What to Watch for in the Last Days

In this captivating episode of Inside The Epicenter, Joel Rosenberg analyses Matthew 24 and 25, where Jesus predicts the temple's destruction and offers guidance on the signs of His impending return. 

We also have the honor of hearing from Lynn Rosenberg, who shares her work with various ministries in central Israel and the vital support they are providing to those affected by recent attacks. 

Join us as we explore the intersection of Bible prophecy, humanitarian efforts, and the enduring message of hope in a world filled with deception.

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Transcript: 

- [Joel] False teachers, false prophets, false messiahs trying to get people to go the wrong direction and trying to lure them away from the truth.

- [Carl] What are the signs of the age, and what does the Bible say about the signs of the end times? People in every generation are always interested in knowing when prophecies will come to pass. Hi, and welcome to this episode of Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg, a podcast of The Joshua Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. I'm Carl Moeller, Executive Director of The Joshua Fund. Today, we wanna present you with the second part of the series on Bible prophecy, this time looking at Matthew 24 and 25. Here's Joel.

- [Joel] I'd like you to turn to Matthew Chapter 24, one of the most famous portions of scripture. In this case, Jesus speaking specifically about things to watch for in the last days. And I think we'll take some time to sort of unpack that. Hopefully that will be encouraging to you this morning. Okay, so we're beginning in Matthew Chapter 24. Again, I am reading from the New American Standard Version. "Jesus came out from the temple "and was going away when His disciples came up "to point out the temple buildings to Him. "And He said, do you not see all these things? "Truly I say to you, not one stone here "will be left upon another which will not be torn down. "And as He was sitting on the mound of olives, "the disciples came to Him privately saying, "tell us, when will these things happen, "and what will be the sign of your coming "and of the end of the age?" Let me stop there for a moment and we'll unpack just that. By the way, I'm sorry I have to switch forth, back and forth with glasses. I, so often I forget to bring my reading glasses. And so, I have to say, excuse me, I'm gonna become my father. Anyway, so I'm gonna go back and forth instead today. So setting the scene, obviously we're 2,000 years ago, the temple, the second temple, right, existed. And that's where Jesus went, and that's where the disciples went. And He taught there and He met crowds there, He met criticism there, He overturned tables there. It was the center of attention, right? I describe Jerusalem as the epicenter, or Israel as the epicenter of the world, Jerusalem as the epicenter of Israel, and the Temple Mount as the epicenter of Jerusalem. And, so Jesus is leaving the temple, and the disciples are like, wow, isn't that pretty exciting? I mean, look at that. Wow, it's quite spectacular. And it was. It will be again. Actually, there's two more temples coming. There's a third temple that will be built. Wow, I'm swaying a little bit. I didn't have anything to drink, I just wanna be, you should know, but it is, we're swaying a little bit more than usual. So there will be a third temple. This is the temple that the antichrist will eventually desolate and desecrate, and then Jesus is gonna destroy that one, raise it to the ground after He comes and destroys His enemies and judges people and sets up His millennial Kingdom. He is not planning to inhabit the temple that was desecrated by the antichrist. So that's not, never gonna happen. So He's gonna build a fourth temple, He's gonna oversee the building of the fourth temple, that's described actually at the end of Ezekiel, much larger, much grander than we've ever seen before. But here, Jesus is specifically saying, look at this grand and beautiful structure, the greatest structure in Israel at that time, and don't you know that every stone is gonna be torn down? This is the judgment that's coming. One of the things that's interesting about that is that that, in prophecy, any person that's claiming to be a prophet has to have things that come true in their lifetime, because otherwise, how would you know that they're really a prophet? Or soon thereafter. So that you have confidence if they're explaining prophecies that happen much later. There are many things that Jesus says that actually did come true in His own lifetime, sometimes hours or days later, right? Like, just thinking, spit-balling here, Peter, you're gonna deny me three times before the rooster crow. Never, never, it's not gonna happen. And then of course, it happens, right? So those would be moments that would help reinforce to the disciples, wow, when Jesus says something, it comes to pass. If He curses a fig tree, it withers and dies. Like, so they could see this in real time, compressed time, so even they with their arguably pea-sized memories, bless their hearts, they could remember, oh yeah, He said that. And then, but then other things He said that would happen years or decades later, and this was one of them, but this is pretty dramatic, right? He had also said that He could raise up this temple in three days, and they thought, it took 40 years to build this thing, what are you talking about? Of course He meant His body. And so, those type of prophecies, He was arrested, He was betrayed, He was crucified, He was raised from the dead. All these prophecies came true. And they give us confidence that not only had He fulfilled ancient prophecies, hundreds of them from hundreds of years before, the things He was saying were coming true. And that gave us confidence that things He said about the future would come true as well. And this was one of 'em. This was pretty dramatic. But as they then head out of Jerusalem and through the Kidron Valley, and they settle up and they sit down up on the mound of olives, they sit down and the disciples go with the classic question that every follower of Jesus wants to know. When? When are these things gonna happen? Yeah, yeah, yeah, now we have a sense of what you're saying is going to happen, but when? We all wanna know when. And for 2,000 years, people have been asking and wondering when. So they ask, so tell us when these things will happen, and what will be the sign that will indicate you're coming and the end of the age? And it's interesting, they only want, they're only asking for one sign. In that sense, they're modest. They're not asking for dozens, but they're just saying, could you just give us one indication? Now, personally, I don't even think they understand what they're asking here, because they don't seem to even understand really that He's about to die and rise again, though He keeps telling them over and over, they just, it just does not compute. Their understanding of