Jesus' Prophecy

Jesus' prophecy about His return was recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew (chapter 24), Mark (chapter 13) and Luke (chapter 21). It describes world events and conditions leading to the time of Jesus' return. Revelation chapter 6, as we'll see later on, describes many of the same events. Here is Matthew 24: 

1. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. 2. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? [meaning the end of the present pre-Kingdom  age, not the physical end of the world] 4. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8. All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 10. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16. Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18. Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. 23. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25. Behold, I have told you before. 26. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

To help understand this, let's organize: we have events presented before the "great tribulation," then the "great tribulation," then events after the "great tribulation."

Before the "great tribulation" many would teach about Christ but deceive those who hear them... and there would be wars, famines and pestilences... and persecution... and then apparently just before the "great tribulation" an "abomination of desolation" standing "in the holy place." The time scale here could extend from Jesus' time until the "great tribulation"... there have been false teachers, wars, famines, pestilences and persecutions for thousands of years.

Then we come to the "great tribulation": a time worse than any before it and worse than any to ever follow it... a time so bad that if it were not shortened or cut short "there should no flesh be saved." Jesus did not say how long it would last, but indicated it would be cut short "for the elect's sake"... suggesting a divine intervention of some sort. That "there should no flesh be saved... except those days should be shortened" suggests trauma on a worldwide scale, affecting everyone.

After the "great tribulation" Jesus warned of "false christs, and false prophets" who "shall show great signs and wonders": miracles. Jesus warned not to be deceived into following them, and not to be deceived into believing any of them was Christ. Jesus added that "immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven." Then (verse 30) the "sign of the Son of man" would appear, "and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory... He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet" and those angels would gather the faithful from all over the world.

Jesus said immediately after the great tribulation both the sun and moon would be darkened and "the stars shall fall from heaven"... apparently meaning there would be a tremendous meteor shower as well. Given that these occur "immediately after the tribulation" (v. 30) it is perhaps these very events that bring the tribulation to a stop. Raging wars, anarchy and chaos are divinely stopped by "lights out"; the tribulation is brought to a sudden halt as mankind gapes in awe and wonder.

So, what about the other events to occur after the great tribulation? Does Jesus return when the sun and moon are darkened and the "stars" fall? If so, then why did Jesus warn about "false Christs, and false prophets" and their miracles... and why did He warn not to follow rumors that He was "in the desert" or elsewhere? And what is the "sign of the Son of man"? Does it appear when Christ actually returns to "gather together his elect," or beforehand? To help with these questions we will turn to the book of Revelation; there we'll see these events in greater detail and in chronological order.

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