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Home Articles More Preterist Eschatology Articles MATTHEW 24 & 25 FULFILLED AND APPLIED

MATTHEW 24 & 25 FULFILLED AND APPLIED

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MATTHEW 24 & 25 FULFILLED AND APPLIED

BY:  PASTOR DAVID B. CURTIS
http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/studyIndex.php


Introduction to the Olivet Discourse

Matthew 24:1-2

(TLM Editorial note:  Pastor David Curtis is a Sovereign Grace Biblical Preterist.  You can view his articles and listen to his sermons here:  http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/home.php
http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/studyIndex.php).  



We are beginning a study of Matthew 24 which is known as the Olivet discourse. This is also a sermon on the mount. Few chapters of the Bible have called forth more disagreement among interpreters than Matthew 24 and its parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 21.

Before we begin our study of chapter 24, we need to examine its context. Apart from an understanding of its context, you can come up with all kinds of weird interpretations.

So, let's begin at the beginning. Matthew, Mark and Luke are usually known as the Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic comes from two Greek words which mean "to see together" and literally means able "to be seen together." The reason for that name is this, these three gospels each give an account of the same events in Jesus' life. There are in each of them additions and omissions; but broadly speaking their material is the same and their arrangement is the same. It is therefore possible to set them down in parallel columns to compare the one with the other. We will be doing this as we study Matthew 24.

Matthew was the gospel that was written for the Jews. It was written by a Jew in order to convince Jews. One of the great objects of Matthew is to demonstrate that all the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus, and that, therefore, he must be the Messiah. It has one phrase that runs through it like an ever-recurring theme-- "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet." That phrase, in varied form, occurs in the gospel as often as 10 times. Jesus is the prophesied Messiah.

Jesus' birth and Jesus' name are the fulfilment of prophecy:

Matthew 1:21-23 (NKJV) "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

The flight into Egypt was prophesied:

Matthew 2:14-15 (NKJV) When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son."

Herod's slaughter of all the young children in an attempt to kill Jesus was prophesied:

Matthew 2:16-18 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more."

Joseph's settlement in Nazareth and Jesus' upbringing there:

Matthew 2:23 (NKJV) And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

Jesus' healing of their sickness:

Matthew 8:16-17 (KJV) When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

The triumphal entry of Israel's Messiah, Jesus:

Matthew 21:3-5 (NKJV) "And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them." 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey."

Jesus' betrayal for thirty pieces of silver:

Matthew 27:9 (NKJV) Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced,

The casting of lots for Jesus' garments as he hung on the Cross:

Matthew 27:35 (NKJV) Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: "They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots."

It is Matthew's primary purpose to show that the Old Testament prophecies received their fulfilment in Jesus; how every detail of Jesus' life was foreshadowed in the prophets; and thus to compel the Jews to admit that Jesus is indeed the long awaited Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jews knew very well the Old Testament teaching that Messiah would bring in the promised Kingdom of Heaven.

MESSIAH is the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning, "anointed one," that was translated into Greek as Christos. They viewed Messiah as a warrior-prince who would expel the hated Romans from Israel and bring in a kingdom in which the Jews would be promoted to world dominion. The course of Jesus' ministry is one in which He sought to wean the disciples away from the traditional notion of a warrior Messiah. Instead, Jesus tried to instill in their minds the prospect that the road to His future glory was bound to run by way of the cross, with its experience of rejection, suffering, and humiliation. Jesus taught them that His Kingdom was not of this world, it was not a physical kingdom but a spiritual one.

John 18:36 (NKJV) Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 "nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

Could words be plainer? Jesus taught that His Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Yet, so many still look for a future physical kingdom.

Matthew teaches us much about the Kingdom of Heaven.32 times in Matthew's gospel Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew's dominating idea is that of Jesus as the Messiah and King of Israel.

Jesus spoke Aramaic; the Gospel writers translated Jesus' sermons and parables into Greek. Mark, Luke, and John translated Jesus' words as "kingdom of God." Matthew sometimes used this phrase too, but often he preferred to translate Jesus' Aramaic words as "kingdom of heaven." The two phrases mean exactly the same thing, because they are translations of the same Aramaic words of Jesus.

What did Jesus mean when he spoke of the kingdom of God? He meant, quite simply, the rule of God. The kingdom of God is the reign of God.

Matthew emphasizes the coming kingdom and the judgement of all who reject it. Right at the beginning, there is John the Baptist's call to repentance and warning of judgement to all who rejected God's kingdom.

Matthew 3:1-3 (NKJV) In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'"

The emergence of John was like the sudden sounding of the voice of God. It had been four hundred years since the voice of the prophets had spoken.

The Jews believed that Elijah would return before Messiah came, and that he would be the herald of the coming King and evidence that the judgement was drawing near.

Malachi 3:1-2 (NKJV) "Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. 2 "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderer's soap.

Malachi 4:5 (NKJV) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather belt around his waist. That is the very description of the raiment which Elijah had worn:

2 Kings 1:8 (NKJV) So they answered him, "A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist." And he said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite."

John's message was one of repentance or judgement. Had they known their Bibles, they should have recognized him.

Matthew 3:7-12 (NKJV) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 "and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 "And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.11 "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

John warns them not to count on their ancestry to save them. They needed to repent, turn to God, or they would suffer His wrath. Verse 12 is a prophecy speaking of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Matthew 4:23 (NKJV) And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

This should have made it clear to them who he was. Who else could do this but the promised Messiah of Israel.

Isaiah 35:4-6 (NKJV) Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.

When John was in prison and began to doubt who Jesus was, he sent his disciples to ask if he was He that should come. Jesus said his works should make it evident that he was Messiah.

Matthew 11:4-6 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 "The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."

Jesus warns that those who reject him as Messiah and his kingdom will suffer judgement.

Matthew 8:11-12 (NKJV) "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Here Jesus uses a famous and vivid Jewish picture. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came, there would be a great banquet at which all Jews would sit down to feast.

The Jews looked forward, with all their hearts, to this Messianic banquet; but it never, for a moment, crossed their minds that any Gentile would ever sit down at it. Yet, here is Jesus saying that many shall come from the east and from the west, and sit down at the table at that banquet.

Still worse, he says that many of the sons of the kingdom will be shut out. The Jews had to learn that the passport to God's presence is not membership of any nation; it is faith.

Jesus continually warned the Jews of their coming judgement because of their apostasy. I believe that most, if not all, of Jesus' parables deal with the kingdom of God or the destruction of Jerusalem because of their rejection of that Kingdom. As we move closer to chapter 24, notice the building of the judgement theme.

Matthew 21:33-43 (NKJV) "Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 "Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 "And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 "Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 "Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 38 "But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' 39 "So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" 41 They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons." 42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

Keep verse 43 in mind, because it relates to the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24. Jesus had clearly prophesied that the Kingdom of God would be taken from the Jews and given to another nation who would bring forth fruit. Listen to what God said to Israel through the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 65:15 (NKJV) You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord GOD will slay you, And call His servants by another name;

Let's continue on in Matthew as we move toward chapter 24

Matthew 22:1-7 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 "Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' 5 "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 "And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

It is clear that the reference here is to Jerusalem. Its destruction in AD 70 is clearly predicted here.

Let's look at chapter 23. In this chapter Jesus pronounces seven woes upon the scribes and Pharisees. Verses 13-26 of this chapter form the most terrible of all discourses ever delivered to mortals. It was pronounced in the temple, in the presence of multitudes. This was the last of the Lord's public discourses; and it is a most impressive summary of all that he had ever said, or that he had to say, of a wicked and hypocritical generation.

The Greek word used for "woe" is ouai; it is hard to translate for it includes not only wrath, but also sorrow. These woes can be contrasted to the Beatitudes. Those in Christ's spiritual kingdom would be blessed, but those who reject it are damned. Jesus, the Messiah, is here pronouncing judgement.

Matthew 23:33-35 (NKJV) "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 "that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Jesus's charge is that the history of Israel is the history of the murder of the men of God. He says that the righteous men, from Abel to Zacharias, were murdered. The story of Zacharias is found in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. Zacharias rebuked the nation for their sin, and Joash stirred up the people to stone him to death in the very Temple court; and Zacharias died saying, "May the Lord see and avenge!"

In the Hebrew Bible, Genesis is the first book, as it is in ours; but, unlike our order of the books, 2 Chronicles is the last in the Hebrew Bible. We could say that the murder of Abel is the first in the Bible story, and the murder of Zacharias the last. From beginning to end, the history of Israel is the rejection, and often the slaughter, of the men of God.

Notice, who their blood is come upon; "upon you" -- the scribes and Pharisees of the first century; the ones Jesus was then speaking to. See also Luke 11:50-51. This is confirmed in the next verse.

Matthew 23:36 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Now, all commentators are agreed that "this generation"means the generation then living. Keep that in mind when we come to verse 34 of Matthew 24. Jesus says that the Jewish people would be punished for their rejection of God's servants, and the kingdom of God would be taken from them, and it would all happen in that generation.

Matthew 23:37-39 (NKJV) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 "See! Your house is left to you desolate;

By "house," he was referring Jerusalem, and certainly the temple, was included. The word "desolate" is the Greek word eremos, it means waste, desert, desolate, solitary, or wilderness. The city and the temple were both destroyed in AD 70.

Matthew 23:39 "for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!"

The meaning is that after the week of the passion, Jesus will not again publicly reveal himself to the Jews. Unless they acknowledged His Messiahship and repented, they would die in their sins. Some of them did repent, but most of them perished.

After saying this, Jesus departed from the temple. 24:1 says, "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple."This departure may be the same as that mentioned in:

John 12:36 (NKJV) "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

He hid himself from them; he appeared no more openly before the people, but remained in privacy with His disciples alone.

Now, with all of this in mind, we move into chapter 24 and the Olivet discourse of Jesus. This is one of those places where chapter and verse divisions can be very detrimental. We need to ignore the break here, and go from the end of chapter 23 right into 24.

Matthew 24:1 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

Mark 13:1 (NKJV) Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!"

Luke 21:5 (NKJV) Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said,

The discussion that Jesus had just had with the scribes and Pharisees took place inside the Temple grounds. Now, as they depart from the Temple (hieron - the temple complex) the words of Jesus, "Your house shall be left to you desolate," still burned in their ears. They point out the buildings of the Temple and their magnificence. Mark says that they particularly pointed out the stones of the temple. What could possibly happen to such a massive edifice? There was nothing quite like the Temple in the ancient world. There was such a reverence for the temple, even in distant parts, that one would scarcely dare to imagine that it could ever be destroyed.

Let me give you a little historical background on the temple. There were three historical Temples in succession; those of Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod. The first temple was built by Solomon, about 1005 years before Christ, 1 Kings 6. He spent seven years building it, 1 Kings 6:38. This temple remained till it was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar, 584 years before Christ, 2 Chronicles 36:6,7,19.

After the Babylonian captivity, the temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, but with vastly inferior and diminished splendor. This was called the second temple. This temple was often defiled in the wars before the time of Christ. It had become very decayed and impaired. Herod's Temple was really a massive rebuilding of the Zerubbabel Temple, so both are called the "second Temple" by Judaism.

This rebuilt second temple is the one under discussion, and it was called Herod's temple. Herod the Great came to power in 37 B.C. and determined that he would please his Jewish subjects, and show off his style of kingship to the Romans by making the Jerusalem Temple bigger and better than it had ever been. His most notable contribution was the magnificent stonework of the Temple platform which was greatly enlarged. The descriptions in Josephus and the Mishnah have been fleshed out by recent archaeological discoveries.

This temple was begun in 19 B.C. by Herod the Great, king of Judaea, and was completed so as to be fit for use in nine years, about eight years before Christ. Herod had kept 10,000 workmen employed in building this temple for eight years. Additions continued to be made to it, and it continued increasing in splendor and magnificence till about AD 64. John said (John 2:20), "Forty and six years was this temple in building. " Christ was then thirty years of age, which, added to the sixteen years occupied in repairing it before his birth, makes forty-six years.

This temple surpassed the first two in architectural splendor. The temple was a source of wonder. The stones themselves of these buildings were fabulous in size. Those in the foundation were as much as 60 feet long, and others above as much as 67 feet or more long, 71/2 feet high, and 9 feet wide. To the Jewish people, there was nothing like this building in the whole world.

The temple was erected on Mount Moriah. The space of the summit of the mount was not, however, large enough for the buildings necessary to be erected. It was, therefore, enlarged by building high walls from the valley below and filling up the space within. One of these walls was 600 feet in height. The ascent to the temple was by high flights of steps.

The appearance of this, built as it was with white marble, and decorated with plates of silver, from the Mount of Olives was exceedingly dazzling and splendid. Josephus says that in the rising of the sun it reflected so strong and dazzling an effulgence that the eye of the spectator was obliged to turn away. To strangers at a distance, it appeared like a mountain covered with snow, for where it was not decorated with plates of gold, it was extremely white and glistening.

Rabbinic literature is not particularly favorable to Herod. Nevertheless, concerning Herod's temple it states, "He who never saw Herod's edifice has never in his life seen a beautiful building."

The temple sight is now occupied by the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock, center of the Muslim worship (the third holiest place in Islam, after Mecca and Medina).

It was of this magnificent temple that Jesus said, "not one stone shall be left upon another."

Matthew 24:2 (NKJV) And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Mark 13:2 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Luke 21:6 (NKJV) "These things which you see; the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down."

Jesus predicted that this massive temple would be utterly destroyed in an act of God's judgement. At the time this was spoken, no event was more improbable than this. Yet, all this happened in AD 70 exactly as Jesus said it would. After the city was taken, Josephus says that Titus," gave orders that the soldiers should dig up even the foundations of the temple, and also the city itself." Thus fulfilling the prophecy of:

Micah 3:12 (NKJV) Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.

Thomas Newton says, "Not leaving one stone upon another," is a proverbial and hyperbolical way of speaking to denote very exemplary destruction.

Luke further expounded upon this idea in:

Luke 19:41-44 (NKJV) Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 "For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 "and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."

Here we clearly see the reason for this utter destruction of Jerusalem: "Because you did not know the time of your visitation." The nation had rejected Jesus as their Messiah and because of this, they were judged, their temple and city destroyed as had been prophesied.

F.F. Bruce described the destruction of the city in this way:

"Accordingly, in April of AD 70 Titus invested Jerusalem... As the siege wore on, the horrors of famine, and even cannibalism, were added to the hazards of war. By September 26 the whole city was in Titus' hands. It was razed to the ground, only three towers of Herod's palace on the western wall being left standing, with part of the western wall itself. "

Jesus pronounced doom on the temple because the true center of the relation between God and man has shifted to himself. In chapter 23, Jesus has already insisted that what Israel does with him, not the temple, determines the fate of the Israelites. Jesus taught this same idea in John 4:

John 4:20-24 (NKJV) "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Jesus said there is a time coming when no one will worship God at Jerusalem. Then he said," The hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth." Soon, no one will worship in Jerusalem, but now God can be worshiped in truth, i.e. reality! The shadow worship of the temple is being replaced with the reality.

Hebrews 10:1 (NKJV) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

The Law system was a shadow of the good things to come. The good things were the spiritual things of the gospel. It had been prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that God would raise a spiritual temple, the church, Christ's body.

Amos 9:7-12 (NKJV) "Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me, O children of Israel?" says the LORD. "Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, The Philistines from Caphtor, And the Syrians from Kir? 8 "Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob," Says the LORD. 9 "For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. 10 All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, 'The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.' 11 "On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; 12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name," Says the LORD who does this thing.

James said that the Church, the body of Christ, was this tabernacle of David, and it was being raised up at that time.

Acts 15:13-17 (NKJV) And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, "Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 "Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 "And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16 'After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.'

The fleshly, earthly tabernacle was a shadow and God destroyed it in AD 70. We now live in a spiritual kingdom, with a spiritual tabernacle, we worship God in spirit and in reality.