Messiah, Mashiach, is you're an anointed one, you're a king, and they're thinking about all the prophecies from the Hebrew scriptures that the King is gonna reign, He's gonna set up a Kingdom, right? Act Chapter one, he's asking, the disciples are asking, so is it now, again, a when question, is it now you're gonna set up the Kingdom, restore the Kingdom to Israel? Like you're a king, when are you gonna actually reign? When are you gonna put on the crown and take care of these Romans and? So they saw Him as a conquering hero. They just couldn't get it into their heads that He was a suffering servant. And in fact, and historically, that's been a challenge for Jews, particularly Jewish scholars, the rabbis, the Pharisees, so confusing to look at these passages in the Old Testament and say, well, He's gonna be a king who sets up a kingdom and reigns, but He's gonna be a suffering servant? He's gonna suffer for his people? It seemed like so incongruous that they thought, well, there must be two different messiahs. And so, that became a theme in rabbinic writings. There must be a Messiah, Ben David, the son of David, that, he'll be the King in the line of David. But then there'll be a Messiah, Ben Joseph, who will suffer the way Joseph suffered in Egypt before he rises to become the prime minister of Egypt, but he gets falsely accused, right? Well first, he gets rejected by his brothers, and then is a wonderful servant in a foreign house doing the will of God in that house. And then he's falsely accused and put into prison and has to suffer, right? Even though he's righteous, but he suffers because of unrighteous allegations against him. And so, that was the perception. There must be two messiahs coming. But of course, we know that it wasn't two messiahs, it was two comings of the same Messiah. But that was just not part of the, nobody quite thought about that as a paradigm. It had to be two different people, 'cause it, how could it possibly be these two great tastes that don't taste great together? What are you talking about? It didn't make sense. So, I don't think these disciples actually understood what they're talking about. I don't think they get that they're talking about this, because they keep being shocked by Jesus saying that He's gonna die and rise again. But the Holy Spirit prompts the question. I would liken it a little bit to when Caiaphas essentially prophesized to the other Pharisees, don't you know that it's better for one man to die for the sake of the nation than for the nation to die? Now, that's true, but he's not saying it because he is thinking that's a good thing. I mean, from the sense of thinking that Jesus is the Messiah, the suffering servant that came to die for us. So he's speaking the truth. The Holy Spirit is essentially getting him to say something on the record. That's true. But that wasn't his intent. And I think this is similar. But Jesus answers the question, He could have been sort of Washingtonian and said, no comment, next question. But He doesn't, He answers the question. And there's not just one sign. He walks through two chapters worth. Now, we're not gonna get into all of it this morning, but let's take a look at some of it, because it's interesting what he says. Of course. He says, "see to it that no one misleads you. "For many will come in my name "saying that I am the Messiah and will mislead many." Let's just stop there for a moment. Well actually, I will add to it Verse 11, "many false prophets will arise and will mislead many." Actually, if you skip down, you'll find in Verse 24, "for 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've told you in advance. "So if they say to you, look, behold He's in the wilderness, "don't go out there. "Or behold He's in the inner rooms, do not believe them. "For just as the lightning comes from the east "and flashes even to the west, "so will the coming of the son of man be. "Wherever the corpse is, there, the vultures will gather." Three times, in quite a bit of detail, and really underscoring His point, He warns them that one of the great signs that His return is getting closer is deception. False teachers, false prophets, false messiahs trying to get people to go the wrong direction and trying to lure them away from the truth. And it's interesting, this third example, when He says, listen, the people tell you to go out in the desert because the Messiah has come and He's gathering everybody out there, don't go there. Or oh, He's gathered in the inner room, He's gathering all his people together, and if you wanna meet the Messiah, you need to come here and pay a fee and get your picture taken. No, no, I'm just kidding. Don't believe that, don't go there. He basically, He says, the coming of the son of man is gonna be like a lightning flash. If you don't see Him in the sky, it ain't Him. That's what we're hearing here. And, but His concern for the disciples who are living in those final years leading up to the return of Christ is don't be deceived, but be aware that the spirit of deception is gonna be far and wide, that there's gonna be a deluding influence. Paul picks this up later in 2 Thessalonians, and we see it in Revelation as well. So deception, false teaching, false prophets. This is one of the reasons The Joshua Fund is so focused on the centrality and the sufficiency of the Word of God. If you are not studying the Word of God, teaching the Word of God, and handling the whole council of God, then you're at risk, right? We already know. Paul tells Timothy that as we get closer to his, the return of Christ, people won't even wanna listen to sound doctrine. They'll only wanna hear what their itching ears long for. And so, we have to discharge our duties as evangelists, as preachers of the Word, to preach the Word of God in season and out. And this is why The Joshua Fund spends so much time getting to know believers, leaders in Israel, in the Palestinian Territories, in the neighboring countries, to see, do they really have a heart for the Word of God? Not that we agree with them on every single theological point. Believers have quite a range of views on the Holy Spirit, on eschatology, on women in leadership. And these are various issues, and we have our convictions, but we try to be careful not to impose those convictions. If something is way out of bounds, then we're not gonna support it because we will be held to account. What you invest in, you're gonna get more of. That's the hope. And so, you don't wanna invest in things that aren't healthy because you're gonna get more of it. And that's one of the risks of being an investor in spiritual work is that if you just get excited 'cause you're like, oh, somebody made a presentation and oh, it seems so exciting and let's, sure, let's give, we love Israel, they seem like a good person, you may have gotten the dog and pony show from people who know how to pull at your heartstrings and it may not be healthy. And that's a risk we all have to take. So, and that risk goes up as we get closer to the return of Christ.

