Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Sign of the Last Days
BY NOW it is Tuesday afternoon. As Jesus is seated on the Mount of Olives, looking at the temple below, Peter, Andrew, James, and John come to him privately. They are concerned about the temple, since Jesus has just foretold that ‘not a stone will be left upon a stone in it.’
But apparently they have even more on their minds as they approach Jesus. A few weeks earlier, he had spoken about his “presence,” a time “when the Son of man is to be revealed.” And on an earlier occasion, he had told them about “the conclusion of the system of things.” So the apostles are very curious.
“Tell us,” they say, “when will these things be [resulting in destruction for Jerusalem and her temple], and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” In effect, theirs is a three-part question. First, they want to know about the end of Jerusalem and its temple, then regarding Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power, and finally about the end of the entire system of things.
In his lengthy response, Jesus answers all three parts of the question. He provides a sign that identifies when the Jewish system of things will end; but he provides more. He also gives a sign that will alert his future disciples that they are living during his presence and near the end of the entire system of things.
As the years go by, the apostles begin to observe the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. Yes, the very things he foretold start to occur in their day. Thus, Christians who are alive 37 years later, in 70 C.E., are not caught unawares by the destruction of the Jewish system with its temple.
However, Christ’s presence and the conclusion of the system of things do not take place in 70 C.E. His presence in Kingdom power occurs much later. But when? A consideration of Jesus’ prophecy reveals this.
Jesus foretells that there will be “wars and reports of wars.” “Nation will rise against nation,” and there will be food shortages, earthquakes, and pestilences. His disciples will be hated and killed. False prophets will arise and mislead many. Lawlessness will increase, and the love of the greater number will cool off. At the same time, the good news of God’s Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth as a witness to all the nations.
Although Jesus’ prophecy had a limited fulfillment prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the major fulfillment of it takes place during his presence and the conclusion of the system of things. A careful review of world events since 1914 reveals that Jesus’ momentous prophecy has been undergoing its major fulfillment since that year.
Another part of the sign that Jesus gives is the appearance of “the disgusting thing that causes desolation.” In 66 C.E. this disgusting thing appeared in the form of the “encamped armies” of Rome that surrounded Jerusalem and undermined the temple wall. “The disgusting thing” stood where it ought not.
In the major fulfillment of the sign, the disgusting thing is the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations. This world peace organization is viewed by Christendom as a substitute for God’s Kingdom. How disgusting! In time, therefore, the political powers associated with the UN will turn on Christendom (antitypical Jerusalem) and will desolate her.
Jesus thus foretold: “There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” While Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. was indeed a great tribulation, with over a million reportedly being killed, it was not a greater tribulation than the global Flood in Noah’s day. So the major fulfillment of this portion of Jesus’ prophecy is yet to be realized. Matthew 24:2-22; 13:40, 49; Mark 13:3-20; Luke 21:7-24; 19:43, 44; 17:20-30; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
◆ What prompts the apostles’ question, but apparently what else do they have on their minds?
◆ What part of Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled in 70 C.E., but what did not occur then?
◆ When did Jesus’ prophecy have a first fulfillment, but when does it have a major fulfillment?
◆ What is the disgusting thing in its first and final fulfillments?
◆ Why did the great tribulation not have its final fulfillment with the destruction of Jerusalem?