The most important prophecy Christ delivered while He was on Earth was the Olivet prophecy. All prophecy really revolves around this prophecy, which is recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. I believe this is the most pivotal prophecy in the Bible. Some commentaries call it “the little apocalypse,” and for good reason.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all recorded the gospel of Christ. Why is John the only one of the four Gospel writers who did not record the Olivet prophecy? Actually he does, but not in the Gospel of John. He records it in the book of Revelation, chapter 6. It is in this chapter that John discusses the seven seals—with the emphasis on the first four—otherwise known as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The word apocalypse is an untranslated Greek word which means revelation. In the book of Revelation, John records the seven seals, which are interpreted by Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. So actually, all four of those authors had a version of the Olivet prophecy.
Bible Interprets the Bible
The book of Revelation has many symbols with many different interpretations. However, we must remember that the Bible interprets itself. Most Bible scholars fail to realize this fact, and that is why we see so many bizarre interpretations of the book of Revelation.
Only Christ can unlock the seven seals. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (Revelation 5:5). These seven seals are unlocked in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy [Spirit]” (2 Peter 1:20-21). No man can interpret the Bible. That is the first lesson we need to learn.
The White Horse
Let’s notice the first seal. “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:1-2). Men usually assume this refers to Jesus Christ. That is why multiple millions of people are deceived by a false Christianity! (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9). A Christian is one who follows Christ. So let’s make certain we let Christ interpret this first horseman of the apocalypse.
It is true that Christ will return to Earth on a white horse. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16). But notice carefully, Christ has a sword—not a bow.
The man on the white horse in Revelation 6, like the other three horsemen of the apocalypse, brings great suffering upon the Earth. Here in Revelation 19, Christ brings abundant peace and joy, after He smashes the rebels.
The prophecies symbolized by the four horsemen began to be fulfilled at Christ’s first coming. The evils continue until His Second Coming. By far, the most intense suffering is just before Christ’s Second Coming.
The first horseman is first because he causes the most suffering by far! He goes forth “conquering, and to conquer.” The word conquer means “to come off with the victory” (Thayer’s Lexicon). This conquering occurs in the time between Christ’s first coming and His Second Coming. The first horseman conquers by deceiving! The other three horsemen, on the surface, would appear to cause far more serious catastrophes. But in truth, the first horseman causes most of the gruesome events of the other three! These catastrophes occur because men are deceived. The first and most deadly horseman is religious deception! And yet men are so casual and shallow in their religious interests that they fail to see this. Let’s allow Christ to unlock this first seal for us.
Mankind has no idea how much suffering is caused by religious deception. “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 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. 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?” (Matthew 24:1-3). Christ was addressing only a small group of His own disciples—not the world. This was only His small inner circle of believers. The focus of the message was on today—the end of the world, or the end of this age. Not only does Christ give a sign of the end of the world, He gives a sign of the end of the end time! He gives specific details to watch for!
Now notice the first and most important warning Christ gave them. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (verses 4‑5). This is the first horseman of the apocalypse! It is not just about deception from false, non-Christian religions. People are going to be deceived about Christ and His message—about what true Christianity really is. And it gets so bad that Christ’s own disciples are deceived! So this even goes beyond false Christianity. The first horseman will also deceive God’s chosen people!
When Christ mentions the word you, He is discussing His own disciples. They too are deceived into believing a message about the person of Christ while rejecting His message. These are people who were given God’s Holy Spirit and His precious truth. Then they rejected it for a false Christianity!
Do we see how deadly this first horseman of the apocalypse is? It gets so bad that many of God’s elect get killed because they become deceived! “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” (verse 9). Christ is still addressing His own disciples. That is why He addresses them as you. This happened in a.d. 70, but that was only a type of the end-time deception. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (verse 12). The word love is from the Greek word agape, which means God’s own love. God gave His most precious gift of love and they let it wax cold. That prophecy is being fulfilled this very minute in God’s Church!
The word many should read the majority. The MAJORITYof God’s own people are letting their love wax cold in this end time! It’s the same Laodicean problem related in Revelation 3:14-20. There is no worse tragedy for God’s own people. Even they are struck by the arrows from the bow of the first horseman.
These are Christ’s own wordswarning us. This is His strongest warning to us! Yet even most people in God’s Church take it lightly and are deceived.
This tragedy has been unfolding for almost 2,000 years. But it gets a hundred times worse in this end time! It all happens because they are deceived by the first horseman of the apocalypse.
The literal Greek in Luke’s account states, “See that you are not led astray” (Luke 21:8). Remember, Christ was talking to His own disciples. Only the saints can be led astray because only they have—or had—the truth! This prophecy is about God’s Church being taught God’s precious truth and then being deceived. They don’t just stumble. They are led away from God!