- [Lynn] Hi, this is Lynn Rosenberg with The Joshua Fund. I'm here in Central Israel working together with several ministries in this amazing tent that is become a logistics center of various ministries working together. In this difficult time, it was so clear that we needed to come together and to serve. We have a small team right now from The Joshua Fund, some volunteers who are packing about 110 individual packages of food. Each package has 17 items that are really needed in a time like this. Just the basic food items, so you don't have to run out to the grocery store. Why wouldn't you wanna run to the grocery store? Because they're going to people who are in a town called Sderot. Sderot is the largest city on the Gaza border. And Sderot, on October 7th, was one of those cities that really was infiltrated by many terrorists and a terrible trauma happened there. Most of the city has been evacuated, but over the course of a month, many have needed to go back for work, for family, for pets even, and many never left. Ones that had health issues, ones that were afraid to go or wanted to just stay locked in their home. So we are working with a congregation from Sderot who have mostly evacuated, but that congregation and their pastor and his wife have been going back on a daily basis into the city to take care of the people who got left behind, who didn't want to leave or who couldn't leave. And so, we're gonna be joining them in a few days with these packages, and we're going to go and sit with these families one by one. We're not going to have them come to a place where they're just gonna gather their things and leave, we're gonna take them to their home. In small groups, two by two, we're gonna sit with them because more than this food, which they need, they really need somebody to sit with them, they need to sit with a friendly face that will listen to what they're going through, that will hear their sorrow, their broken hearts. And that's what we are thankful that we can do. And we're gonna tell them we're here because we are followers of Jesus and we love you. And the people from America that love Jesus have sent these gifts to you. So this is our opportunity just to give unconditional love, to sit and to listen, to listen to what's been going on there, and to hug them. So we'll really appreciate your prayers, we appreciate your supports, because without those things, we wouldn't have the strength. It's been a very, very difficult time here and we feel the prayers of the world, of the believers from around the world, who are with us. So thank you so much. Keep praying and keep giving, and we'll keep you updated on what's going on here.