With that background in mind, we are prepared to look at the disciples' questions in verse 3, next week.

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on November 23, 1997.

 
Their Questions

Matthew 24:3


This morning we want to look at the disciples' question to Jesus in verse 3 of Matthew 24. Matthew 24, commonly known as the Olivet discourse, is by far the most full and explicit of our Lord's prophetic utterances regarding His second coming. Verse 3 is the most important verse in this whole chapter. If you don't understand their question, you will never understand Jesus' answer. We must be sure we understand the questions.

The way many deal with these questions is a good example of how our paradigms can blind us from seeing certain truths. If, in your eschatological paradigm, you see the second coming of Christ as the end of the physical world, a cataclysmic, earth burning, total destruction of life as we now know it, you will certainly miss what Jesus is saying here. Because life goes on, you can't believe that Jesus returned as he said he would. It just won't fit your paradigm. Let's begin by looking at a verse that shatters the paradigm that views the second coming as the end of the world .

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NKJV) Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

Now, if the Thessalonians believed that the nature of the second coming was an earth burning, total destruction of planet earth, how could they be deceived about its arrival? If the Second coming was, as many view it today, Paul could have written them and said, "Look out the window, the earth is still here so the Lord has obviously not come." They thought it had already happened, so they must have viewed it differently than most folks today do.

Let's see if we can understand the disciples' questions; then we will be able to understand Jesus' answer. Correctly understanding this question could cause a paradigm shift in the eschatology of many.

Let me briefly remind you of what we saw last time. Throughout Matthews gospel Jesus continually warned the Jews of their coming judgement because of their apostasy. I believe that most, if not all, of Jesus' parables deal with the kingdom of God or the destruction of Jerusalem because of their rejection of that Kingdom. As we move closer to chapter 24, we notice the building of the judgement theme.

Matthew 21:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

Matthew 22:7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

Jesus continues to warn them of a coming judgement because of their rejection of the Messiah. It is clear that the reference here is to Jerusalem's destruction in AD 70.

Matthew 23:37-39 (NKJV) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 "See! Your house is left to you desolate;

By "house," he was referring to Jerusalem, and certainly the temple was included. The word "desolate" is the Greek word eremos; it means waste, desert, desolate, solitary, or wilderness. The city and the temple were both destroyed in AD 70.

Now, with this in mind, we move into chapter 24 and the Olivet discourse of Jesus. In verse 1, as they depart from the Temple, the words of Jesus, "Your house shall be left to you desolate," still burned in their ears. In verse 2, Jesus predicted that this massive temple would be utterly destroyed in an act of God's judgement.

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV) Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

The Mount of Olives was just east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. It is about a mile in length and about 700 feet in height, and overlooks Jerusalem, so that from its summit almost every part of the city could be seen. It was from Jerusalem about a Sabbath day's journey.

Acts 1:12 (NKJV) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey.

A Sabbath day's journey was as far as the law allowed (not the law of Moses, but that advanced by the Jewish teachers) one to travel on the Sabbath. This was 2,000 paces or cubits, which would be not quite one mile.

This walk, uphill with sandals, would have taken them maybe 15-30 minutes. During this time they were no doubt thinking about what Jesus had just said about the destruction of the temple and how their house would be left desolate. Once Jesus sat down on the mountain, the disciples approached him and questioned him about the temple's destruction. According to Mark 13:3, the questions were asked by Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Matthew and Mark say they came "privately." In both Matthew and Mark this is used to set the disciples apart from the crowds, not from each other. I think that this means that they were the ones who raised the questions, not that they were the only disciples present.

Their question was two-fold. First they ask, "when will these things be?" All three of the synoptic gospels ask, "when."

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV)...."Tell us, when will these things be?"....

Mark 13:4 (NKJV) "Tell us, when will these things be?"....

Luke 21:7 (NKJV) So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be?"...

The "these things" refers to the temple's destruction in verse 2. In verse 1 the disciples point out the temple buildings to Jesus. In verse 2, Jesus says, "All' these things' shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the temple be destroyed? When will our house be left desolate?" After all Jesus had just said about judgement on Jerusalem, and then about not one stone not being left upon another, the disciples' response is, "When?" That makes sense, doesn't it? I would hope so. It is the second part of their question where things get sticky.

The second part of their question is," What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age." To help us understand the question, we need to compare all three synoptic gospels.

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV)... " And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Mark 13:4 (NKJV) ...."And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"

Luke 21:7 (NKJV) .... "And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"

Comparing all three accounts shows us that the disciples considered His "coming" and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the temple.

Mark 13:4 (NKJV) "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"

Notice in the first part of the verse he says, "When will these things be?" -- referring to the temples' destruction. Then in the second half, he asks, "What will be the sign when all 'these things' will be fulfilled?" The sign of His coming and the end of age was the same as the "these things," which referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year AD 70. These are not separate questions that can be divided up into different time-events. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their mind and that was the destruction of the temple. With the destruction of the temple, they connected the coming of Messiah and the end of the age.

Listen to what some have done to the disciples' questions. Ryrie says this, "In this discourse Jesus answered two of the three questions the disciples asked. He does not answer 'When will these things happen?' He answers, 'What will be the sign of Your coming?'"

John Walvoord in his commentary on Matthew, says this, "Matthew's gospel does not answer the first question, which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70."

Their main question was, "WHEN?"; and Ryrie and Walvoord say the Lord doesn't even answer it. He ignores their question about the destruction of the temple and he proceeds to talk about a far distant, 2,000 plus years, coming and end of the world. Does that make sense to you? More important, would it make sense to them? I think not!

They associated the destruction of the temple with His coming. The Greek word for "coming" is parousia, which means arrival, not return. The disciples could not have been asking about a future return of Christ, because they had no idea that he was leaving. They believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Matthew 16:15-16 (NKJV) He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, (Messiah)the Son of the living God."

They believed that Messiah would come and rule, they had no idea of Him coming, then leaving, then coming again.

John 12:34 (NKJV) The people answered Him, "We have heard from the law that the Christ (Messiah)remains forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"

Jesus talked to them about his death and going to the Father, but they did not understand it at all.

John 13:33-36 (NKJV) "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,' so now I say to you. 34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." 36 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward."

John 16:16-17 (NKJV) "A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father." 17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, "What is this that He says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'?"

This account in John takes place after he had given them the Olivet discourse and they still didn't understand that He was leaving them. After the crucifixion, they still didn't understand that Jesus was going to rise from the dead.

John 20:8-9 (NKJV) Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

Now let me ask you a question, "If they had no idea that Jesus was going to leave them, why would they ask Him about His return?" They didn't understand anything about a second coming. You might ask, "Why did they ask,'what will be the sign of your coming,' if they didn't think He was leaving?" Good question. The answer is in understanding the Jewish concept of the parousia. As I said, the word meant arrival or presence, and not return. It didn't refer to any future return of Christ. To the disciples the "parousia" of the son of man signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power. William Barclay says of parousia, "It is the regular word for the arrival of a governor into his province or for the coming of a king to his subjects. It regularly describes a coming in authority and in power."

The disciples were accustomed to hearing Jesus speak of His coming in His kingdom, coming in His glory and power, and that within their lifetime.

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

They didn't know he was leaving, but they looked for a time when he would appear in full glory and power bringing in the Kingdom and rewarding every man. Some try to explain this verse as relating it to the transfiguration or Pentecost. But the verse says it would be a time when every man would be rewarded for their works. That cannot refer to the transfiguration or Pentecost but it does refer to his second coming, as can be see from:

Revelation 22:12 (NKJV) "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.

Compare that with Matthew 16:27. They knew that His parousia would be in their life time, and they looked for, and expected it. Even after His resurrection, they questioned him about the restored kingdom.

Acts 1:6-7 (NKJV) Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

They didn't understand that Christ would sit upon his throne by means of His resurrection and ascension.

Acts 2:29-33 (NKJV) "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

Christ was now reigning on the Father's right hand and the manifestation of that kingdom would come, when Christ would come in judgement on Jerusalem.

Acts 2:34-35 (NKJV) "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'

Now, you might ask, "Why would the disciples connect the destruction of the temple with Christ's parousia?" The disciples knew the Old Testament and they knew that the destruction of Jerusalem would usher in Messiah's kingdom.

Zechariah 14:1-5 (NKJV) Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. 5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You.

In the day of the Lord, Jerusalem is destroyed and the Lord comes with his saints. Also, look at:

Daniel 9:26 (NKJV) "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

The disciples believed that the coming of Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and the temple.

Notice that they also associated the destruction of the temple with the end of age.

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV)... " And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Mark 13:4 (NKJV) ...."And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"

Luke 21:7 (NKJV) .... "And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"

Now again, the "these things"-- the destruction of the temple, are connected with the end of the age. Some translations render this "world." That is very confusing. The Greek word used here is aeon which means, "age." It is not the Greek word "kosmos" or "oikoumene," which mean the world and its inhabitants. It is not talking about the end of the physical world; the word aeon means age, era, or a period of time. The expression "end of the age" refers to "the end of the Jewish age." The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a new age. William Barclay says, "Time was divided by the Jews into two great periods-- this present age, and the age to come. The present age is wholly bad and beyond all hope of human reformation. If can be mended only by the direct intervention of God. When God does intervene the golden age, the age to come, will arrive. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a new age." Remember from Zechariah 14 that the "Day of the Lord" and the destruction of Jerusalem were connected.

William Hendriksen, in his commentary on Matthew, says this about 24:3, "The very form of the question is cast -- the juxtaposition (a putting or being side by side or close together) of the clauses -- seems to indicate that, as these men interpret the Master's words, Jerusalem's fall, particularly the destruction of the temple, would mean the end of the world. In this opinion they were partly mistaken, as Jesus is about to show. A lengthy period of time would intervene between Jerusalem's fall and the culmination of the age, the second coming."

He sees that by the form of the question, they viewed the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the age to be simultaneous. But he says they were wrong. Were they wrong? If they were mistaken, why didn't the Lord correct them? Why didn't the Lord say the temple will be destroyed soon but the end of the age is a long way off? What Jesus did tell them was that all the things they asked about would be fulfilled in their life time.

Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

To the Jews, time was divided into two great periods, the Mosaic Age and the Messianic Age. The Messiah was viewed as one who would bring in a new world. The period of the Messiah was, therefore, correctly characterized by the Synagogue as "the world to come." All through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age" and the "age to come." The understanding of these two ages and when they changed is fundamental to interpreting the Bible. Most Christians believe that most all of the New Testament prophecies deal with a time future to us. When they read in the New Testament the words "the age to come," they think of a yet future age. But the New Testament writers were referring to the Christian age. We live in what was to them the "age to come," the New Covenant age.

Let's look at some scriptures that talk about these two ages.

Matthew 12:32 (NKJV) "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means " about to be." We could translate this, the "age about to come" (in the first century). Many think that the age to come will be a sinless age; not according to this verse. Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in that age, referring to the age of the New Covenant, our present age.

Matthew 13:49-50 (NKJV) "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 "and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Notice who is taken -- the wicked. Is this a reverse rapture? I believe this speaks of the Judgement of Jerusalem in AD 70. It was the end of the Jewish age, and the wicked Jews were burned in the destruction of Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NKJV) However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The wisdom and rulers of that age were passing away. He is speaking of the Jewish leaders and the Old Covenant system.

1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV) Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Paul said very plainly that the end of the ages were coming upon them, the first century saints.

Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV) God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Jesus was speaking in the last days. Last days of what? The last days of the Old Covenant age.

Hebrews 9:26 (NKJV) He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

When was it that Jesus appeared? He was born not at the beginning, but at the end of the ages. To suppose that he meant that Jesus' incarnation came near the end of the world, would be to make his statement false. The world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. Jesus was manifest at the end of the Jewish age. Peter says the same thing.

1 Peter 1:20 (NKJV) He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

Jesus came during the last days of the age that was the Old Covenant age, the Jewish age. That age came to an end with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. All the things prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24 occurred at the end of that age. Nothing is taught in the Bible about a millennial age. The Bible talks about "this age"-- the Old Covenant age, and the "age to come"-- the New Covenant age. The millennium was the time of transition between "this age" -the Old Covenant age, and the "age to come"- the NOW present New Covenant age.

You and I live, in what was to the writers of the New Testament, the age to come. We are no longer under the Old Covenant, we live in the Messianic age of the New Covenant.

The age we live in will never end, it is an everlasting age.

Hebrews 13:20 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

The Bible doesn't teach about an age future to us. The age in which we live is the everlasting age of the New Covenant. Jesus' disciples believed that His presence would be acknowledged, and so would the end of the age when He arrived in judgement on Jerusalem. They were thinking of the temple and the immediate future: would He speak to them of the world and the indefinitely remote?

F.C. Cook in his commentary says this, "From the form of the question we may infer that two separate events, the destruction of the temple, and the final coming of Christ at the end of the world, were closely connected together in the minds of the disciples. The popular belief of the Jews at this time seems to have been that the coming of the Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and temple" (Emphasis mine, D.B. Curtis). Cook sees them as two separate events but admits that the disciples didn't. I think he sees them as separate because his paradigm of the Second coming blinds him.

So we have seen that the disciples questions all revolved around the temple and its destruction. To them the destruction of the temple would mean the parousia of the Lord and the end of the age. The answer that Jesus gives is to THEM, not some future generation, and it all deals with the fall of Jerusalem. You must keep this in mind as we look at Jesus' answer to their questions. We'll begin to look at Jesus' answer next week.


This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on December 7, 1997.

 
Gospel Preached to all the World?

Matthew 24:4-14


This is our third study in Matthew 24. We have introduced the chapter in its context and we have evaluated the disciples questions. Now we want to begin to look at Jesus' answer, this will take us several weeks. This morning we want to look at verses 4-14.

As we begin to look at Jesus' answer we must keep in mind the disciples' question. If you remember from our last study, the disciples asked Jesus, "When will the temple be destroyed? When will one stone not be left upon another?" And they also asked, "What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?" We looked at the fact last time that the disciples didn't understand that Jesus was leaving so they were not asking, "When will you return?" The word "coming" is the Greek word "parousia," which means presence. It signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power. And the "end of the age" refers to the end of the Jewish age, the Old Covenant age; not the end of the world.

We could put the disciples' question this way, "When will the temple be destroyed and what will be the sign of your presence in power and glory as Messiah and the end of the Jewish age?" Amazingly, there is almost unanimity among commentators that the disciples associated the fall of Jerusalem with the Lord's parousia and the end of he age. Most of them say the disciples were wrong but they admit that they viewed these events as happening simultaneously. With the questions in mind, we move to Jesus' answer.

Matthew 24:4-5 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

Who is the "them" in verse 4? It is the disciples. Please keep this in mind as we move through this chapter. Jesus is speaking to his disciples. Whatever Jesus' answer means, it must have meaning to them. Any application that we make to ourselves from Scripture can only be made after we understand what it meant to the original audience. Keep in mind the principle of original relevance. Why do I belabor this point? Because most folks today miss it. Walvoord views Matthew 24:4-14 as events of the Church age leading up to the Tribulation (which he views as yet future). He says these signs indicate that the end of the age is approaching (in our time).

James Stuart Russell in his book, "The Parousia," says this on Matthew 24:4-14, "It is impossible to read this section and fail to perceive its distinct reference to the period between our Lord's crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem. Every word is spoken to the disciples, and to them alone. To imagine that the "ye" and "you" in this address apply, not to the disciples to whom Christ was speaking, but to some unknown and yet non-existent persons in a far distant age, is so preposterous a supposition as not to deserve serious notice."

The Lord begins with a warning against expecting His immediate parousia. He doesn't want them to be deceived by false Christs that would soon be appearing. He wants them to understand that he will be gone for what might seem to them like a long time (forty years actually).

