel would once again flourish. But to go through all of the prophetic writings referring to this day would be a very long study, well beyond these pages. But the fulfillment of those writings can be stated very briefly as this, that Israel is once again a nation and that the house of Israel has been joined with the house of Judah. So we know that we have to be nearer to the time. In fact, Yeshua says, "Recognize that He is near, right at the door."
Yeshua goes on to say that this generation will not pass away till these things happen. This passage has been debated for years. Who is this generation? Well, first of all, we must remember that Yeshua has been discussing the future with His disciples. So we must go all the way back to the beginning when they started the conversation in Matthew 24:1 with, "Tell us when will all these things be and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Yeshua started His dialogue telling His disciples of the destruction of Jerusalem. It was this He was referring to when He spoke of the generation who would see these things; so up to now, He has been telling them throughout these verses all that would happen and all that they need to watch for. He goes on now in verse 36, saying, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone," which concludes their original question, "Tell us when all these things will happen." In verses 37-41, He concludes with, "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there shall be two men in the field; and one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left." Yeshua describes His coming with judgment as just like in the days of Noah; the illustration of the two who are taken and the two who stay has been the doctrine for the rapture, but if we look closely, we see that Yeshua was referring to the flood, in which case He was referring to those being taken in judgment, alluding to the verse talking about where the corpse is, there you will find the vulture (verse 28).
Yeshua warns that in the time before His coming, although the warnings will be sounded, most people will just carry on with life as usual. Noah preached repentance right up to the time of the flood, but no one heeded his warning. So too with us today, the church preaches grace and love and mercy; even though God is all these things, God still has to, and must, judge sin. His people are not excluded. We must repent of our sins and turn back as the Word suggests in its true meaning. We must be holy as He is holy. We can not water down the gospel or sugar-coat it with doctrine that will tickle our ears. No, we must walk the straight and narrow. We must not have any hint of the world in us. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that we may proclaim the Excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Could we be the generation who sees Yeshua return? If we are, then judgment is coming and we should not let it come as a thief in the night. The church needs to wake up and get right with God! We will look at the six parables referring to His coming next.