Endurance

Jesus Christ’s return will coincide with Satan’s final attempt to ruin God’s plan of salvation. At that time, the Nation of Israel will become the focus of a man known as the Antichrist. What this man will try to do is to trick people into believing that he is the Savior of the World. The key to his plot is a treaty that will ensure the safety of God’s people for a specific period of time that is referred to by Bible scholars as the Great Tribulation. Antichrist’s vow to take care of the Israelites will result in a betrayal that involves the desecration of God’s temple (Matthew 24:15). When that occurs, Jesus warned his followers to run for their lives because they would face opposition to their faith that was beyond most people’s capability to endure (Matthew 24:16-22).

Jesus described the break up of God’s kingdom in the context of a home that was being broken into by a thief and suggested that some people would be taken captive by Satan because they were unaware that Antichrist was deceiving them (Matthew 24:24). Jesus said, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:40-42). The Greek word translated taken, paralambano means to receive near that is associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation)” (3880). This word suggests that being taken involves an acceptance of someone as a friend or companion, perhaps as an alternate to someone else. Jesus was probably referring to the acceptance of Antichrist as a personal savior or collectively as Israel’s Messiah. The apparent fifty-fifty division of the population could mean that half of the people will not be taken in by the Antichrist’s trickery because they have been chosen by God to withstand Satan’s attempt to overturn his plan of salvation (Revelation 7:3).

The point Jesus made in his lesson of the faithful and unfaithful servants was that endurance was necessary to withstand the evil influence of Antichrist (Matthew 24:48-50). Jesus indicated that the greatest fear of the Jew should be to be identified as a hypocrite and cast into hell with Satan and the rest of his cohorts (Matthew 24:51). The Apostle Paul outlined a method for resisting the devil and warned Christians about the evil spiritual forces that are presently attacking believers in Christ. He said, “Finally, my brethren,  be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13).

Imposters

In what is now referred to as the Olivet discourse, Jesus revealed signs of the end of the age in which non-Jewish believers would be integrated into the kingdom of God. As he began to focus on the Great Tribulation, Jesus warned his disciples that imposters would try to deceive the Jews into thinking their Messiah had arrived. He said, “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, he is there; believe him not: for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things” (Mark 13:221-23). The Greek word translated seduce, apoplanao, which means “to lead astray” (G635), seems to suggest an evangelistic effort that is not based on the New Testament of the Bible. It could be that the Jews will one day realize they missed their opportunity to receive God’s salvation and will try to obtain salvation through some other means. Jesus’ comment “I have foretold you all things” was probably meant to be a type of line in the sand that marked the end of divine revelation. At the conclusion of his Olivet discourse, Jesus didn’t intend to say anything more about his return to Earth and didn’t want there to be any confusion about whether or not he had left anything out.

The primary reason Jesus warned his followers about imposters that would try to lead them astray was because of the Antichrist’s role in deterring the Jews from inheriting the kingdom of heaven. The term antichrist was introduced around the end of the first century by the Apostle John in his first general epistle to believers. John’s objective was to expose false teachers and give believers assurance of salvation. John said, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). John went on to say, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 1:22). John’s reference to the last time was probably not meant to suggest that Jesus’ return was imminent, but that the ministry that Jesus launched was coming to a conclusion. John was the last survivor of the original twelve apostles and was probably nearing the end of his life when he wrote his general epistles. One thing that is certain from John’s message was that before the end of his ministry, it had already become common knowledge that someone known as “antichrist” was going to try and take the place of Jesus as the savior of the world. The imposter will likely have a similar appearance to Jesus as being a compassionate leader, but will deny the authority of God and will try to usurp his power.

Betrayal

In his discussion about signs of the end of this age, Jesus told his disciples they would not only face opposition, but would be betrayed by their own family members. He said, “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up. Take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:11-13). Jesus wasn’t suggesting that endurance was a requirement for salvation, but rather that perseverance was an indicator of salvation (note on Mark 13:13). Paul wrote about this in his epistle to the Hebrews where he said, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast to the end. Whilst it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Hebrew 3:14-15).

Jesus understood that the severe trials the early Christians would face would be more than some of them could handle. His encouragement to endure to the end may have had a twofold meaning. First, that the individual Christians wouldn’t let the threat of persecution prevent them from receiving salvation and second, that the united body of believers that is sometimes referred to as Christ’s church, would continue to preach the gospel until Jesus’ return. In the midst of his message about the betrayal of Christians, Jesus referred to a prophecy that is found in the book of Daniel. He said, “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:) then let them that be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes” (Matthew 24:15-18). Daniel’s prophecy is thought to be a sign of the Antichrist outlawing worship of God during the Great Tribulation (note on Daniel 9:25-27). If so, then Jesus may have been suggesting that the betrayal of Christians would reach its climax at that point and it would no longer be safe for his followers to identify themselves.

Jesus’ reference to the Great Tribulation was probably meant for Jewish believers only. Many Bible Scholars believe that Christians will be removed from the earth before the Great Tribulation begins. Jesus indicated that after the abomination of desolation is set up in God’s temple, “then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22). In spite of extreme persecution and betrayal by their loved ones, many Jews will turn to Christ during the Great Tribulation. It is likely that the work Jesus started with the original twelve Jewish apostles will be revived in some form during that time period. The Apostle John indicated 144,000 Jews would be preserved, 12,000 each from all the tribes of Israel during the Great Tribulation. These Jewish believers will be killed for their faith and given a special reward for their suffering (Revelation 7:13-17). At the end of the Great Tribulation, they will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).