This is how Jesus describes how things will be for believers just before the end: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:9-13). There is a sense in which these things have always been with us, but there has never been a time when these things have all been fulfilled so completely as right now.
You will be hated by all nations (v9)
Over recent centuries, in the West, true believers have been tolerated and even enjoyed a brief period of popularity. But, in the last few years the tide has turned and even in Western nations like the US, Europe and Australia true believers are increasingly despised and hated. False churches are flourishing and false believers are still enjoying popularity and fame. However, in order to be accepted they have to sell their souls and enter into unholy alliances with the powers of darkness and with secular rulers. Those who are accepted by the world also do not look or behave any different to the world and thus the world does not even recognize them as being Christian.
The true church now finds itself in the same position as the prophets of the Old Testament: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented…” (Hebrews 11:37). At the moment, in the West, the persecution of true believers is mostly not physical, but it is real non-the-less. But, this is just the beginning. Every year from here on will get worse as true believers’ and true churches’ rights to practice their faith in accordance with the Scriptures will increasingly be eroded. Yes, even in the USA! Already there are many areas where believers are being prosecuted, are losing jobs and are generally being discriminated against, because they practice Biblical Christianity.
In future, the only options will either be to suffer for the faith or to compromise with the world. Sadly, for many who profess to be believers, the latter is the obvious choice.
Many will be offended and will betray one another (v10)
It is the “nations” (unbelievers) that will hate and persecute the believers. But when Jesus speaks about those who will be offended, betray and hate, he uses the words “one another”. This is not the world but the so-called church. It is believers that will be offended by other believers, it is “Christians” who will betray and hate other Christians!
Surely not? Yes, indeed. The worst opposition will come from within! Did Jesus not say that the way He was treated would be the way His followers will be treated? (Luke 23:31). Jesus said: “…A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (John 15:20-22).
Over and over the Gospels record that many were offended because of Jesus and His message. (Matthew 13:57; Matthew 26:31ff; John 6:66ff etc.). The same happened to Paul (1Timothy 1:15; 2Timothy 4:10, 2Timothy 4:16 etc.). Over the past few years many churches and pastors testify to the fact that people who once walked with them have been offended by the truth and the Word and have turned aside to the world, a populist message, or to spiritual deadness. Just as Jesus and Paul lost friend after friend and disciple after disciple, so too true men of God are losing friends and followers by the day – and, it will only get worse.
Just as Jesus was betrayed to the unbelievers by a friend in order that they may put Him to death, so “believers” are turning against other believers and betraying them to the unbelievers on social media and the internet so that the world will turn against the true believers. “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” (Matthew 10:21). The worst form of betrayal is that of a “friend”. Yet that is what Jesus endured and what many a saint is experiencing, right here in the USA, and elsewhere. “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” (Psalms 41:9).
Many will hate one another (v10)
The quality that should mark the relationship between believers is that they love one another (John 13:35) yet, the thing that seems to mark the relationship between “believers” today is hate! Yes, I know you protest that this is not true, but it is. This is a new phenomenon of the last couple of years. I could nauseate you with many e-mails and other correspondence from “believers” and “ministries” that can only be described as hate mail, of the kind to which only the worst politicians descend.
While the world has become increasingly hateful of Christians, the “church” has intensified that hate, anger and venom. Every morning when I open my e-mail, it is with dread, knowing that the e-mail will likely contain hate mail; or news of yet another ministry compromised by sin, heresy, or a departure from the faith; or yet another “friend” who has been offended by the truth and is turning their back on me or has become my enemy. “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).
One of the new phenomena of recent times is that “Christians” and ministries instead of gathering around truth, now build relationships and fellowship around common enemies within the Christian community so that people who have very little in common, or were formerly at loggerheads, become “friends” because of their shared hate of another believer!
No, this is not a pity party. I am not alone. Others who are willing to stand for truth are experiencing the same and we rejoice in being counted worthy to suffer for His Name (albeit in a small way) (Acts 5:41). It is the reality of what Jesus calls “the beginning of sorrows” (birth pangs) that will precede His coming. (Matthew 24:28). And it will get worse.
Many false prophets will deceive many (v11)
The last fifty years has been unparalleled for the rise of error, heresy and deception. What distinguishes the errors of the last fifty years, and that of the last couple of years, is that the false prophets are no longer outside the true “remnant” church, but within. There used to be a clear line between the true and the false churches but that has all changed. Many of the ministries that were set up to be “watchmen” have become deceivers themselves, propagating another gospel and another Jesus.
Many pastors and teachers who for many years stood for truth now embrace heresy, or will not defend the truth any longer. Some have been deceived themselves while others choose rather to compromise and remain accepted than stand for truth and suffer rejection. Of the few who have retained right doctrine, fewer still exhibit the fruit of the spirit but are rather identified by “hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions…” (Galatians 5:20).
Notice that the text says that “many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). These will not be, and are not, isolated exceptions but rather the case with the majority! (I know there are those who will say that I am not speaking truth, but this is the Word of God.)
Lawlessness will lead to love grown cold (v12).
The Greek word for lawlessness (anomia – without law) is used 15 times in the New Testament and in every other case it refers to spiritual lawlessness (“iniquity”). Therefore, it must be seen as spiritual here as well. One could also apply it to civil lawlessness but that is not the primary meaning of the word.
Never before have Christians so blatantly lived lifestyles contrary to the Scriptures. It seems the Bible has no authority or relevance anymore and every man is doing what is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6). Immorality, addictions, lying, materialism, divisions, uncleanness, revelry, love of pleasure rather than of God is now all too common among “Bible believing” people and their leaders. The Bible is nothing more than a book of pleasant sayings and expressions of God’s love for sinners. Ultimately, all will go to heaven irrespective of the evidence that they were not born again and lived in rank rebellion to God.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Because there are no absolutes and lawlessness has increased, the love of many is growing cold. The love here must refer to love of the Lord and love of one’s neighbor. Loving the Lord has been replaced by love for pleasure (1Timothy 3:4) and loving the Brothers has been replaced with love of self (2Timothy 3:2). There are also some who still love the Bible and doctrine but their love for the Lord and His people has grown cold and thus they have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
We are indeed in the lukewarm Laodicean age (Revelation 3:14-22). Lukewarmness is not a small matter – it results in being rejected by the Lord (Revelation 3:16), and lovelessness is evidence of someone who has fallen (Revelation 2:4-5).
He who endures to the end shall be saved (v13)
Times are desperately evil. Masses are falling away from the faith, many that we once thought were immovable have stumbled, the most unlikely people have bought into heresy, and stalwarts of the faith have become enemies of the Church. Do not say it has not / will not happen to you – pride comes before the fall and let him who stands take heed lest he fall.
Yes, the days of serving the Lord in comfort and ease are over. We are down to the crunch. Now, more than ever, we need to “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Those who still cleave to the Lord need to encourage one another, not with feint hope of revival but with the promise that “…when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28).
Let us rescue those we can, cleave to the Lord, and speak often to one another to encourage and provoke one another to faith and good works (Malachi 3:16, Hebrews 10:24). Above all, we must endure to the end.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Maranatha. Even so come Lord Jesus.