This is the same end-time problem prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2, the book of Malachi and many other prophecies. God’s own people are deceived about Christ’s message. They are also deceived about a man God used in this end time.
Here is a very revealing verse. “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” (Matthew 24:14). The word end here is not the same as the Greek word used for the end of the age (see verse 3). Thayer’s Lexicon defines the word end in verse 14 this way: “In the Greek writing, always the end of some act or state, but not the end of a period of time … what end is intended the reader must determine by the context.”
So what really ended? When the gospel was preached around the world as a witness, then that work ended. It was the end of the Philadelphia era and the beginning of the Laodicean era in God’s Church (Revelation 3:7-20). A man came and finished an end-time work (Zechariah 4:9). Then he was taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7). For more information, request a free copy of Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today.
But who was that man? Remember, Matthew 24 is addressed to Christ’s own disciples. Now we can see another specific way of determining which of God’s people are and are notdeceived by the first horseman of the apocalypse. “And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias [or Elijah] must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:10-11). Christ personally prophesied that He would send an end-time Elijah just before His Second Coming. This man would restore all things. He would do the greatest work of any of God’s leaders in the end time. But God’s end-time Laodicean Church would be deceived about who this man was—just as they were in the first century about an Elijah who came then! “But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist” (verses 12-13). Only the true disciples knew that John the Baptist filled the first-century role of Elijah. And only God’s true disciples today know that Herbert W. Armstrong was theEND-TIMEElijah!
None of the Laodiceans today recognize Mr. Armstrong as this end-time Elijah. And it is to their own shame!
Remember, this prophecy is dual. Christ said so. There was a first-century type of Elijah and an end-time type of Elijah.
The gospel of the Kingdom was not preached around the world from the first century until the last. Otherwise, Christ could not have said what He did in Matthew 24:14! So when we saw the gospel being preached around the world, we should have known it was the end time. But when that work ceased, we were in the very end of the end time!
When Mr. Armstrong died, it was a great turning point in this world and in God’s Church. The whole world must come to see that! Satan, no doubt, was then cast to this Earth (Revelation 12:9). Satan’s own wrath greatly intensified the world’s problems (verse 12). Then he persecuted the woman, or God’s Church. Only a remnant of God’s people were not deceived by Satan; it is these whom God will protect from Satan’s greatest wrath—the Great Tribulation (verse 14). But God’s Word prophesied that many in God’s Church would be deceived shortly before that and would have to go into the Tribulation (verse 17; Revelation 11:1-3).
The first horseman of the apocalypse has struck a powerful blow to God’s end-time Church!
Christ prophesied of this tragedy in the very next verse of the Olivet prophecy: “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. 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:)” (Matthew 24:14-15). This is referring both to a spiritual abomination of desolation that destroys God’s Church, and to a physical abomination that attacks Jerusalem. I explain this in depth in our free booklet Daniel—Unsealed at Last!
When Mr. Armstrong died, the nations of Israel began to collapse very quickly. The physical abomination of desolation began to rise in power just as fast. That is why Christ mentions it immediately after discussing the gospel being preached around the world. That gospel message also contained a warning of Israel’s collapse and the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, which is the abomination of desolation. After the gospel was preached around the world, you could see the abomination of desolation rise fast—first spiritually, and now, in Europe today, physically. Shortly, God’s people in Judah (called Israel today) must flee when they see this European army (verse 16).
Christ prophesied that His people would understand. Do you understand this prophecy? If you don’t truly understand it, then you have been deceived by the first horseman!
Luke’s version of the Olivet prophecy states that the abomination of desolation is an army or armies. “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto” (Luke 21:20-21). Again, God’s own people are told to flee at this time. But the Laodiceans won’t flee because they are so deceived—by the first horseman of the apocalypse!
Those physical armies that will surround Jerusalem are about to enslave Judah, Britain and America. This abomination will leave many nations in “desolation” shortly before Christ returns.
If God’s people didn’t even recognize the mighty work of God’s end-time Elijah, how could they ever know when to flee? We recognize the end-time Elijah by faith and we flee by faith. Now is the time to build that strong faith.
When the gospel stops going around the world, we can begin to watch for specific signs—like God’s Church being attacked by armies of demons, the rapid collapse of Israel, the rise of the abomination of desolation, nuclear power out of control, and other serious signs we’ll mention later.
The first horseman of the apocalypse deceives people about Christ’s message. Satan gets their focus on the person of Christ and off His message. That also happens to God’s own Church, but in varying degrees.