Luke 19:12-13 (NKJV) Therefore He said: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13 "So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.'

Jesus was going to leave them to receive His kingdom, and in between His departure at the Ascension and His Second coming, these are the things that would be happening to them.

FALSE MESSIAHS

Luke 21:8 (NKJV) And He said: "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them.

Luke adds the phrase"the time has drawn near." Jesus was not talking about something that would take place hundreds or thousands of years later! Jesus was warning his disciples about something that was drawing very near in their time!

Did such false Messiahs arise and deceive many in those years before the destruction of Jerusalem? Yes! We have a biblical and historical record of many such false Messiahs.

Acts 5:36 (NKJV) "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.

According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, twelve years after our Lord's death, Theudas persuaded a great multitude to follow him to the river Jordan which he claimed would divide for their passage. "The land," says Josephus, "was overrun with magicians, seducers, and impostors, who drew the people after them in multitudes into solitudes and deserts, to see the signs and miracles which they promised to show by the power of God." At the time of Felix (who is mentioned in Acts 23-25), the country of the Jews was filled with impostors who Felix had put to death every day; a statement which indicates their great number in those days! An Egyptian who "pretended to be a prophet" gathered 30,000 men, claiming that he would show "how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down." Origen mentions a certain wonder-worker, Dositheus, who claimed he was the Christ foretold by Moses.

We see another of these false Christs in Acts:

Acts 8:9-10 (NKJV) But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."

According to Irenaeus, Simon claimed to be the Son of God and creator of angels. Jerome says that he claimed to be the Word of God, the Almighty. Justin relates that he went to Rome and was acclaimed as a god by his magical powers.

1 John 2:18 (NKJV) Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.

Notice how John, writing in some where around AD 65, doesn't say it is the "last days" but the "last hour." As they have heard from their Lord, many antichrists would come.

These are examples of the false Messiahs of whom history says there were "a great number," and of whom Jesus had prophesied that there would be "many."

Greswel,l in his work "On the Parables," calls attention to the remarkable fact that, while many of these false Messiahs appeared in the interval between our Lord's Ascension and the Jewish war, there is no evidence that any one arose claiming this title before the beginning of His ministry.



WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS

Matthew 24:6 (NKJV) "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Wars are NOT a sign of the end, as the end of verse 6 clearly tells us. He will tell them later in this chapter that when they see a war, not hear of one, they are to flee.

Did the disciples hear of wars, rumors of wars. Yes, they did! There were wars in the tributaries of Rome and all over Palestine, Galilee, and Samaria in AD 66, preceding the destruction of Jerusalem.

In the Annals of Tacitus, a Roman who wrote a history which covers the period prior to 70 A. D., we find such expressions as these: "Disturbances in Germany," "commotions in Africa," "commotions in Thrace," "insurrections in Gaul," "intrigues among the Parthians," "the war in Britain," "war in Armenia."

Among the Jews, the times became turbulent. In Seleucia, 50,000 Jews were killed. There was an uprising against them in Alexandria. In a battle between the Jews and Syrians in Caesarea, 20,000 were killed. During these times, Caligula ordered his statue placed in the temple at Jerusalem. The Jews refused to do this and lived in constant fear that the Emperor's armies would be sent into Palestine. This fear became so real that some of them did not even bother to till their fields.

But though there would be wars, and rumors of wars, Jesus told his disciples: "See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the END is not yet." What end is he talking about? Let's keep in mind their question, they wanted to know when the end of the Jewish age would come. Barnes says, the end here referred to is, "the end of the Jewish economy; the destruction of Jerusalem."

Wars, and rumors of wars were not signs of the end; to the contrary, the Lord wanted them to know that these things were NOT signs of the end. None of these things would be the sign which would cause the disciples to flee into the mountains.

NATION FIGHTING NATION

Matthew 24:7 (NKJV) "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

The word "nation" here is the Greek word ethnos, which means, a race. This past summer I was talking to a man who used this verse to prove that we were in the end times and that the Second coming would be soon. He said, "The word 'nations' is 'ethnos' and just look at all the fighting between ethnic groups today, the end is near."

There are several problems with his view, one of which is these things are not signs of the end. Also, Jesus was speaking to the disciples, this had to have relevance to them! Did they see nation rising against nation? Yes! Josephus says, "At Caesarea in AD 59 the Jews and Syrians contended about the right to the city, and twenty thousand Jews were slain." At Scythopolis, over 13,000 Jews were killed. Thousands were killed in other places, and at Alexandria 50,000 were killed. At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour's time. Jesus is speaking about the conflicts between Gentiles and Jews, which began to take place shortly after this time, and continued to the beginning of the great Jewish war. For some time previously, Gentiles and Jews had been living for the most part, in peace together, but this period was distinguished by wars.



FAMINES

There was a famine foretold by Agabus in:

Acts 11:28 (NKJV) Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

This famine is mentioned by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius, and is said to have been severe in Jerusalem. Josephus says that many people perished for want of food. Judea was especially hard hit by famine and the disciples sent aid to them.

Acts 11:29 (NKJV) Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

Tacitus speaks of a "failure in the crops, and a famine consequent thereupon." Eusebius also mentions famines during this time in Rome, Judea, and Greece. Yes, there were famines in those years before the fall of Jerusalem.



PESTILENCE

A pestilence is a the spread of disease, epidemics. Famine and pestilence go hand in hand. Pestilence is often caused by famine. Suetonius wrote of "pestilence" at Rome in the days of Nero which was so severe that "within the space of one autumn there died no less than 30,000 persons." Josephus records that pestilences raged in Babylonia in A. D. 40. Tacitus tells of pestilences in Italy in A. D. 65.

Yes, there were pestilences in the life time of the disciples in those years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem.



EARTHQUAKES

Did the disciple experience earthquakes in their life time? Yes, they did. Tacitus mentions earthquakes at Rome. He wrote, "Frequent earthquakes occurred, by which many houses were thrown down," and "twelve populous cities of Asia fell in ruins from an earthquake."

Seneca, writing in the year 58 A. D., said, "How often have cities of Asia and Achaea fallen with one fatal shock! How many cities have been swallowed up in Syria! How many in Macedonia! How often has Cyprus been wasted by this calamity ! How often has Paphos become a ruin! News has often been brought us of the demolition of whole cities at once." In 60 A.D., Hierapous, Colosse, and Laodicea were overthrown from earthquakes. There were earthquakes in Crete, Apamea, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, and Judea. Earthquakes in diverse places!

In spite of what Jesus said, "The end is not yet," many today take this passage out of context and speak ignorantly about "The signs of the times," trying to show that this battle, serious earthquake, or devastating famine is a sign of Christ's imminent return. ALL these things happened in the time prior to AD 70 and the fall of Jerusalem. They are not signs! As we look back over history, when has there been a time when there were not wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes? These things are not signs. Jesus said to his disciples that these things are the "beginning of sorrows."

Matthew 24:8 (NKJV) "All these are the beginning of sorrows.

The phrase "beginning of sorrows" could be translated "birth pains." This image is sometimes used in the Old Testament simply to express great pain; but it is often used of a woman in pain of child birth. In Isaiah 13:8; 26:17; Jeremiah 4:31; 6:24; Micah 4:9-10, it is used almost as a special term for "the birth pains of Messiah." In our passage it speaks of the period of distress preceding the return of Christ in AD 70. Its use here seems to be expressly chosen to denote the birth pains of a new world. Let's look at how Jesus uses this phrase.

John 16:16 (NKJV) "A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father."

The disciples question Jesus about his statement:

John 16:17-19 (NKJV) Then some of His disciples said among themselves, "What is this that He says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'?" 18 They said therefore, "What is this that He says, 'A little while'? We do not know what He is saying." 19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, "Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'?

Jesus explains himself in verse 20-23

John 16:20-23 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 "A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

The disciple would be sorrowful during the Lord's absence but their sorrow would turn to joy at his return. This idea of a woman in labor is used for the suffering that precedes the coming of the Lord in his kingdom.

Micah 4:9-10 (NKJV) Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in your midst? Has your counselor perished? For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor. 10 Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, Like a woman in birth pangs. For now you shall go forth from the city, You shall dwell in the field, And to Babylon you shall go. There you shall be delivered; There the LORD will redeem you From the hand of your enemies.

Jesus said, "All these are the beginning of sorrows." They were not signs to the disciples and they are not signs today. They did not signal the end but stretch over the entire period between the Lord's Ascension and Second coming.

Matthew 24:9 (NKJV) "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.

Who will be delivered up and killed? THE DISCIPLES! Now it is certainly true that all Christians who live a godly life will suffer persecution, but he is speaking to the disciple here. Did the disciples experience tribulation and death? Yes! All you need do is read the book of Acts.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary has this to say about verse 9. "Jesus began His words with a time word, 'Then'. At the middle point of the seven year period preceding Christ's second coming, great distress will begin to be experienced by Israel." He is saying that Jesus is talking about a time still future to us! What would this mean to the disciples? Nothing! Not only does he fail to take into account audience relevance but he fails to compare the other gospel accounts.

Luke 21:12 (NKJV) "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake.

Notice that Luke adds, "before all these things," showing that the persecutions are to start at the beginning of this period. The persecution of the disciples began immediately after the day of Pentecost.

Mark 13:9 (NKJV) "But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.

Mark adds that they will be beaten in the synagogues, brought before rulers and kings for a testimony. All this was remarkably fulfilled in the lives of the disciples. Peter and John were imprisoned:

Acts 4:3 (NKJV) And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.

Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned:

Acts 16:23-24 (NKJV) And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Paul was brought before Gallio (Acts 28:12), Felix (Acts 24:24), and Agrippa (Acts 25:23). Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:59): James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:2). As soon as Paul began preaching, he began to experience persecution:

Acts 9:23-24 (NKJV) Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him.

Acts 9:29 (NKJV) And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.

Paul was beaten five times by the Jews:

2 Corinthians 11:24 (NKJV) From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.

Jesus said the disciples would be afflicted, beaten, imprisoned; they would be hated for his name's sake and some would be killed; they would be brought before councils, rulers, and kings, for a testimony; they would be given a mouth of wisdom which their adversaries could not dispute. The disciples experienced all of this before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, just as the Lord said they would. It was unmistakably fulfilled in every detail!

Matthew 24:10 (NKJV) "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

Because of the great persecution of those days, many apostatized from the faith. Jesus spoke of this in:

Matthew 13:20-21 (NKJV) "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

In those day many Christians were executed because of others who turned on them and turned them in order to spare themselves.

Matthew 24:11 (NKJV) "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

This is not the same as verse 5, "false Messiahs," but "false teachers" among the believers. Most likely referring to the judaising opponents of Paul. Paul spoke of these.

2 Corinthians 11:13 (NKJV) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.

John also spoke of false prophets.

1 John 4:1 (NKJV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Matthew 24:12 (NKJV) "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

Jesus told the church at Ephesus that they had lost their first love.

Revelation 2:4 (NKJV) "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

The testimony of Josephus shows the utter lawlessness of the Jewish society in the disciples' life time.

Matthew 24:13 (NKJV) "But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

There is much debate about what this verse means. Some take it to mean that if they did not remain faithful to Christ to the point of death, the would not be redeemed. I can't buy that. It makes our salvation a work. It is saying that if we don't endure, we will be lost. I believe that the Bible very clearly teaches that salvation is a gift and that it cannot be lost.

Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Romans 11:6 (NKJV) And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

None of the elect of God will ever be lost:

Romans 8:30 (NKJV) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

What, then, is he saying here? I think he is telling the believers that if they remain faithful right up to the end, they will be saved from physical death in Jerusalem's fall. The Greek word "saved" is sozo. It means to save, i.e. deliver or protect (lit. or fig.):--heal, preserve, be (make) whole. The Christians who did not endure, but turned back to Judaism, died when Jerusalem fell. Those believers who remained faithful fled to the mountains as the Lord told them to, thus saving their lives.

Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Remember the disciples' question? "What shall be the sign of your coming and, and of the end of the age?" What end is he talking about here? Unless we take this verse clear out of its setting, "the end" in view here is the end or destruction which was to come upon Jerusalem and the temple ending the Jewish age. Jerusalem would be destroyed, but "first" the gospel would be preached unto all nations.

Did this happen? We have seen that everything else so far took place in the life time of the disciples, but did this? Was the gospel preached in all the world before AD 70?

Probably one of the most common beliefs among Christians is that once the gospel is preached to all the world, Christ will return and the world will end. This is a theme verse of the Christian Broadcasting Network. They are trying to fulfill this verse. Most believers would say that this verse has not yet been fulfilled, the gospel has not yet been preached to all the world. How do we know if it has? Well, Jesus said the end would come once the gospel was preached to all the world. And the end that is in view in this context, is the end of Jerusalem, the end of the Old Covenant age. Since Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, we can assume that the gospel was preached to all the world by then or we would have to believe that Jesus was mistaken. Which one can you live with? How can we find out if the gospel was preached in all the world before AD 70? We can go the Scriptures and see if they give us any insight to this matter. Remember what we saw in:

Matthew 24:9 (NKJV) "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.

Why would the apostles be hated in all nations if they had not preached the gospel in all nations? They were hated by all nations because they preached in all nations. Paul declares that the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven:

Colossians 1:5-6 (NKJV) because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;

Colossians 1:23 (NKJV) if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

In Matthew 24:14, the Greek word for preached is kerusso, it is in the future tense. But in Colossians 1:23 the same word kerusso is in the aorist tense (past). Jesus said that it is to be preached and Paul says in AD 62, that it has been preached to every creature. Paul also said that the faith of the Romans was spoken of throughout the whole world.

Romans 1:8 (NKJV) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Paul said that the gospel was made known to all nations.

Romans 16:25-26 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith;

We know that Paul traveled through Asia Minor, Greece, and Crete; that he was in Italy, and probably in Spain and Gaul (Romans 15:24-28). During this time the other apostles weren't sitting around idle; and there is much proof that within thirty years after this prophecy was spoken, churches were established in all these regions.

Crysostom (375) wrote, "Therefore He added moreover, "And this gospel shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come,"(7) of the downfall of Jerusalem.

For in proof that He meant this, and that before the taking of Jerusalem the gospel was preached, hear what Paul saith, "Their sound went into all the earth;"(8) and again, "The gospel which was preached to every creature which is under Heaven."(9)

Which also is a very great sign of Christ's power, that in twenty or at most thirty years the word had reached the ends of the world. "After this therefore," saith He, "shall come the end of Jerusalem." For that He intimates this was manifested by what follows."

Eusebius (325) wrote, "THUS, under the influence of heavenly power, and with the divine co-operation, the doctrine of the Saviour, like the rays of the sun, quickly illumined the whole world;[1] and straightway, in accordance with the divine Scriptures,[2] the voice of the inspired evangelists and apostles went forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Book II, Ch.III.)

Many today say that the gospel has not been preached to all the world and Matthew 24:14 has not yet been fulfilled. The Bible says that all the nations of the world heard the gospel preached before AD 70. Who are you going to believe? To deny that Matthew 24:14 has been fulfilled is to deny the clear statements of God's Holy Word; it is to call God a liar.

Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

"Then the end will come." The end of what? What were they asking about? The end of the temple and the Jewish age. He is not saying the world will end when everyone has heard the gospel, or that the Christian age will end.

Jesus very clearly tells his disciples that before the temple would be destroyed and before His parousia and the end of the age, the gospel must be preached in all the world. And it was! The temple was destroyed! He arrived in full glory! The Old Covenant age ended!

This does not mean that the gospel was not to be preached after the end had come. It was to be preached for ever and always. Notice the parable of the wedding feast:

Matthew 22:1-7 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 "Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' 5 "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 "And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

Notice what he says to his servants AFTER the city is destroyed:

Matthew 22:8-10 (NKJV) "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 'Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' 10 "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

We dwell in the New Jerusalem in the very presence of God and the invitation is still going out today. Notice the invitation that goes forth from the New Heaven and Earth:

Revelation 22:17 (NKJV) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

I hope that you are faithfully proclaiming this message to everyone who is thirsty -- come!