- [Joel] Others, of course, these are ones we think of more, wars and rumors of wars, don't get frightened. There's gonna be wars, there's gonna be rumors of wars, but that's not the end. Those are just the beginnings of the birth pangs, right? So Lynn had four kids, I was just there, and I remember that in the hospital, she would hold my hand and as the contraction would come, right, she would squeeze and all the blood would drain from my hand, not that that was the main issue there, but I'm just remembering my personal experience, connection to it. And then I would watch that monitor very closely because when it peaked, I knew I was gonna get blood and circulation back into my hand, and that she was gonna feel better too. And that would come down and, now what happens? Jesus is using this analogy, right, of the birth pangs. So he's saying, as we get closer to my return, right, the contractions are gonna be coming and it's gonna be more intense, more painful, and then a release. That's what a contraction is. Contraction, release, contraction, release, intense pain, and then a bit of respite. But as you get closer to the moment that you're hoping for, the arrival, those contractions get longer, the pain gets higher, and the release time is shorter. And that's the image. So you wouldn't be expecting high pain and persecution and horror every second and every moment of every day as you go through history getting close to the return of Christ. But as these things get worse and worse and worse and worse, you know you're getting close to the arrival. And this is one, this is Jesus' analogy, right? And that's interesting. Other elements here. He talks about, they're gonna kill you, they're gonna deliver you to tribulation, they're gonna kill you, you'll be hated by all nations because of my name. Well, we're not there yet. Not every nation hates the people who love Jesus. In fact, as we're seeing, Israel and some of the Arab Muslim countries right now are elevating or at least being happy about followers of Jesus interacting with them. That's just amazing. I just sent out a Flash Traffic, that's my blog, update this morning on a front-page interview I did with a major Saudi newspaper in which they let me talk about Jesus. I quote John 3:16 in this article, in this interview. It's astonishing that they ran this in Arabic and in English. Front page. Now, you take five years ago, you might've said, well, Saudi's one of the countries that hates followers of Jesus, so we can check them off the list, right? That seems to be changing. But the point is, eventually we're heading to a point where all nations will hate the people who love Jesus. Thank God we're not there yet. But even the countries that hate Jesus, they still need Jesus. So we need to be engaged in helping the church in these countries preach the gospel and make disciples. The other is nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines, earthquakes. Again, these are part of the birth pangs. It doesn't mean we're there, it means we're heading there. Right? And again, you have to say that the last century or so, we've seen the worst persecution of Christians in the history of the church. If you look at the Open Doors' annual report, it describes that we are in the worst season. Now, we're, maybe we as Americans, as Canadians, as Brits, as Israelis, we're not facing that worst, but that's 'cause we're not in China, that's 'cause we're not in Iran, that's 'cause we're not in these countries where it's very, very hard, Syria, Lebanon. "Many will fall away. "Many will betray one another, hate one another." I think that if I sat with each one of you and had a chance to really say, all right, let's not talk about what we're doing and the doors God is opening for me and Lynn and our team, but just sit and let me just hear what's on your heart, what are the things that, I suspect if I scratch just a little bit under the surface, you have deep, deep pains, you have people that have betrayed you, that have abandoned you, that have abandoned Christ, people that you thought were walking with Jesus. Maybe these are your own children, maybe these are parents, maybe these are close friends, maybe it's a spouse, right? And so, we're seeing this happen. This is epidemic and it's getting worse and it's gonna get worse. Jesus doesn't tell us these things to freak us out, to discourage us, He's telling us that He's aware. Not that we should be happy about these things, of course not, but that we should understand that these are not things spinning out of control, out of His control. He knows it's gonna happen. It's because He's letting Satan have more and more sway over the world before He gets back. But one of the things these things do is they shake people. They shake people out of, if they have some level of faith, it shakes them to say, am I gonna go deeper and closer to Jesus or am I going to get bitter because my life got hard? Right? People who are not walking with Jesus at all, it shakes them, hoping, hopefully, maybe, they'll say, I need Jesus. I need to embrace a deep personal relationship with Christ that I can't sort of have a casual church-ianity. That's not enough. It's not gonna work. Speaking from our own personal experience, shortly after Lynn and I got married, Lynn's family blew up. Her parents got a divorce. It was brutal, it was horrific, we were blindsided. But out of that, that shaking of a family so deep and so painful and so horrific, one by one, members of her family came into faith in Jesus Christ. They were all from a church-ed family, Lynn was probably the only one who was actually born-again saved, but they would've all said that they were Christians. But this convulsion in the family forced everyone to ask, what do I really believe, what is my real