God puts the focus on His own Church in this great religious deception. There is an important reason for this. Worldly religions are easily deceived and have never had God’s revealed truth. So they don’t understand the Bible. Only a tiny percentage of “Christianity” has ever understood God’s Word. Satan has to be more subtle and powerful to deceive God’s own people. Christ speaks more directly to His people because their salvation is at stake. Those in the world have not yet been called (John 6:44). They will get their chance in the second resurrection.
God’s elect today will either be resurrected at Christ’s return or they will be thrown into the lake of fire!
God actually discusses three different groupsofHis own saints in the last few verses of Matthew 24. Two of them are mentioned in verse 40: “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” The two are two men (see the New International Version). Luke’s version explains this verse better. “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left” (Luke 17:34). These two men, or leaders in God’s Church, are in the same bed. That just means both are in God’s own Family. God is speaking spiritually.
“Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:41). Woman is a Bible symbol for church. The two women are both grinding at the mill. That means there are two separate churches, but both of them are God’s churches. Both are grinding at the mill—teaching much of God’s truth. But one church has a serious flaw. The Greek reads “in the mill.” Both groups are in God’s temple (or Church) but one group resides in the outer court (Revelation 11:1-3). These people have a government problem and can’t be corrected or measured by God. God is not going to take them to a place of safety. They will go through the Great Tribulation because of a lukewarm attitude. One church flees. The other church is not given that option (Revelation 12:13‑17). Its problem revolves around the end-time Elijah, who preached God’s gospel around the world. If we look closely, a serious problem can be seen.
The lukewarm church is not ready to flee. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:42-44). Why are they not ready? Their watching is not good enough. Luke says “watch ye”; in other words, you—individually—must watch, or you’ll end up in the lukewarm church and be plunged into the Tribulation.
We are commanded to watch for a reason. We must warn the world—and even more importantly, God’s own Laodiceans! Again, their salvation is at stake! Examine our literature, and you’ll see that we warn as Christ commands.
There is no point in watching if we don’t warn. The Laodiceans don’t see God’s most urgent warning message. Some people say we lack love and are attacking our brethren. We are not attacking, but we arewatching and warning! God uses us to rebuke them in love (Revelation 3:19). That is because their own love is waxing cold.
God relates to us why He can’t reveal His message to the Laodiceans—even the ones who are grinding at the mill (some of them are not even doing that). “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Matthew 24:45). One of God’s leaders is a “faithful and wise servant.” God has made him “ruler over his household”—or Church. Thayer’s Lexicon defines ruler this way: “set one over a thing, (in charge of it), to conduct the worship of God.” This Church has God’s government. The same government that God gave to Mr. Armstrong! Many members of the offshoot Laodicean churches left or were cast out of the Worldwide Church of God. But they rejected God’s government and Mr. Armstrong as being the end-time Elijah. They either had to reject Mr. Armstrong in that role or submit to the government he taught! That is precisely what Christ is discussing here. (For more information, request our free booklets Colossians and God’s Family Government.)
The word ruler used here is the same word used in Matthew 25:23-24: “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed.” We must practice God’s government today to beREADYto teach it in the World Tomorrow! God says 50 percent of the Laodiceans will finally learn to submit to His government. The other 50 percent won’t learn that lesson and shall lose their salvation! (verses 1-10). Rebellion against government is the main reason.
The Bible was originally written on scrolls without chapter breaks. The chapter breaks were inserted by men. The last few verses of Matthew 24 should be followed by the first 10 verses of chapter 25—without a chapter break. It’s all one story flow. That way people can better see the terrifying penalty the Laodiceans must pay for their rebellion. Without the chapter break, the impact is much stronger. Perhaps now you can better understand why we so vigorously warn the Laodiceans. If we truly love the Laodiceans, how can we not warn them? The first horseman’s single-most monstrous destruction is inflicted on God’s own Church. Many thousands of God’s people shall die forever in a few short years!
The Philadelphia Church of God is the only church of God today that continues to teach the same government God taught through Mr. Armstrong. The Laodiceans have rejected that government. That is the main reason God won’t use them to do His Work.
We can’t rule in the World Tomorrow until we learn to be ruled by God! As Mr. Armstrong said, “Government is everything.” That is what the First Commandment is all about, and it is the foundation of all the Ten Commandments.
Worldly religions have always rejected God’s government, which is based on God’s law, the Ten Commandments. Now God’s own people have the same problem. That is why the first horseman of the apocalypse can so easily deceive them. They don’t want God to totally rule them!
Mr. Armstrong used God’s government to preach the gospel around the world and to restore all things. That job had never been done before with such power. There is no way that work could have been done without God’s government. Just an ounce of logic would tell you so!