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on December 14, 1997.

 
The Abomination of Desolation

Matthew 24:15-20


"There is nothing more delightful to an honest mind than truth; nor more important than religious truth. In the holy Scriptures, a complete system of the latter is revealed. But it has unfortunately happened, that through prejudice and indolence, from whence has arisen implicit faith in the opinions of others, and sometimes from a misguided piety, truth has been concealed from the view of mankind, and Christ and his Apostles have been made to speak a language derogatory both to reason and religion, and directly contrary to fact and experience. " N. Nisbett, M.A

This is perhaps no more evident then when we look at what some have done to the teaching of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. They make Christ speak a language derogatory both to reason and religion, and directly contrary to fact and experience.

As we study this chapter, we must keep in mind it's context, and the disciples question.

Matthew 23:38(NKJV) "See! Your house is left to you desolate;

Matthew 24:1-2 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Jesus had given many warnings about Jerusalem's fall and the fact that the kingdom of God would be taken from them. The disciples reacted with questions:

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV) Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

We could put the disciples' question this way, "When will the temple be destroyed and what will be the sign of your presence in power and glory as Messiah and the end of the Jewish age?"

In verses 4-14, Jesus tells them that many things will happen prior to his parousia that should not alarm them. One thing he tells them in these verses is that the gospel must be preached to all the world before the end comes. We saw in our last study that, according to Scripture, the gospel was preached to all the world before AD 70.

Now in verses 15-20, Jesus gives them a sign that they can't miss as to the destruction of the temple, His parousia, and the end of the Jewish age.

Matthew 24:15 (NKJV) "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand),

If you have heard any end time preaching, I'm sure that you have heard about the "abomination of desolation." The "popular version" goes something like this: All events written in the book of Revelation are future (to us) events (Even though when they were written in the first century the Lord said, the book of Revelation was given to show his servant the things which "must shortly" come to pass). Seven years before the second coming, all Christians on the earth will be secretly whisked away to heaven. Automobiles driven by Christians will suddenly be driver less; planes piloted by Christians will be pilot less, teachers teaching school will suddenly be missing students; I'm sure you've seen the pictures at the Christian book stores. Dead saints also will come out of their graves at this time in the first resurrection.

Then will come the Great Tribulation, when all the horrible things in the book of Revelation are poured out on this ungodly planet. The Jews are going to build a new temple in Jerusalem, and the Jewish sacrifices will be reinstituted. Then, during this time, the Beast of Revelation 13 will arise. This Beast will enter into the temple at Jerusalem and proclaim himself to be God. He will then put into the temple a statue of himself which they say will be "the abomination of desolation."

Walvoord, commenting on Matthew 24:15, says, "Such a temple will be rebuilt and these prophecies literally fulfilled (like Jerusalem's destruction in AD 70 wasn't literal enough). If upon this revival of their sacrificial system such a future temple is suddenly desecrated, it would constitute a sign to the nation of Israel of the coming time of great trouble just preceding the second coming."

Now, is that what Jesus is talking about in our text? No! Jesus is talking about something that would happen in His generation (Matthew 24:34).

Every Christian I know (including myself) was taught the false ideas about the future Second coming of Christ from their earliest Christian days. We have read books on it, seen movies about it, and seen pictures depicting it. It was all we were ever taught, it is the only teaching many know about the second coming. Thus, every Christian must unlearn unbiblical teaching before they can understand the truth of Scripture.

I guess our first task is to get an understanding of what the "abomination of desolation" is. To the Jews, an "abomination" was anything that involved the worship of false gods in sacred places.

1 Kings 11:7 (NKJV) Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.

Ezekiel 5:11 (NKJV) 'Therefore, as I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will also diminish you; My eye will not spare, nor will I have any pity.

"Abomination of desolation" is a Hebrew expression, meaning an abominable or hateful destroyer. To the Jews, the "abomination of desolation" spoken of by Daniel brought to their minds the Assyrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes.

According to Jewish history recorded in the Apocrypha, the passages in Daniel were fulfilled in the time between the Old and New Testaments. 1 Maccabees records how Antiochus Epiphanes (who ruled Syria from 174 to 164 B.C.) came against Jerusalem and what he did that the Jews called "the abomination of desolation." Antiochus, had surnamed himself Epiphanes, which means "the God Made Manifest." It was his goal to stamp out the Jewish religion. A royal edict was proclaimed suspending the practice of the Jewish religion on pain of death. He even turned priest's rooms and the Temple chambers into public brothels. In December 168 B.C., the Temple was dedicated to Zeus, and over the alter was placed a statue of Zeus which resembled Antiochus. A pig was sacrificed on the alter itself! This was a filthy abomination in the sight of the Jews.

Josephus said of Antiochus Epiphanes, "He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months.....he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the alter" (Josephus, vol. 1, pp. 10-11).

Jesus said that this "abomination of desolation" had been "spoken of by Daniel the prophet." This expression, "abomination of desolation," is found four times in Daniel.

Daniel 8:13 (NKJV) Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, "How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled under foot?"

Daniel 9:26 (NKJV) "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."

This passage clearly refers to something which is to follow the coming and death of Messiah; i.e. to something connected with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

Keil and Delitzsch in their Commentary on Daniel say, "The interpretations (of Daniel 9:24-27) may be divided into three principal classes. 1. Most of the church fathers and the older orthodox interpreters find prophesied here the appearance of Christ in the flesh, His death, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. 2. The majority of the modern interpreters, on the other hand, refer the whole passage to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes...." (Daniel, p. 336)

Daniel 11:31 (NKJV) "And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.

Daniel 12:11 (NKJV) "And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.

According to Jewish history recorded in the Apocrypha, these passages were fulfilled in the inter-testament period. Many today still see in these verses in Daniel, a reference to Antiochus but Jesus said in His day that the "abomination of desolation" spoken of by Daniel was yet future.

Dr. John A. Broadus said, "It is evident that our Lord interprets the prediction in Daniel as referring to the Messiah, and to that destruction of the city and temple which he is now foretelling; and his interpretation is authoritative for us."

I agree, Jesus bypassed any declared fulfillment in Antiochus Epiphanes and interpreted the prophecy as relating to the events at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Many commentators find an allusion to the standards of the Roman legions in the expression, "The abomination of desolation." The eagles were objects of worship to the soldiers. We know from Josephus that the attempt of a Roman general, Vitellius, in the reign of Tiberius, to march his troops through Judea was resisted by the Jewish authorities, on the ground that the idolatrous images on their ensigns would be a profanation of the law.

B.H. Carroll (1947) says, "Pilate, at that time Roman Procurator, sent from Caesarea, the seaport of that country on the Mediterranean Sea, a legion of Roman soldiers and had them secretly introduced into the city and sheltered in the tower of Antonio overlooking the Temple, and these soldiers brought with them their ensigns. The Roman sign was a straight staff, capped with a metallic eagle, and right under the eagle was a graven image of Caesar. Caesar claimed to be divine. Caesar exacted divine worship, and every evening when those standards were placed, the Roman legion got down and worshiped the image of Caesar thereof, and every morning at the roll call a part of the parade was for the whole legion to prostrate themselves before that graven image and worship it. The Jews were so horrified when they saw that image and the consequent worship, they went to Pilate, who was at that time living in Caesarea, and prostrated themselves before him and said, 'Kill us, if you will, but take that abomination of desolation out of our Holy City and from the neighborhood of our holy temple.'" (An Introduction of the English Bible, p. 263-264)

Matthew says, they will see this "abomination of desolation" "Standing in the holy place" - this does not need to be understood as the temple only, but Jerusalem also, and any part of the land of Israel. to the Jews, all Jerusalem was considered holy.

Matthew 4:5 (NKJV) Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,

Daniel 9:24 (NKJV) "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city.....

Revelation 11:2 (NKJV) "But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

Mark says, "standing where it ought not," meaning the same thing. But Luke really clears it up for us.

Luke 21:20 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.

By reading the surrounding verses, you cannot deny that this is a parallel account to Matthew's Olivet Discourse. Parallel accounts cannot have a different meaning. By combining Luke's statement with secular history, it is clear that Cestius Gallus and his Roman army were the abomination of desolation. It was fulfilled in A.D.66 when the Romans surrounded the city of Jerusalem.

Chrysostom wrote: "For this it seems to me that the abomination of desolation means the army by which the holy city of Jerusalem was made desolate." (The Ante-Nicene Fathers)

Augustine wrote: (379) "Luke to show that the abomination spoken of by Daniel will take place when Jerusalem is captured, recalls these words of the Lord in the same context: When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand (xxi. 20). For Luke very clearly bears witness that the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled when Jerusalem was overthrown." (vol. 6, p. 170)

 C.H. Spurgeon wrote: (1888) "This portion of our Saviour's words appears to relate solely to the destruction of Jerusalem. As soon as Christ's disciples saw "the abomination of desolation," that is, the Roman ensigns, with their idolatries, "stand in the holy place," they knew that the time for their escape had arrived; and they did flee to the mountains." (Matthew: The Gospel of the Kingdom. . p. 215).

Albert Barnes wrote: (1949) "The abomination of desolation means the Roman army, and is so explained by Lu, xxi. 20. The Roman army is further called the abomination on account of the images of the emperor, and the eagles, carried in front of the legions, and regarded by the Romans with divine honours" (Matthew p. 254)

The Roman armies were an abomination and desolating ones to the Jews; not only because they consisted of Heathen men, and uncircumcised, but also because of the images of their gods, which were upon their ensigns: for images and idols were always an abomination to the Jews. Now our Lord observes, that when they should see the Roman armies encompassing Jerusalem, with their ensigns flying, and these abominations on them, they should conclude its desolation was at hand.

This was, therefore, Christ's explanation of the abomination of desolation. The Roman army, heathen, with heathen images and standards, ready to sacrifice to idols on the temple altar, working the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple.

"Whoever reads, let him understand" is designed to draw the attention of the reader of Daniel to the passages' true meaning. When ye shall see the abomination which makes desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, standing in the holy place, where it ought not to be. In other words when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,' that is the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem.

This makes a lot of sense when we take the word of Jesus to the disciples literally. "Therefore when YOU see the 'abomination of desolation.'" He is talking to his disciples. He told them when "you" see the "abomination of desolation;" not the Jews in general, not the Jews of some future generation. How would the disciples see it if it is yet in our future? The Liberty Commentary says, "You, must be taken generically, since the disciples have not lived to see this take place." Jesus said they would see it, the Liberty Commentary says they didn't. I wonder who we should believe? The Bible says nothing about a temple being set up in our future. Jesus was talking about an event that would happen in His generation (Matthew 24:34). The predicted "abomination of desolation" mentioned by Jesus is a thing of the past, fulfilled during the events of AD 66-70.

The prophecy in Luke says "armies," not "army," so some say this did not happen when the Roman army (singular), destroyed Rome. If you read the historical accounts, you will see that Jerusalem was destroyed by "armies" (plural). Syria sent over 25,000 soldiers, Arabia sent 6,000 soldiers, all of which were under the command of Rome. It was a multi-national coalition of armies and Rome was in control.

Phillip Schaff, in his History of the Christian Church, gives us a vivid picture of the destruction of Jerusalem.

"Titus (according to Josephus) intended at first to save that magnificent work of architecture, as a trophy of victory, and perhaps from some superstitious fear; and when the flames threatened to reach the Holy of Holies he forced his way through flame and smoke, over the dead and dying, to arrest the fire. (6) But the destruction was determined by a higher decree. His own soldiers, roused to madness by the stubborn resistance, and greedy of the golden treasures, could not be restrained from the work of destruction. At first the halls around the temple were set on fire. Then a firebrand was hurled through the golden gate. When the flames arose the Jews raised a hideous yell, and tried to put out the fire; while others, clinging with a last convulsive grasp to their Messianic hopes, rested in the declaration of a false prophet, that God in the midst of the conflagration of the Temple would give a signal for the deliverance of his people. The legions vied with each other in feeding the flames, and made the unhappy people feel the full force of their unchained rage. Soon the whole prodigious structure was in a blaze and illuminated the skies. It was burned on the tenth of August, A.D. 70, the same day of the year on which, according to tradition, the first temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar." "No one," says Josephus, "can conceive a louder, more terrible shriek, than arose from all sides during the burning of the temple. The shout of victory and the jubilee of the legions sounded through the wailing of the people, now surrounded with fire and sword, upon the mountain, and throughout the city. The echo from all the mountains around, even to Perea (?), increased the deafening roar. Yet the misery itself was more terrible than this disorder. The hill on which the temple stood was seething hot, and seemed enveloped to its base in one sheet of flame. The blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain were more in number than those that slew them. The ground was nowhere visible. All was covered with corpses ; over these heaps the soldiers pursued the fugitives." (7)

The Romans planted their eagles on the shapeless ruins, over against the eastern gate, offered their sacrifices to them, and proclaimed Titus Imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place." (8) (Philip Schaff, vol. 1 pp. 397-398).

The "abomination of desolation" is a past event, fulfilled in the events of AD 66- 70. It was a sign for the disciples that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed, and for them to flee from Jerusalem in order to escape the great tribulation which was coming upon the Jewish people.

Frank Gaebelein, in The Expositors Bible Commentary, says this, "Although many commentators hold that Matthew here portrays not just the Fall of Jerusalem but also the Great tribulation before Antichrist comes, the details in vv. 16-21 are too limited geographically and culturally to justify that view. "

Matthew 24:16 (NKJV) "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

When the Roman armies were seen surrounding Jerusalem, this was the sign to get out of the entire country as soon as possible. They were not to be concerned when they HEARD of wars and rumors of wars but when they SAW Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, THIS was a sign to flee to the mountains.

The phrase in verse 15 "Standing in the holy place," must mean the city itself, for by the time the Romans had actually desecrated the temple in AD 70, it was too late for anyone in the city to flee. The exhortation to flee is given to those in the adjacent country as well as to those in the city. The temptation was probably to run into the city for protection from its walls, but Jesus said, "flee to the mountains."

While the Christians fled, the Jews in general rushed into the city, resulting in a horrible blood bath.

The church historian Eusebius, (270-340) who wrote the only surviving account of the Church during its first 300 years, writes, "The whole body, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella." Josephus gives us an account of the Roman army pulling back from the battle at Jerusalem for no apparent reason.

"7. It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen." (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, book II, Chapter XIX, Section,7)

 William Whiston, (1737) the translator of Josephus, has this footnote: "There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that 'when they should see the abomination of desolation' [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] 'stand where it ought not;' or, 'in the holy place;' or, 'when they should see Jerusalem any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential, compassed with armies;' they should then 'flee to the mountains.' By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled to the mountains of Perea and escaped this destruction."

John Gill (1949) says this, "...it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made, and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over to Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city . . " (John Gill, on Matthew 24:16).

Foy Wallace (1966, The Book of Revelation, p. 352)."It is a remarkable but historical fact that Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, for some unknown reason, retired when they first marched against the city, suspended the siege, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies for an interval of time after the Romans had occupied the temple, thus giving every believing Jew the opportunity to obey the Lord's instruction to flee the city. Josephus the eyewitness, himself an unbeliever, chronicles this fact, and admitted his inability to account for the cessation of the fighting at this time, after a siege had begun. Can we account for it? We can. The Lord was fighting against Jerusalem Zechariah 14:2: 'For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city: The Lord was besieging that city. God was bringing these things to pass against the Jewish state and nation. Therefore, the opportunity was offered for the disciples to escape the siege, as Jesus had forewarned, and the disciples took it. So said Daniel; so said Jesus; so said Luke, so said Josephus"

History records it, for no known reason Cestius Gallus, suspended the siege, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies. At this time every believing Jew had the opportunity to flee the city as the Lord had instructed them.