hope? What is my real option for peace that passes all understanding? I remember her brother, who's a few years younger than she is, we were trying to share the gospel with him, he was quite a renegade in college, and we were involved in Campus Crusade for Christ. That's how we met. So we're trying to share the four spiritual laws with him, we're trying to every possible way. One day, he got so angry at us, he took a Bible and he winged it across the room and said, shut up, stop, I don't wanna hear this anymore. He's a pastor now. Was a missionary with he and his wife for many years. All their kids love Jesus. I mean, to watch that transformation, just him, right? Dan's wife, Lynn's sister, wasn't walking with Jesus in high school, not in college, but this convulsion set into motion her soul searching that brought her to Christ, and by God's grace, to Dan as well. These betrayals are horrible. And it is Satan trying to rob, kill, and destroy. But that's not the end of the story. God allows it in the sovereignty, in part to shake us so deeply, we have to make decisions for Jesus, all in or against. Another one that I think is interesting, and of course, there are so many, I mean, we could spend the week just in this chapter alone, much less Chapter 25. But it talks about, after 12, lawlessness will increase, people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved, right? We have to cling to Jesus. The Bible speaks of abiding in Christ, obviously, John 15, we're supposed to abide in Christ. But the imagery that I find myself being drawn to more is when it talks about clinging to Christ. I don't find just abiding as enough in my life these days. With all those fun things that you just saw, with all the meetings of leaders, all the opportunities The Joshua Fund opens up here, there, and everywhere, with that comes an enormous amount of spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare, not just against our marriage, against us individually, but against our children. And that's true of all the staff and all the board. In fact, when we invite people to join the staff or board, we have to say to them, listen, we just want you to be aware that if you come onto this team, your life is gonna get very, very hard. Whatever you think you've gone through hard, I suspect it's gonna get harder. It's not just us. Yeah, we're prickly and we all have our issues we gotta work on together, right? But it's because the spiritual warfare is going to spike. You're gonna be painting a big red target on yourself saying, I'm in, I'm in with Jesus trying to reach Jews and Muslims. Okay, watch the spiritual bombs and missiles start falling. But the one that I get most excited about is, of course, is Verse 14. "This gospel, this good news of the Kingdom "shall be preached." Shall be preached, not hopefully, maybe. No, "it shall be preached in the whole world "as a testimony to all the nations, "and then the end shall come." This is what ultimately drives The Joshua Fund team, this desire to make sure that every single Jew and every single Arab and everybody else of any other ethnicity in the land of Israel and in the Palestinian Territories and in the neighboring countries has at least heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the Kingdom, that the Kingdom is coming, right? A Kingdom where the King will make all things right. He will bring justice, He will bring peace, He will fix our broken hearts, our broken relationships, and He will make all things right. And that's the mission of The Joshua Fund ultimately. We can't convert people, we can't persuade every Jew and Muslim to come, or nominal Christian, to say, yes, I want to be all in, I wanna be born again. We can't convince everybody to do that, but we can make sure that everybody has heard. And we don't long for judgment, we long for mercy. People say, ah, I can't wait for justice. I mean, at some level, yes, but none of us really want justice, not in our own lives. Well, we want mercy, we want grace. What about people who've never heard? Jesus is the most famous Israeli in human history, and nobody over there knows who He is. Christmas is the most exciting season of the year, and they don't even celebrate it in the land of Jesus. What's wrong with this picture? So, but there are people there, Victor and Esther, Magdi and Rema, and people like them, and our job is to only come alongside them, help, encourage behind the scenes, without building a brand, without drawing attention to ourselves, pray for them, love them, encourage them, listen to them, resource them in any and every way we can as the Lord guides, so that our greatest joy will be when they, when we watch them in heaven walk up to Jesus, and Jesus says, well done, my good and faithful servant. I hope this is encouraging to you. I hope prophecy will motivate you to live for Jesus now in holiness, in prayer, in love, and fellowship, and in an urgency of preaching the gospel and making disciples. God bless you.

- [Carl] Well, thank you for listening to this episode as we explore prophecy, dealing with false prophets, and clinging to Jesus. If you found this podcast really valuable, please get in touch with us. Let us know who you are. Do you have a question you want Joel to answer or something else you want answered on this show? Just ask us. You can go to joshuafund.com and click on contact us. Your feedback is incredibly valuable to us as we develop this podcast. And as always, you can check out our show notes for anything you heard in the podcast that you'd like more information on. For Joel Rosenberg and The Joshua Fund Ministry Team, I'm Carl Moeller. Thanks for listening to this episode of Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg.

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