After the Laodiceans rejected Mr. Armstrong as fulfilling the Elijah office, it was easy for them to reject God’s government. If they had accepted that government, they wouldNEVERhave rejected Mr. Armstrong as the end-time Elijah. That was a colossal mistake!
Grinding at the mill is not enough. God still has to totally and unconditionally rule us! The government of God is what separates the two women grinding at the mill.
God’s own Laodicean Church is the woman who is grinding at the mill, but is still left to face the Tribulation.
The church that is ruled by God does God’s Work. But what is that work? It is to “give them meat in due season”—which certainly includes watching and warning the Laodiceans and the whole world. Our primary job is not to preach the gospel around the world—though we do preach the gospel. The emphasis of our message is to watch and warn. It is a season to warn! And only a short span of time is left to do that job.
We would lose our own blood if we didn’t send this warning message (Ezekiel 3 and 33).
We know the end-time Elijah has come and gone. We are in a different season. Tragically, the Laodiceans don’t know that. Many of them still think their main job is to do what Mr. Armstrong has already done. “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Matthew 24:46). We must be found doing the right work in the right season! It’s not enough to just be doing or just be grinding at the mill. We must deliver the right message, or Christ can’t use us to do His Work.
What is the reward for doing this job? “Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods” (verse 47). God is going to make us rulers over the whole universe. The word ruler is the same word discussed earlier. Here is the most profound message ever delivered by God! We must beRULEDby God’s government today or God could never allow us toRULEthe vast universe! (Hebrews 2:7-8). We absolutely must see how towering this glory and responsibility is. It is urgently necessary that we learn to be ruled now. Only Mr. Armstrong taught us how to be ruled. It’s all for our own golden reward! We can’t be Laodicean sloppy in this area!
God won’t have another Satan on His hands. Lucifer rebelled and wrecked much of the universe. That happened for one and only one reason: He refused to administer God’s government! So Satan rules the first horseman of the apocalypse today—trying to deceive all mankind about God’s precious government. He desperately wants to get mankind to follow his rebellion.
Anyone who won’t submit to God’s government is destined to be deceived by the first horseman!
The fruits prove that Mr. Armstrong had God’s government. But every Laodicean rejects it. That is exactly why they are Laodicean!
The Drunken Laodiceans
Now let’s go on to still another third group of God’s saints called out of this world. The first horseman of the apocalypse has trampled them underfoot! “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming” (Matthew 24:48). Notice they say “My Lord delays His coming” in their hearts. It isn’t something they express in words. These people believe strongly in Christ’s Second Coming. But in their hearts they think He is delaying that coming. Christ didn’t come when they thought He would, so they blame God. Their faith is breaking down. They began to say “prophesy not” (Amos 2:11‑12).
After being disappointed, these people of God got drunk spiritually. Remember, God talks to us on different levels. But He talks to His own Church spiritually. “And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken” (Matthew 24:49). Which church of God today is smiting its fellow servants? Only the Worldwide Church of God really has that power. It laid the doctrinal foundation established by Herbert Armstrong to waste—wrecking God’s true Church. Those who fought these false changes were cast out of the Church by their own “brethren” and “fellow servants”—their own Family (Isaiah 66:5).
Many Philadelphia Church of God members said this was the most traumatic experience of their lives. After all, we are discussing people’s eternal lives. A fierce battle raged and still rages between God’s very elect and the first horseman. These verses are discussing a devastating Church split. These Laodiceans wanted to “drink with the drunken.” They wanted the Babylonian doctrines of this world.
A “son of perdition” is destroying God’s true Church! (2 Thessalonians 2). He smites anyone who gets in the way. Only the Worldwide Church of God is flagrantly guilty of this sin. (For a more in-depth study, request a free copy of Malachi’s Message.)
“The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of” (Matthew 24:50). These people of God don’t know the Tribulation is almost upon us. They keep repeating “no man knows the day or the hour,” but they rarely if ever say, “it is near, even at the doors” (verses 33-36). Such statements reveal why God calls them hypocrites. They are very dishonest in their Bible scholarship! “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verse 51). Such hypocrites will be cast into the lake of fire. That is the subject here—not just physical death. God warns them that their eternal lives are about to be lost! This physical life today is their only chance for salvation. It is the season to thunder a warning message! Anybody who sees what is happening can do nothing less!
The first horseman of the apocalypse has deceived this world. But the far greater tragedy is what this deceptive monster has done, and is doing, to God’s own people. This horse is galloping over God’s own saints—deceiving and destroying probably more saints than at any time in the history of God’s Church! May God help us to recognize him—and to heed the thunderous warning message coming out of God’s true remnant Church today!