Matthew 24:17 (NKJV) "Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes."

The idea here is that when the armies came against the city, they were to get out as fast as they could. Delay might mean being captured turned back, or perhaps even being killed. The general thought is clear and impressive. They were to waste no time in making their escape from the doomed city.

Matthew 24:19 (NKJV) "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

Women who were pregnant or had nursing babies would have a difficult time fleeing from the city.

Matthew 24:20 (NKJV) "And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

To flee from your home and have to live in caverns in the mountains would be more difficult in the winter. The man made Sabbath rules imposed on the Jews by the Pharisees would make fleeing on the Sabbath more difficult because few would help, and many would try to prevent traveling farther than a Sabbath day's journey. Jesus clearly expects these events to take place while the strict Sabbath law is in effect.

The instructions Jesus gives his disciples about what to do, in view of verse 15, are so specific that they must be related to the Jewish War. If these verses were speaking of some future second coming of Christ, none of these conditions would matter. Jesus spoke these words to His disciples and history records that all these things took place in AD 66-70 in the Jewish war. These verses have nothing to do with a future second coming of Christ.

In spite of all the evidence, biblical and historical, some see "the abomination of desolation" as referring to an event in our future. Because they cannot accept that the Lord returned in AD 70, they say this event has not yet happen. Some do see this as fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but they look for yet another fulfillment in the future. This is called the double-sense theory. The proponents of this theory contend that the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem were but a type of the final eschatological events which they believe are still to come. For example, William Hendriksen, in his commentary on Matthew, says this about "the abomination of desolation," "When shall this - destruction of Jerusalem and its temple - be? Jesus answers it now, but in such a way that the answer suits more than one event in history."

So the double-sense advocates can say, "Yes, these verses speak of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 but they also speak of a future abomination of desolation." One of the leading Dispensationalists of our day shows why the "abomination of desolation," spoken of by Matthew, cannot be taken in a double-sense.

John Walvoord, in his commentary on Matthew, says this, "This portion of the Olivet discourse is crucial to understanding what Christ reveals about the end of the age. The tendency to explain away this section or ignore it constitutes the major difficulty in the interpretation of the Olivet discourse. In the background is the tendency of liberals to discount prophecy and the practice of some conservatives of not interpreting prophecy literally. (Which is exactly what Walvoord does, he does not interpret it literally. He sees it as a yet future event) If this prediction means what it says, it is referring to a specific time of great trouble which immediately precedes the second coming of Christ. (This is correct, but because he sees the second coming as a earth burning, end all event he cannot let the Scripture mean what it says) As such, the prediction of the great tribulation is 'the sign' of the second coming, and those who see the sign will be living in the generation which will see the second coming itself. (Right again, Jesus was speaking to his disciples, wouldn't that be a literal interpretation? The sign was to them, the Lord returned to them, in that generation.) Accordingly, the interpretation of G. Campbell Morgan, which relates this to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and the view of Alfred Plummer, which relates it to the second coming of Christ as if fulfilled in the first century, are unjustified interpretations, if the passage is taken seriously." Why? If you are going to take this passage seriously you need to see it as fulfilled in that generation as the Lord said it would be. Walvoord doesn't see a double-sense here because he realizes that there would have to be multiple second comings.

On the Double-sense Theory of Interpretation ,James Stuart Russell says this, "(Far be it from us to make God speak with two tongues, or to attach a variety of senses to His Word, in which we ought rather to behold the simplicity of its divine author reflected as in a clear mirror (Ps. xii. 6 ; xix. 8.) Only one meaning of Scripture, therefore, is admissible: that is, the grammatical, in whatever terms, whether proper or tropical and figurative, it may be expressed.)

'Dr. Owen's remark is full of good sense-" If the Scripture has more than one meaning, it has no meaning at all: " and it is just as applicable to the prophecies as to any other portion of Scripture.'- Dr. John Brown, Sufferings and Glories of the Messiah, p. 5, note.

'The consequences of admitting such a principle should be well weighed. What book on earth has a double sense, unless it is a book of designed enigmas, And even this has but one real meaning. By what laws of interpretation is it to be judged? By none that belong to human language; for other books than the Bible have not a double sense -attached to them."

"I hold that the words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense, and that our first object should be to discover that sense, and adhere rigidly to it. I believe that, as a general rule, the words of Scripture are intended to have, like all other language, one plain definite meaning, and that to say that words do mean a thing merely because they can be tortured into meaning it, is a most dishonorable and dangerous way of handling Scripture."--Canon Ryle, Expository Thoughts on St. Luke, vol. i. P. 383.

What would keep any one from applying this "double-sense" principle to the prophecies concerning the life and death of Christ? Should we expect a "second fulfillment" of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection by some man in the twentieth century? Why not? Once God fulfills that which was spoken, it is finished.

After many predictions about the kingdom of God being taken from Jews and about Jerusalem's destruction the Lord told his disciples that not one stone would be left upon another of the temple, it would all be destroyed. The disciples responded with the questions; "When, and what will be the sign of your presence and the end of the Jewish age?" In answer to their question, Jesus tells them that first the gospel must be preached to all nations and then the end would come. Then he tells them that THEY (not some far distant generation) would see the "abomination of desolation" spoken of by Daniel the prophet. He told them it would be a sign to THEM of his presence and the end of the Jewish age. He said it would all happen in THEIR generation. It did! They saw the "abomination of desolation" and when they did they fled to the mountains. Jesus can be trusted, his Word is true.

We need to begin to take the words of Scripture seriously, Jesus said he would return to that generation and he did. It's time we believed his words :

John 18:36 (NKJV) Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 "nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

Despite the clear words of Jesus, many are looking for a physical kingdom. His kingdom is here now, it came in AD 70, it is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical fleshly kingdom, and it did not come with observation.

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on December 21, 1997.

 
The Great Tribulation

Matthew 24:21


There is probably not a Christian alive that has not heard of the "Great Tribulation." From the earliest days of our Christian walk, we have heard messages on it, read books about it, and even seen movies depicting it. Most of what we have heard is the eschatology of Dispensationalism. It teaches that someday soon, Christ will return to the earth invisibly and snatch away all the Christians--the rapture. After God has removed the Church, He will go back to dealing with Israel. There will be a seven year period called the tribulation in which the earth and it inhabitants will be destroyed by God's wrath. Among Pre-millinialist there are those who hold different positions as to when the rapture will happen; some are Pre-trib, some Mid-trib and some Post- trib in their position on the rapture. I know Christians that have stored food in preparation for the famine during the coming great Tribulation. They were obviously not Pre-trib. At the end of the tribulation Christ will return and inaugurate the Millennium, a physical earthly kingdom. At the end of the Millennium there will be a rebellion and Christ will come and destroy the rebels and the eternal state will begin (I count three comings).

The entire scheme of Dispensational eschatology, though popular in recent years, has no roots in historic Christian interpretation of the Scriptures.

According to preterists, the great tribulation was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD. This has been the belief of Christians throughout the history of the church until the last hundred and fifty years or so.

Is the "Great Tribulation" something that looms in our future or is in a past event? Is Matthew 24 talking about an event yet future or something that happened in the time of the disciples? The Great Tribulation is PAST! It happened in the first century.

Let me remind you that in Matthew 24 Jesus is answering the disciples questions about the destruction of Jerusalem. They wanted to know when it would be destroyed, and what signs would precede the end of the age and His parousia. Thus far in our study we have been given two signs; the gospel would be preached to all nations and they would see the abomination of desolation. We have also seen that both of these things happened in the first century, the disciples saw these things come to pass. After talking about the abomination of desolation, which was Jerusalem surrounded by armies, Jesus talks about the great tribulation.

Matthew 24:21 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

"Then" is when? Within a few thousand years? The "then" is referring to the context of verses 15-20; when you see the abomination of desolation, which Luke tells us is Jerusalem surrounded by armies. Now, we already saw that this happened in 67 AD when Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, laid siege to Jerusalem. The Great Tribulation is not an event yet future to us. It was "then," during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century. This is made abundantly clear in the parallel text in Luke's gospel.

Luke 21:20-24 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Notice who in particular verse 23 says the tribulation will come upon-- "the land", which is Jerusalem and "this people," which refers to the first century Jews, not the future world. Verse 24 gives us added details as to exactly what will happen in the Great Tribulation. We will look more closely at the details of verse 24 in a few moments. Right now I want us to examine:

Luke 21:22 (NKJV) "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

Luke tells us here that ALL things which are written will be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. What does he mean by that? "All things which are written," refers to prophecy. All prophecy was to be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. Daniel tells us this very same thing in:

Daniel 9:24 (NKJV) "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy."

Daniel was told that 70 weeks had been determined on his people Israel, and city Jerusalem. By the end of this prophetic time period, God promised that six things would be accomplished. One of the things that Daniel was told would happen by the end of that period was that God would "seal up vision and prophecy". The Hebrew commentaries are in agreement on the meaning of to "seal up vision and prophecy" -- they say it means the end and complete fulfillment of all prophecy.

Daniel's prophecy, then, tells of the time when all prophecy would cease to be given and what had been given would be fulfilled. When would this be? Daniel's vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem which we know occurred in 70 AD:

Daniel 9:26 (NKJV) "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

So Luke is saying the same thing that Daniel said, which is that at the time Jerusalem is destroyed all prophecy will be fulfilled. What does that include? That would include the prophecy of the Second coming, the resurrection, the new heavens and earth, everything prophesied to Israel would be fulfilled at the time of Jerusalem's destruction.

Daniel 12:1(NKJV) "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.

Does that sound familiar to you? It should, we just read that same idea in:

Matthew 24:21 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Now, notice the next verse in Daniel;

Daniel 12:2 (NKJV) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.

This is the resurrection of the just and the unjust, and it happens at the time of Jerusalem's destruction, so does the Second coming according to:

2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 (NKJV) since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here, Paul ties the destruction of Jerusalem, the days of vengeance, with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is so important for us to understand. The completion of the plan of redemption, the fulfillment of all prophecy, was tied up in Jerusalem's destruction, making it an age changing event.

William Kimball, in his book, "What the Bible Says About the Great Tribulation" said, "This period of great tribulation is not an event which the entire world is yet awaiting, but a past historic event of unparalled concentrated severity specifically afflicting the Jewish nation in 70 AD."

Eusebius of Caesarea, who lived in the third century, said, "He believed that the flight of the Christians, the abomination of desolation, and the great tribulation, were all connected with the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD."

John Walvoord, a leading spokesman for Dispensationalism, says this, "The great tribulation, is a specific period of time beginning with the abomination of desolation (We saw that this began in 67 AD when Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, laid siege to Jerusalem) and closing with the second coming of Christ, in the light of Daniel's prophecies and confirmed by reference to forty-two months. In Revelation 11:2 and 13:5, the great tribulation is a specific three-and-a-half-year period leading up to the second coming..." Now, Walvoord sees all of these things as yet future, but if we can establish that the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation are past, then we can clearly understand that so also is the second coming of Christ, because they are all connected.

Now, lets look at what exactly happened in AD 70 and see if it truly was "the Great Tribulation" and "the days of vengeance." Because most Christians are totally unfamiliar with the events of AD 70, they can't understand how it was the great tribulation. The Bible only predicts the events of Jerusalem's fall because none of the Bible was written after AD 70; so to find out what happened at that time, we need to look to history.

Most of the history that we are going to look at this morning comes from Josephus, a Jew, who lived and wrote at the time of Jerusalem's destruction. In the preface to "The War of the Jews," Josephus said this, " Whereas the war which the Jews made with the Romans hath been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those that were ever heard of."(PREFACE, Section 1)

Josephus, who was not a Christian, agrees with Jesus' words in Matthew 24:21, that the war with the Romans was "the greatest of all" wars "ever heard of."

What was it that caused this war? Many think that the Romans just decided to crush the Jews, so they laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed it. This is not the case. Notice a verse in Daniel 9:

Daniel 9:26 (NKJV) "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Who is the prince to come?

Daniel 9:25 (NKJV) "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.

The nearest antecedent for the coming prince in verse 26, would carry us back to the "Messiah the Prince" (verse 25), who was cut off (verse 26). Therefore, Christ becomes the one and only "Prince" in the whole context. The "people of the prince" speaks of the Jewish people who were the ones responsible for the destruction of the city Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.

Rome did not initiate the war against Jerusalem. The zealots in Jerusalem had incited the Jews to rebel against Rome and to quit paying their taxes. Remember what Jesus told them about taxes?

Matthew 22:17 (NKJV) "Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"

Matthew 22:21 (NKJV) They said to Him, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Paul told them the same thing.

Romans 13:1 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

They didn't listen to Jesus or Paul. The Jews stopped paying their taxes and rebelled against Rome. A recurring theme in Josephus' work on the Roman war is the clear imputation of guilt upon the Jews themselves for the starting of the war.

Josephus said, "However, I will not go to the other extreme, out of opposition to those men who extol the Romans, nor will I determine to raise the actions of my countrymen too high; but I will prosecute the actions of both parties with accuracy. Yet I shall suit my language to the passions I am under, as to the affairs I describe, and must be allowed to indulge some lamentation upon the miseries undergone by my own country; for that it was a seditious temper of our own that destroyed it; and that they were the tyrants among the Jews who brought the Roman power upon us, who unwillingly attacked us, and occasioned the burning of our holy temple; Titus Caesar, who destroyed it, is himself a witness, who, during the entire war, pitied the people who were kept under by the seditious, and did often voluntarily delay the taking of the city, and allowed time to the siege, in order to let the authors have opportunity for repentance.

Accordingly it appears to me, that the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to these of the Jews, are not so considerable as they were; while the authors of them were not foreigners neither." (PREFACE, Section 4)

The Jews also rebelled by ceasing to offer a sacrifice for Caesar. Josephus says this was the beginning of the war.

"And at this time it was that some of those that principally excited the people to go to war, made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada. They took it by treachery, and slew the Romans that were there, and put others of their own party to keep it. At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans: for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account: and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. These relied much upon their multitude, for the most flourishing part of the innovators assisted them; but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple." (Josephus Book II, Chapter XVII, Section 2)

The city was full of wickedness and the people appointed high priests of unknown and ignoble persons who cooperated with them in their wickedness. Josephus records the regular high priest, Ananus, as saying, "Certainly, it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations." The wickedness within the city was great, the city was in civil war. Josephus tells us what went on in the city.

"And indeed many there were of the Jews that deserted every day, and fled away from the zealots, although their flight was very difficult, since they had guarded every passage out of the city, and slew every one that was caught at them, as taking it for granted they were going over to the Romans; yet did he who gave them money get clear off, while he only that gave them none was voted a traitor. So the upshot was this, that the rich purchased their flight by money, while none but the poor were slain. Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps, and even many of those that were so zealous in deserting at length chose rather to perish within the city; for the hopes of burial made death in their own city appear of the two less terrible to them. But these zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity, as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city, or on those that lay along the roads; but as if they had made an agreement to cancel both the laws of their country and the laws of nature, and, at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions, they would pollute the Divinity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun; and the same punishment was allotted to such as buried any as to those that deserted, which was no other than death; while he that granted the favor of a grave to another would presently stand in need of a grave himself. To say all in a word, no other gentle passion was so entirely lost among them as mercy; for what were the greatest objects of pity did most of all irritate these wretches, and they transferred their rage from the living to those that had been slain, and from the dead to the living. Nay, the terror was so very great, that he who survived called them that were first dead happy, as being at rest already; as did those that were under torture in the prisons, declare, that, upon this comparison, those that lay unburied were the happiest. These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of men, and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers; yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning [the rewards of] virtue, and [punishments of] vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country; for there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots did not [quite] disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment." (Josephus Book IV, Chapter VI, Section 3)

In light of what Josephus says here about the dead bodies laying in heaps and rotting in the sun, listen to the prophecy of:

Amos 8:1-4 (NKJV) Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, a basket of summer fruit. 2 And He said, "Amos, what do you see?" So I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the LORD said to me: "The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. 3 And the songs of the temple Shall be wailing in that day," Says the Lord GOD; "Many dead bodies everywhere, They shall be thrown out in silence." 4 Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail,

Why was this happening to Israel? They had broken the covenant with their God. They had turned from God and thus were suffering a covenantal judgement.

Deuteronomy 28:15 (NKJV) "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

Deuteronomy 28:63 (NKJV) "And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.

The destruction of a immense quantity of corn and other provisions by the rebels, was the direct occasion of a terrible famine, which consumed incredible numbers of Jews in Jerusalem during its siege.

" And now there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other. Eleazar and his party, that kept the sacred first-fruits, came against John in their cups. Those that were with John plundered the populace, and went out with zeal against Simon. This Simon had his supply of provisions from the city, in opposition to the seditious. When, therefore, John was assaulted on both sides, he made his men turn about, throwing his darts upon those citizens that came up against him, from the cloisters he had in his possession, while he opposed those that attacked him from the temple by engines of war; and if at any time he was freed from those that were above him, which happened frequently, from their being drunk and tired, he sallied out with a great number upon Simon and his party; and this he did always in such parts of the city as he could come at, till he set on fire those houses that were full of corn, and of all provisions. The same thing was done by Simon, when, upon the others' retreat, he attacked the city also; as if they had, on purpose done it to serve the Romans, by destroying what the city had laid up against the Siege, and by thus cutting off the nerves of their own power. Accordingly, it so came to pass, that all the places that were about the temple were burnt down, and were become an intermediate desert space, ready for fighting on both sides; and that almost all the corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years. So they were taken by the means of famine, which it was impossible they should have been, unless they had thus prepared the way for it by this procedure." (Josephus Book V, Chapter I, Section 4)

The famine during the great tribulation was predicted in:

Ezekiel 4:10-12 (NKJV) "And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. 11 "You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink. 12 "And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight."

We also see this famine predicted in John's Olivet discourse, which is the book of Revelation.

Revelation 6:5-6 (NKJV) When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine."

The pair of scales is a symbol of famine. This famine destroyed many in Jerusalem. After the horse of famine comes death.

Revelation 6:7-8 (NKJV) When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see." 8 So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

Josephus records the history that bears out the fulfillment of these awful prophesies.

" And, indeed, why do I relate these particular calamities? while Manneus, the son of Lazarus, came running to Titus at this very time, and told him that there had been carried out through that one gate, which was intrusted to his care, no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies, in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthieus, [Nisan,] when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus [Tamuz]. This was itself a prodigious multitude; and though this man was not himself set as a governor at that gate, yet was he appointed to pay the public stipend for carrying these bodies out, and so was obliged of necessity to number them, while the rest were buried by their relations; though all their burial was but this, to bring them away, and cast them out of the city. After this man there ran away to Titus many of the eminent citizens, and told him the entire number of the poor that were dead, and that no fewer than six hundred thousand were thrown out at the gates, though still the number of the rest could not be discovered; and they told him further, that when they were no longer able to carry out the dead bodies of the poor, they laid their corpses on heaps in very large houses, and shut them up therein; as also that a medimnus of wheat was sold for a talent; and that when, a while afterward, it was not possible to gather herbs, by reason the city was all walled about, some persons were driven to that terrible distress as to search the common sewers and old dunghills of cattle, and to eat the dung which they got there; and what they of old could not endure so much as to see they now used for food. When the Romans barely heard all this, they commiserated their case; while the seditious, who saw it also, did not repent, but suffered the same distress to come upon themselves; for they were blinded by that fate which was already coming upon the city, and upon themselves also." (Josephus Book V, Chapter XIII, Section 7)

The depth of this famine is so clearly seen in the gut wrenching story that Josephus tells of Mary.

"Now there was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezub, which signifies the House of Hyssop. She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude , and was with them besieged therein at this time. The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon; such I mean as she had brought with her out of Perea, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had also been carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose. This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she cast at these rapacious villains, she had provoked them to anger against her; but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of the commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labours were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her any way to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself: nor did she consult with anything but with her passion and the necessity she was in. She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, 'O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition ? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves! The famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us; yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets and a byeword to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews.' As soon as she had said this, she slew her son; and then roasted him, and ate one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious come in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not shew them what food she had gotten ready. She replied, that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them; and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight; when she said to them 'This is mine own son; and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also.' After which, those men went out trembling, being never so much affrighted at anything as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which, the whole city was full of horrid action immediately; and while everyone laid this miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard-of-action had been done by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die; and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not live long enough either to hear or see such miseries." (Josephus Book VI, Chapter III, Section 4)

Listen again to the covenantal curses of Deuteronomy 28:

Deuteronomy 28:53 (NKJV) "You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you.

Deuteronomy 28:57 (NKJV) "her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.

( I would strongly encourage you to read Deuteronomy 28 in its entirety keeping in mind all we have discussed today.)

I hope that by now you are beginning to understand the words of Jesus in:

Matthew 24:21 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Let me share with you just one more passage from Josephus just to make sure you see the severity of Jerusalem's destruction.

"Hereupon some of the deserters, having no other way, leaped down from the wall immediately, while others of them went out of the city with stones, as if they would fight them; but thereupon they fled away to the Romans. But here a worse fate accompanied these than what they had found within the city; and they met with a quicker despatch from the too great abundance they had among the Romans, than they could have done from the famine among the Jews; for when they came first to the Romans, they were puffed up by the famine, and swelled like men in a dropsy; after which they all on the sudden overfilled those bodies that were before empty, and so burst asunder, excepting such only as were skillful enough to restrain their appetites, and by degrees took in their food into bodies unaccustomed thereto. Yet did another plague seize upon those that were thus preserved; for there was found among the Syrian deserters a certain person who was caught gathering pieces of gold out of the excrements of the Jews' bellies; for the deserters used to swallow such pieces of gold, as we told you before, when they came out, and for these did the seditious search them all; for there was a great quantity of gold in the city, insomuch that as much was now sold [in the Roman camp] for twelve Attic [drams], as was sold before for twenty-five. But when this contrivance was discovered in one instance, the fame of it filled their several camps, that the deserters came to them full of gold. So the multitude of the Arabians, with the Syrians, cut up those that came as supplicants, and searched their bellies. Nor does it seem to me that any misery befell the Jews that was more terrible than this, since in one night's time about two thousand of these deserters were thus dissected." (Josephus Book V, Chapter XIII, Section 4)

Israel had crucified the Lord and publicly called God's judgement down on themselves: "And all the people answered and said, `His blood be on us and on our children.'" (Matthew 27:25). God's judgement on Israel in 70 AD matched their crime, the crucifixion of Christ. This crime was the worst in history, so their punishment was also the worst in history. To call anything else "the great tribulation"is to downplay the immensity of that generation's crime.

Renan said, "From this time forth, hunger, rage, despair, and madness dwelt in Jerusalem. It was a cage of furious maniacs, as city resounding with howling and inhabited by cannibals, a very hell. Titus, for his part, was atrociously vindictive; every day five hundred unfortunates were crucified in the sight of the city with hateful refinements of cruelty or sufficient ground whereon to erect them."

We need to realize the scope of the great tribulation upon the people of Israel. It was not just those in Jerusalem that suffered and died, but all over Palestine, the whole country felt the judgement of God. Josephus said, "There was not a Syrian city which did not slay their Jewish inhabitants, and were more bitter enemies to us than were the Romans themselves."

David Clark said, "It is doubtful if anything before or since has equaled it for ruthless slaughter and merciless destruction. From the locality of these churches in Asia Minor to the borders of Egypt the land was a slaughterhouse, City after city was wrecked, sacked, and burned; till it was recorded that cities were left without an inhabitant."

The destruction of Jerusalem was far more than just the destruction of a city. Jerusalem and the temple were the center of worship of the one and only true and living God. With its destruction came a covenantal change. God's kingdom was taken from them, and no longer would Gentiles rule over God's kingdom because His Kingdom was now a spiritual kingdom, entered not by a physical birth but by a spiritual birth. The old heavens and earth of Judaism were destroyed the new heavens and earth of Spiritual Israel were established. It signaled the end of the age. God had utterly destroyed the physical temple, the genealogical records which qualified descendants of Aaron to serve as priests, and the city of Jerusalem. The old system of worship was forever over.

The destruction of Jerusalem was not simply a local judgement, it was a covenantal judgement. Notice Jesus' words:

Matthew 23:35-36 (NKJV) "that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

This judgement upon Jerusalem was not simply local, it reached all the way back to Able. The blood of Able was vindicated by God's judgement upon Jerusalem.

It was far more than the fall of a city, it was the end of an age. That is why Jesus said it would be a, "great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be."

For this reason I ask, "How could it be possible for there to be in the future a destruction of Jerusalem equal or greater than that which happened in 70 AD?" Jesus said nothing in time would ever equal what happened in 70 AD, nothing.

The Great Tribulation is behind us, it is an event in history. With the destruction of Jerusalem came the fulfillment of all prophecy. We live in the never ending age of the new covenant, the new Jerusalem, the new heavens and earth of Revelation 21 and 22.

Note: All quotes from Josephus are taken from"The Wars of The Jews," and all the bold emphasis in the quotes are mine.


This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on January 11, 1998.

 
The Night the Lights Went Out in Israel

Matthew 24:22-29

We are working our way through Matthew's account of the Olivet Discourse. We must remember that in this discourse the Lord is answering the disciple's questions about the destruction of the Jewish temple, the sign of His presence and the end of the age. As we work our way through this discourse, we must fight the temptation to read this as if it was written to us in the twentieth century. Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the first century and we must study it in that context. Audience Relevance is something we must always keep in mind as we read and study the Bible; what did this mean to the original audience? Do you know of any book in the Bible written to the saints in Tidewater, Virginia? I don't. The Scriptures are not written to us! They are for us, but they were not written to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Scriptures are God-breathed and profitable for us, but they are not written to us. Thus we must understand the original intent before we apply them to our lives. Now, as I'm sure you understand it is not always easy to find out exactly what the original intent of the author was; we are separated from the original audience by thousands of years, by culture, by history and by language. But if we do our homework and compare Scripture with Scripture, we can get a good idea of the authors original intent.

This passage of Scripture is very difficult to interpret with absolute certainty. This is one of the more difficult prophetic passages in the New Testament. W. Robertson Nicoll said, "What is said thereon is so perplexing as to tempt a modern expositor to wish it had not been there." I don't want to be like the little boy who was drawing a picture. His father asked him what he was drawing and he replied, "I am drawing a picture of God." His father said, "Son, nobody knows what God looks like." "Well," said the son, "they will when I get through with this picture!" Although I love the little boy's confidence, I don't want to assume that once I explain this passage everyone will know the correct interpretation of it. My understanding of this passage comes from comparing Scripture with Scripture, and since I believe that the Scripture interprets itself, I am fairly confident in my interpretation. I would ask that you all be good Bereans and search the Scripture and see if what I am telling you lines up with the truth of Scripture.

We saw in our last study that our Lord told the disciples that they would see the "Abomination of Desolation" spoken of by Daniel, which Luke explained as Jerusalem surrounded by armies, and when they did there would come a time of "Great Tribulation."

Matthew 24:21 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

We looked at this verse in depth last week and we saw that the "Great Tribulation" is past. Sorry to disappoint you but it is over, it happened 2,000 years ago. It was the destruction of Jerusalem as the context of this and the parallel gospel accounts makes abundantly clear. And as Jesus said, there will never be anything to equal it. Our Savior wept at the foresight of these calamities, and as we read the accounts of Josephus, it is almost impossible to keep from weeping ourselves. Josephus said, "To speak in brief, no other city ever suffered such things, as no other generation from the beginning of the world was even more fruitful of wickedness."

Matthew 24:22 (NKJV) "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

Josephus computes the number of those who perished in the siege at eleven hundred thousand, besides those who were slain in other places: and if the Romans had gone on destroying in this manner the whole nation of the Jews would certainly, in a little time, have been eliminated. The word "saved" here is not a reference to redemption but to physical deliverance. Had the war gone on much longer no one would have been left alive. "But for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened." - Mark puts it this way in 13:20, "But for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, the Lord hath shortened the days," The elect is a well known designation in scripture for Christians. Through the fury of the zealots on one hand, and the hatred of the Romans on the other, and partly through the difficulty of enduring in the mountains without houses or provisions, everybody would have been destroyed either by the sword or by famine, if the days had not been shortened. But providentially, the days were shortened. Josephus said, "Titus himself was desirous of putting a speedy end to the siege, having Rome and the riches and the pleasures there, before his eyes. Some of his officers proposed to him to turn the siege into a blockade, and since they could not take the city by storm, to starve it into a surrender : but he thought it not becoming to sit still with so great an army and he feared lest the length of the time should diminish the glory of his success; every thing indeed may be effected in time, but speed contributes much to the fame and splendor of actions." The Jews, too, helped to shorten the days, by their divisions and mutual slaughters; by burning their own provisions, which would have lasted for many years ;and by deserting their strong holds, where they could never have been taken by force, but by famine alone. By these means, "the days were shortened." Otherwise, Jerusalem could never have been taken in such a short time, it was well fortified, and able to sustain a longer siege. The Romans could hardly ever have prevailed but for the factions and seditions within. Titus himself ascribed his success to God, as he was viewing the fortifications, after the city was taken. His words to his friends were very remarkable: "We have fought," he said, "with God on our aide; and it is God who hath pulled the Jews out of these strong holds; for what could the hands of men or machines avail against these towers ?" God, therefore, in the opinion of Titus, as well as the inspired writers, "shortened the days."

It wasn't in Jerusalem alone but all over the country that the war waged, and had it gone on many of the Christians who fled to the outlying areas would also been in danger.

23 "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it.

 Jesus had cautioned his disciples against false christs and false prophets before, but he gives a more specific caution against them about the time of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

24 "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

We learn from Josephus that many such impostors did arise about that time and promised deliverance from God, being persuaded by the tyrants or governors to prevent the people and soldiers from deserting to the Romans ; and the worse the Jews situation, the more open they would be to listen to these deceptions, and the more ready to follow the deceivers. Hegesippus, too, in Eusebius mentions the coming of false Christs and false prophets about the same time.

These false christs and prophets were so convincing that if it were possible, they would have even deceived the elect. Dositheus was reputed to work wonders, according to Origen : Barchoebebas too, who Jerome saith pretended to vomit flames.

25 "See, I have told you beforehand.

Christ had warned them about the coming of these false christs and false prophets.

26 "Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it.

Several of the false christs and false prophets led their followers "into the desert." Josephus, in his Antiquities says, "Many impostors and cheats persuaded the people to follow them into the desert, where they promised to show manifest wonders and signs done by the providence of God; and many being persuaded suffered the punishment of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and chastised them." Again in his history of the Jewish war, speaking of the same people, he says, "These impostors, under a pretense of divine inspiration, affecting innovations and changes, persuaded the multitude to grow mad, and led them forth 'into the desert,' as if God would there show them the signs of liberty. Against these Felix, for it seemed to be the foundation of a revolt, sent horse and foot soldiers, and slew a great number of them." Josephus mentions another impostor, "Who promised salvation to the people, and a cessation of all evils, if they would follow him 'into the desert;' but Festus sent horse and foot soldiers against him, and destroyed the deceiver himself, and those who followed him." Several of these impostors led their followers into "the secret chambers" or places of security. Josephus mentioned a false prophet who, "Declared to the people in the city, that God commanded them to go up into the temple, and there they should receive the signs of deliverance.A multitude of men, women, and children, went up accordingly; but instead of deliverance, the place was set on fire by the Romans, and six thousand perished miserably in the flames, or by throwing themselves down to escape them."

I'm sure you can understand that during a time of such distress, the people would be open to hear and follow anyone who promised them deliverance from their miseries.

27 "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

His coming will not be in this or that particular place, but like the lightning, will be sudden and universal. The appearance of the true Christ will be clearly distinguishable from that of the false Christ. Josephus says, "The Roman army entered into Judea on the east side of it, and carried on their conquest westward, as if not only the extensiveness of the ruin, but the very route, which the army would take, was intended in the comparison of the lightning coming out of the east, and shining even unto the west." While this may be true, I think that Christ's emphasis here, based on the immediate context, is that His coming will be swift and universal judgement.

What this verse tells us is that the Lord's coming will be like lightning in some manner; there is a comparison here "for as" and "so also." The word "coming" here is the Greek word parousia. This word is used four times by Matthew, all of them in chapter 24. This is the same word the disciples used in their question to Jesus. They asked, "What will be the sign of Your coming?" Remember from our earlier study on verse 3, that as we compare all three gospel accounts of this question, you see that the disciples considered His coming and the end of the age to be identical events with the destruction of Jerusalem. To the disciples, the parousia was not used of a second coming but signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; a glorious appearing in authority and power. So we could translate it this way, "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the glorious appearing in authority and power be of the Son of Man.

What does the idea of lightning tell us? Many of the modern futurists interpret the idea of lightning as something visible to the whole world. Walvoord says, "Apparently, the heavens will be ablaze with the glory of God." F.C. Cook says, "The coming of Christ shall not be an obscure one, confined to a particular place, and signified from thence by report, but one visible to the whole world. Surely this again is an intimation that the second coming of Christ is not to be identified with any local event, such as the destruction of Jerusalem."

Now, folks isn't lightning a local event? Can a flash of lightning be see by the whole world? No, but it can possibly be seen by a whole city.

I think that by comparing Scripture with Scripture, we can see that lightning refers to God's judgement, not to a bright light of glory that everyone will see. In these Old Testament passages we see local judgements of God described by the use of lightning.

2 Samuel 22:14-15 (NKJV) "The LORD thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice. 15 He sent out arrows and scattered them; Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.

The Hebrew word for lightning is baraq, it means lightning.

Psalms 18:14 (NKJV) He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.

Zechariah 9:14 (NKJV) Then the LORD will be seen over them, And His arrow will go forth like lightning. The Lord GOD will blow the trumpet, And go with whirlwinds from the south.

Habakkuk 3:11-12 (NKJV) The sun and moon stood still in their habitation; At the light of Your arrows they went, At the shining of Your glittering (baraq,) 12 You marched through the land in indignation; You trampled the nations in anger.

Habakkuk interprets his imagery as a prophecy of the military invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans.

The Greek word used for lightning in Matthew 24:27 is astrape, it means lightning; by anal. glare:--lightning, bright shining. The same Greek word is also used in other passages that speak of judgement.

Luke 10:18 (NKJV) And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

That speaks of the judgement of God on Satan.

Revelation 16:18-19 (NKJV) And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.

It seems to me, that when Jesus compares his coming to lightning, that he is saying that His coming will be seen in judgement. Albert Barns, in his commentary on this verse says, "...the destruction of Jerusalem is described as his coming, his act."

I think that the designation "Son of Man" is significant here. Son of man is a New Testament designation for Jesus as God incarnate in flesh and agent of divine judgment. I think that this verse is clearly telling us that Christ's parousia will be seen in the destruction of Jerusalem. The immediate context bears this out, these verses all speak of judgement.

28 "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

The Jewish nation was a carcase, which was morally and judicially dead, and the Romans descended upon it and devoured it. This language is also seen in the judgement language of the Old Testament.

Habakkuk 1:6-8 (NKJV) For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. 7 They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. 8 Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.

Isaiah 46:10-11 (NKJV) Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,' 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, (Cyrus the Persian King) The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

Jeremiah 7:33-34 (NKJV) "The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away. 34 "Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate.

Hosea 8:1 (NKJV) "Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law.

The victories of the Romans were not confined to the city of Jerusalem, but like a flood, overran the whole land. Where ever the Jews are, there will Christ be taking vengeance upon them by the Romans. Josephus said, "There was no part of Judea, which did not partake of the calamities of the capital city. At Antioch, the Jews being falsely accused of a design to burn the city, many of them were burnt in the theater, and others were slain. The Romans pursued, and took, and slew them every where, as particularly at the siege of Machaerus; at the wood Jardes, where the Jews were surrounded, and none of them escaped, but, being not fewer than three thousand, were all slain ; and at Masada, where being closely besieged, and upon the point of being taken, they first murdered their wives and children, and then themselves to the number of nine hundred and sixty, to prevent their failing into the enemies' hands. Many were slain in Egypt, and their temple there was shut up: and in Cyrene the followers of Jonathan, a weaver, and author of new disturbances, were most of them slain; he himself was taken prisoner, and by his false accusation three thousand of the richest Jews were condemned and put to death." With this account, Josephus concludes his history of the Jewish war.

Albert Barnes says, "This verse is connected with the preceding by the word 'for,' implying that this is a reason for what is said there-that the Son of man would certainly come to destroy the city, and that he would come suddenly. The meaning is that he would come, by means of the Roman armies, as certainly, as suddenly, and as unexpectedly as whole flocks of vultures and eagles, though unseen before, see their prey at a great distance and suddenly gather in multitudes around it ... So keen is their vision as aptly to represent the Roman armies, though at an immense distance, spying, as it were, Jerusalem, a putrid carcass, and hastening in multitudes to destroy it" ( Commentary on Matthew 24:28).

John Broadus(1886) said, "Christ shall be revealed with a sudden vengeance; for when God shall cast off the city and people, grown ripe for destruction, like a carcase thrown out, the Roman soldiers, like eagles, shall straight fly to it with their eagles (ensigns) to tear and devour it."

29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Modern commentators generally understand this, and what follows, as the end of the world; but the words "immediately after the tribulation of those days," show, that he is not speaking of any distant event, but of something immediately following the tribulation just mentioned, and that must be the destruction of Jerusalem. The word "immediately" is the Greek word eutheos, it means directly, at once or soon, as soon as, forthwith, immediately, shortly, straightway. Notice carefully when this takes place -- immediately after the tribulation of THOSE days. We have seen that the tribulation happened in 67-70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem so what ever this verse is referring to, happened immediately afterward.

If you are not familiar with the apocalyptic language of the Old Testament, you will not understand what Christ is saying here. This language is common among the Old Testament prophets. This idea is seen clearly as we look at passages where mention is made of the destruction of a state and government using language which seems to set forth the end of the world.

Isaiah 13:1 (NKJV) The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.

In this chapter God is talking about the judgement that is to fall upon Babylon. The word "burden" is the Hebrew word "massa", an utterance, chiefly a doom. This introduction sets the stage for the subject matter in this chapter, and if we forget this, our interpretations of Isaiah 13 can go just about anywhere our imagination wants to go. This is not an oracle against the universe or world but against the nation of Babylon.

Isaiah 13:6 (NKJV) Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.

Isaiah 13:9-13 (NKJV) Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine. 11 "I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. 12 I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, In the wrath of the LORD of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger.

Now remember, he is speaking about the destruction of Babylon, but is sounds like world wide destruction. The terminology of a context cannot be expanded beyond the scope of the subject under discussion. The spectrum of language surely cannot go outside the land of Babylon. If you were a Babylonian and Babylon was destroyed, would it seem like the world was destroyed? Yes! Your world would be destroyed.

Isaiah 13:17 (NKJV) "Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it.

This is an historical event that took place in 539 BC. When the Medes destroyed Babylon, the Babylonian world came to an end. This destruction is said, in verse 6, to be from the Almighty, and the Medes constitute the means that God uses to accomplish this task. This is apocalyptic language. This is the way the Bible discusses the fall of a nation. This is obviously figurative language. God did not intend for us to take this literally. If we take this literally, the world ended in 539 BC.

In Isaiah 34, we have a description of the fall of Edom, notice the language that is used:

Isaiah 34:3-5 (NKJV) Also their slain shall be thrown out; Their stench shall rise from their corpses, And the mountains shall be melted with their blood. 4 All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree. 5 "For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; Indeed it shall come down on Edom, And on the people of My curse, for judgment.

This is Biblical language to describe the fall of a nation. It should be clear that it is not to be taken literally. Let's look at other Old Testament use of this language.

Nahum 1 (NKJV) The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. 2 God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies; 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry, And dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither, And the flower of Lebanon wilts. 5 The mountains quake before Him, The hills melt, And the earth heaves at His presence, Yes, the world and all who dwell in it.

The subject of this judgement is Nineveh, not the physical world. This is the way God describes the fall of a nation. If this language describes the judgement of God on nations, why, when we come to the New Testament, do we make it be the destruction of the universe? It is only because we do not understand how the Bible uses this apocalyptic language.

Ezekiel speaks in the same manner of Egypt:

Ezekiel 32:7-8 (NKJV) When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. 8 All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,' Says the Lord GOD.

The prophet Daniel speaks, in the same manner, of the slaughter of the Jews by the little horn, the power of the Romans.

Daniel 8:10 (NKJV) And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.

In the prophetic language, great commotions and revolutions upon earth are often represented by commotions and changes in the heavens. None of these things literally took place!

Milton Terry said, " From these quotations it is apparent that there is scarcely an expression employed in Matthew and Luke which has not been taken from the Old Testament Scriptures. Such apocalyptic forms of speech are not to be assumed to convey in the New Testament a meaning different from that which they bear in the Hebrew Scriptures. They are part and parcel of the genius of prophetic language."

Samuel Hinds (1829) said, "It requires but a slender acquaintance with the writings of the Old Testament prophets to enable us to observe the peculiarity. It is not only figurative, but the figures are of the boldest kind, involving analogies so remote, as in some instances to be scarcely discoverable. If revolutions in empires be the subject, the prophetic representation is filled with disturbance of the laws of the natural world, and the sun, moon, and stars, are exhibited in commotion. If a deliverer is promised to the Jews, the prophet expresses the promise by the rising of a star, and the like" (Hinds, pp. 209-210)

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) said, "The figurative language of the prophets is taken from the analogy between the world natural and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politic. Accordingly, the world natural, consisting of heaven and earth, signifies the whole world politic, consisting of thrones and people, or so much of it as is considered in prophecy; and the things in that world signify the analogous things in this. For the heavens and the things therein signify thrones and dignities, and those who enjoy them: and the earth, with the things thereon, the inferior people; and the lowest parts of the earth, called Hades or Hell, the lowest or most miserable part of them. Great earthquakes, and the shaking of heaven and earth, are put for the shaking of kingdoms, so as to distract and overthrow them; the creating of a new heaven and earth, and the passing of an old one; or the beginning and end of a world, for the rise and ruin of a body politic signified thereby. The sun, for the whole species and race of kings, in the kingdoms of the world politic; the moon, for the body of common people considered as the king's wife; the starts, for subordinate princes and great men; or for bishops and rulers of the people of God, when the sun is Christ. Setting of the sun, moon, and stars; darkening the sun, turning the moon into blood, and falling of the stars, for the ceasing of a kingdom."(Observations on the Prophecies, Part i. chap. ii)

Dr. John Owen (1721) said, "Not to hold you too long upon what is so plain and evident, you may take it for a rule, that, in the denunciations of the judgments of God, through all the prophets, heaven, sun, moon, stars, and the like appearing beauties and glories of the aspectable heavens, are taken for governments, governors, dominions in political states, as Isa. 14:12-15; Jer 15:9, 51:25. Isaiah 13:13; Ps. 68:6; Joel 2:10; Rev. 8:12; Matt. 24:29; Luke 21:25; Isa 60:20; Obad. 4; Rev 8:13; 11:12; 20:11." (vol. 8, p. 255, in a sermon entitled Shaking and Translating of Heaven and Earth, preached on April 19, 1649)

James Stuart Russell (1878) said, "The symbols are, in fact, equivalent to those employed by our Lord when predicting the doom of Israel. 'Immediately after the tribulation of those days (the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem) shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Matt 24:29). Both passages refer to the same catastrophe and employ very similar figures; besides which we have the authority of our Lord for fixing the event and the period of which He speaks within the limits of the generation then in existence: that is to say, the reference can only be to the judgment of the Jewish nation and the abrogation of the Mosaic economy at the Parousia." (p. 289-290).

John Gill (1809) said, "Ver. 29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days, &c.] That is, immediately after the distress the Jews would be in through the siege of Jerusalem, and the calamities attending it; just upon the destruction of that city, and the temple in it, with the whole nation of the Jews, shall the following things come to pass;...... and that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, will not answer to the word 'immediately', or show that that should be understood of two thousand years after: besides, all the following things were to be fulfilled before that present generation, in which Christ lived, passed away, #Mt 24:34 and therefore must be understood of things that should directly, and immediately take place upon, or at the destruction of the city and temple."

We see this apocalyptic language used all through the book of Revelation. I believe that the book of Revelation is an expanded version of the Olivet Discourse. Notice how John used apocalyptic language.

Revelation 6:13-17 (NKJV) And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 "For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

Is this talking about the end of the world in our future? NO! John is dealing with Jerusalem's destruction in AD 70. Look at what Jesus said as he was on his way to be crucified:

Luke 23:28-30 (NKJV) But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 "For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!' 30 "Then they will begin 'to say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"'

Jesus was telling the women of His day to weep for THEMSELVES because judgement was going to come upon THEM. In Revelation 6, during the great tribulation which happened in AD 67-70, we see them crying out for the mountains to fall on them, just as Jesus said they would. This language is picturing the response of sinful man to the awful judgement of God.

The biblical evidence is overwhelming, the Olivet Discourse, in its entirety, is speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The only thing that would make us push any of these things into the future are our own presuppositions. In this vivid picturesque language Jesus is describing Jerusalem's destruction. In AD 70, the lights went out in Israel for good. When the tribulation was over, physical Israel ceased to exist. God's people were no longer distinguished by physical birth, but by spiritual birth alone. The Old Covenant was over, and the New fully instituted.


 

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on January 18, 1998.

The Sign of His Coming!

Matthew 24:30-31

The majority opinion of the nature of the second coming is that it will be a physical, visible, bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth that every eye will see. There is no question that that is the view held my the majority of Christians today, but is it what the Bible teaches? Where does the Bible teach that Jesus Christ will return to earth in a physical, bodily manner? Some would say that Acts 1:11 teaches a physical bodily second coming. Let's look at it.

Acts 1:9-10 (NKJV) Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

His ascension was physical and visible, so won't His return be also? It says he will come in "like manner." The words, "like manner" are the Greek phrase, "hon tropon." By examining the usage of "hon tropon" in the New Testament, it is clear that this phrase does not mean "exactly the same in every detail," but has the idea of "similar in some fashion." For example look at how this phrase is used in:

Luke 13:34 (NKJV) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

Did Jesus want to gather Jerusalem in exactly the same manner as (hon tropon) a hen gathers her chicks? I don't think so. The emphasis of Acts 1:11 is that Christ's coming would be a cloud coming, just as he left in a cloud, so he would come in the clouds. We will examine the idea of cloud comings later in more detail. There is no Scripture that explicitly teaches that Jesus would return in a physical, bodily fashion. An understanding of the language of the Old Testament will help us see that His coming was not to be physical.

The study of Matthew 24 could change your eschatological paradigm if you let it. I believe that this is one of the most significant chapters in the Bible on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Understanding this chapter will change your view of the nature of the second coming.

In verses 23-26 of Matthew 24, Jesus seems to stress that his coming will not be a physical bodily coming. If someone says, "Here is Christ, or there," they were not to believe them. If someone said, "He is in the desert or he is in the secret chamber," they were not to believe them. Why? If His coming was to be physical and bodily, why would someone not be able to say, "He is over there?" They were not to believe that because His coming would not be physical and bodily and yet it would be plainly seen. How would they see His coming? They would see it in the judgement that was to fall upon Jerusalem. His coming would be like lightening, (verse 27). I think that by comparing Scripture with Scripture we can see that lightning refers to God's judgement. It seems to me that when Jesus compares his coming to lightning that he is saying that His coming will be seen in judgement. His coming will be like a bird of prey going after a corps (verse 28). This language is also seen in the judgement language of the Old Testament. His coming would be an earth shattering event:

Matthew 24:29 (NKJV) "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

If you are not familiar with the apocalyptic language of the Old Testament, you will not understand what Christ is saying here. This language is common among the Old Testament prophets. Inapocalyptic language, great commotions and judgements upon earth are often represented by commotions and changes in the heavens. This language is not to be taken literally.

As a side note, let me give you another thought on verse 21: Jesus said that the great tribulation would be, "such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." Gary Hardison said, "The phrase 'nor ever shall be' implies time would go on after the tribulation." I agree. The great tribulation is not going to happen at some future day when the world ends, it happened in 70 AD when the Old Covenant age ended.

As we continue our study of Matthew, we come to verse 30 and 31 which go together with verses 27-29. Verses 23-26 tell us what the second coming won't be like. It won't be a physical bodily return. Then in verses 27-31, he tells us what the second coming will be like. We have already seen that it will be manifest in judgement.

Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

When is "then?" "Then" refers to "immediately after the tribulation of those days" of verse 29. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was the great tribulation, this sign will be seen. What is the sign? As you can imagine, there are all kinds of guesses as to what the sign was. Some of the Church fathers, such as Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, and Erasmus believed that the sign would be a cross appearing in the heavens. Some believed it was the return of the star that marked His birth. Some Dispensationalists believe that the sign may involve the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, which may descend at this time and remain as a satellite city suspended over the earthly city of Jerusalem. Hal Lindsey said, "Perhaps the 'sign of the Son of Man' will be a gigantic celestial image of Jesus flashed upon the heavens for all to see. This would explain how all men suddenly recognize who He is and see the scars from His piercing at the cross." As you can see, the sign can be whatever your imagination lets it be if you don't keep in mind audience relevance. Who asked what the sign of his coming would be? His disciples (verse 3). Who was Jesus talking to? The disciples. Whatever the sign was, it was to appear in 70 AD immediately after the tribulation of those days, which was the destruction of Jerusalem. It was a sign to "that generation" not to us some 2,000 years later.

To understand what this sign was, we first need to have a correct translation. The NIV really adds to the confusion, it reads, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky." A word-for-word rendering from the Greek reads: "And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven." Notice carefully that the location is heaven, not the sky; and it is not the sign that is in heaven, but the Son of Man who is in heaven. The point is this: The destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple was the sign that the Son of Man was in heaven.

J. Marcellus Kik said, "A sign was not to appear in the heavens, but the destruction of Jerusalem was to indicate the rule of the Son of man in heaven."

The wording of this passage refers us back to the expression, "The Son of Man," found in Daniel 7:13, which Jesus used concerning Himself when referring to His coming.

Matthew 24:27 (NKJV) "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

The judgement of Jerusalem was a sign that the Son of Man was in heaven in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14.

Daniel 7:13-14 (NKJV) "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Here we see Jesus, the Son of Man, coming to the Ancient of days and receiving His everlasting kingdom. This prophecy was fulfilled at the Ascension.

Acts 2:30-36 (NKJV) "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

The kingdom received from the Ancient of days is no other than the kingdom symbolized by the stone cut out of the mountain:

Daniel 2:34-35 (NKJV) "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

The kingdom was given to Christ at His ascension, and this was made manifest to all Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jerusalem's destruction was a sign that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God.

Matthew 26:63-64 (NKJV) But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" 64 Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."

Here Caiaphas, the high priest, asks Jesus if he is the Son of God, the Messiah. Notice the similarities between Jesus' answer to Caiaphas and what he said in our text.

Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Jesus told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power." He said to His disciples, "They would see the sign that the son of man was in heaven." He told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven." He told His disciples, "They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." It is obviously the same event in both passages. Notice Caiaphas' response to Jesus' statement.

Matthew 26:65 (NKJV) Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

What did Jesus say that was blasphemy? Caiaphas understood that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. In order to understand what Jesus is saying, we need to understand the idea that is behind "coming in the clouds."

God's "coming on the clouds of heaven" is a symbolic way of speaking of His presence, judgement and salvation. All through the Old Testament God was coming "on clouds," in salvation of His people and judgement of His enemies.

Coming on the clouds indicates His Presence:

Exodus 16:10 (NKJV) Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Exodus 19:9 (NKJV) And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.

Exodus 34:5 (NKJV) Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

Leviticus 16:2 (NKJV) and the LORD said to Moses: "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.

Numbers 11:25 (NKJV) Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.

Salvation: In Psalm 18, David speaks of his deliverance from Saul using apocalyptic language.

Psalms 18:9-12 (NKJV) He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. 10 And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. 12 From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire.

Judgement: The idea of God's coming in the clouds is also associated with His judgement of his enemies.

Isaiah 19:1 (NKJV) The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, And will come into Egypt; The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, And the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.

We know from chapter 20 that God used the Assyrians as instruments of His wrath on Egypt, yet it says, "The LORD rides on a swift cloud..., Egypt will totter at His presence." God came to Egypt in judgement. His presence was made known in judgement. But it was the Assyrians who were literally present. Similar language is used of Nineveh's fall:

Nahum 1:3 (NKJV) The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet.

Nahum 1:5-6 (NKJV) The mountains quake before Him, The hills melt, And the earth heaves at His presence, Yes, the world and all who dwell in it. 6 Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him.

We know that Nineveh was destroyed, not by a literal coming of God out of heaven on the clouds, but by the invading armies of the Chaldeans and Medes in 612 BC.

When Jesus said he would come on the clouds, He was using the apocalyptic language of the prophets to identify himself as the Messiah, the Judge. Caiaphas reacted the way he did because he knew that only God came on clouds, that was a claim to deity. He knew that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah of Daniel 7. Notice what Jesus says to Caiaphas in:

Mark 14:62 (NKJV) Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

Here it says that they will see Him "coming with the clouds of heaven" while He is "sitting at the right hand of the Power." If this is literal and bodily, how could He do both at the same time? This is clearly apocalyptic language. His coming with the clouds is proof of His sitting on the right hand of power.

John Lightfoot says this, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man.Then shall the Son of man give a proof of himself, who they would not before acknowledge: a proof, indeed, not in any visible figure, but in vengeance and judgment so visible, that all the tribes of the earth shall be forced to acknowledge him the avenger. The Jews would not know him: now they shall know him, whether they will or no, Isa. xxvi. II. Many times they asked of him a sign: now a sign shall appear, that he is the true Messiah, whom they despised, derided, and crucified, namely, his signal vengeance and fury, such as never any nation felt from the first foundations of the world."

Our text says that at the time of His coming, "and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn." The word "tribes" is a reference to Israel. Gentiles are not referred to as "tribes" in the Bible. There were tribes in Israel at that time, but since its destruction in AD 70, there have been no "tribes" in Israel. This reminds us of:

Revelation 1:7 (NKJV) Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

John said that Jesus was coming "soon" and "quickly" and that the "Jews," those who pierced him, would mourn at his coming.

We must see that this is not a physical, bodily coming of Christ, but a coming in judgement. The idea of "seeing" here is not physically seeing but "to recognize, to be aware, to perceive." The destruction of Jerusalem would cause the tribes of Israel to recognize that Jesus was indeed the Son of man and the Messiah.

Thomas Newton (1754) said, "Our Saviour proceedeth in the same figurative style, ver. 30 - "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.' The plain meaning of it is, that the destruction of Jerusalem will be such a remarkable instance of divine vengeance, such a signal manifestation of Christ's power and glory, that all the Jewish tribes shall mourn, and many will be led from thence to acknowledge Christ and the Christian religion. In the ancient prophets, God is frequently described as coming in the 'clouds' upon any remarkable interposition and manifestation of his power; and the same description is here applied to Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem will be as ample a manifestation of Christ's power and glory as if he was himself to come visibly in the clouds of heaven."

John Gill (1809) a premillennialist said, "He shall appear, not in person, but in the power of his wrath and vengeance, on the Jewish nation which will be a full sign and proof of his being come:"

The prophetic language of the Old Testament clearly shows that the Lord coming on a cloud speaks of his coming in judgement. And that is exactly what it means in the New Testament when it speaks of Christ coming on clouds. People saw him come in judgement, but it was not a visible appearance of Christ in person. Jesus predicted both the destruction of Jerusalem and His parousia in the same context. Since Jerusalem was destroyed, just as He said it would be, why would it be hard to believe that He came, just as he said he would? The destruction of Jerusalem was as substantial a manifestation of Christ's power and glory, as if he was himself to come visibly in the clouds of heaven.  The same sort of metaphor is carried on in the next verse

Matthew 24:31 (NKJV) "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Does the Lord, all of a sudden, drop the apocalyptic language and begin to speak literally? I think not. This also is apocalyptic language. The most important thing that I want you to see here is that whatever this means, it happened 2,000 years ago. In verse 34, Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place."

The generation that He was speaking to was to experience all that He had spoken of, including the gathering together of the elect. With that in mind, let's see if we can understand what is being spoken of here.

We need to try to get an understanding of the use of the trumpet in the Old Testament. The trumpet was used to call the people of Israel together.

Numbers 10:2 (NKJV) "Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps.

The trumpet was to be blown on the Day of Atonement in the jubilee year to signal the release of slaves and debt. Please note that AD 70 was a jubilee year.

Leviticus 25:9 (NKJV) 'Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.

We can get some Old Testament background on the trumpet and gathering from Isaiah.

Isaiah 27:12-13 (NKJV) And it shall come to pass in that day That the LORD will thresh, From the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; And you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. 13 So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.

Isaiah says that when the trumpet of God sounds, the outcasts of Israel would be gathered. This is a reiteration of an earlier Messianic promise of the regathering of the remnant.

Isaiah 11:1-5 (NKJV) There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

11 It shall come to pass in that day That the LORD shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea. 12 He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, And gather together the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.

Here we see the idea of gathering from the four corners of the earth. So a time was to come when God would gather His people together.

John Gill said, "The Jews say, that 'in the after-redemption (i.e., by Messiah) all Israel shall be gathered together by the sound of a trumpet, from the four parts of the world. Zohar in Lev. 47:1."

Jesus' disciples would be familiar with the Old Testament language and would no doubt remember Isaiah's promise when they heard Jesus speak of the sounding of the trumpet. We get a little more insight on trumpets and gathering from other passages where this same language is used:

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NKJV) Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Notice what happens here, the trumpet sounds and the dead are raised. This is a reference to the dead in Christ. The dead are raised into the presence of God, and the living are changed. The living put on immortality. Is this a different trumpet than the one Isaiah spoke of? No! The trumpet was sounded to gather God's people. This is a spiritual gathering into the presence of God, this is the resurrection. This is the same idea found in Matthew 24:31, the trumpet is sounded and the elect are gathered, or resurrected. Daniel connects the resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Daniel 12:1-2 (NKJV) "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. (see Matt. 24:21) And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Just in case we miss it, he further clarifies it as the time of Jerusalem's destruction in verse:

Daniel 12:7 (NKJV) Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.

Daniel is told that the resurrection will be when the power of the holy people (the Jews) has been completely shattered.

We also see this same idea of trumpet and gathering in:

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 (NKJV) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven (see Exodus 34:5) with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first (resurrection). 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Notice that Paul does not say, "THOSE WHO ARE ALIVE when Christ comes" ; he said, "WE WHO ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN UNTIL THE COMING OF THE LORD."

Again, we see the same idea, the trumpet sounds and the elect are gathered. "The Lord Himself will descend from heaven," the word "descend" was commonly used with priest's decent out of the temple to announce that atonement had been completed. The idea of, "being caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air," could be referring to the idea we looked at earlier of clouds representing God's presence. This is a picture of God's elect being brought into His presence in the Holy of Holies. Is Paul talking about a literal rapture here? I don't think so, but it is possible.

The parallel text in Luke helps us to see that this gathering is a time of redemption.

Luke 21:27-28 (NKJV) "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

The word "redemption" here is apolutrosis, (the act) ransom in full, i.e. (fig.) riddance, or salvation. These New Testament believers were saved by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

The payment had been made at Calvary, but until their high priest returned, their redemption was not complete.

Ephesians 4:30 (NKJV) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

They were sealed awaiting the day of redemption, which happened at the second coming when the Lord gathered His elect into his presence.

When Israel gathered each year for the Passover, the culmination event was the Day of Atonement. The High Priest entered the temple's Holy of Holies to offer the atoning sacrifice on behalf of the people. And while the priest was in the Holy of Holies, the people anxiously awaited his return. No return, no atonement.

The new covenant parallel to this is Jesus. He is our atoning sacrifice and our High Priest. The generation to whom Jesus spoke was the congregation waiting for His return. No return, no atonement, no redemption.

Hebrews 9:24-28 (NKJV) For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another; 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Jesus ascended out of the heavenly Holy of Holies signifying that our salvation was complete and bringing us into the presence of God. This could not be accomplished until the earthly Jewish temple had been destroyed.

Hebrews 9:8 (NKJV) the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.

The destruction of the Jerusalem and the temple was the sign of his coming in power and glory. Matthew 24 makes it clear that the great gathering of God's people took place when the earthly temple was destroyed in AD 70. No longer would the dead be confined to the waiting place called Hades. No longer would sin death separate us from God. This is what the resurrection was all about, the dead in Christ were resurrected into the presence of God. Those alive at that time were given immortality. This all happened in AD 70. Believers today don't need a resurrection because Jesus said, "Whosoever lives and believes in me will never die." We have immortality, and when we physically die, we will be in the presence of God. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.


 

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on February 1, 1998.

This Generation

Matthew 24:32-34

We are studying Jesus' sermon on the mount of Olives, commonly known as the Olivet Discourse. In this discourse, Jesus is answering the questions that the disciples asked Him on the mount of Olives. After pronouncing judgement upon the nation of Israel in the end of chapter 23, Jesus and His disciples leave the temple. As they are leaving the temple, Jesus tells the disciples that the temple shall be completely destroyed; "Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." In response to this, the disciples ask, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" As we have previously demonstrated, the disciple's viewed the destruction of the temple, the parousia of Christ, and the end of the age as synchronous events. The disciples question was basically two fold; when will these things happen, and what signs will indicate that they are about to happen? In verses 4-51, Jesus answers their questions. Please keep this in mind as you read Matthew 24, the Lord is answering His disciple's questions. Jesus told them a number of things that would happen before the end came; the gospel would be preached to all the world, they would see the "abomination of desolation" that Daniel had spoken of (Luke tells us that this refers to the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem). There would come a time of great tribulation. Then immediately after the tribulation, they would see the Son of man come in the clouds of heaven.

To summarize and illustrate what He had been teaching, he further says:

Matthew 24:32-34 (NKJV) "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 "So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near; at the doors! 34 "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

James Stuart Russell said, "Words have no meaning if this language, uttered on so solemn an occasion, and so precise and express in its import, does not affirm the near approach of the great event which occupies the whole discourse of our Lord." I agree, if this language doesn't mean that the things he spoke of are near, it doesn't mean anything.

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree:"

A popular interpretation of this passage considers the fig tree as a type, or illustration of Israel. According to this view, the fact that Israel became a nation on September 12, 1948 constitutes the budding of the fig tree, and may be taken as proof that the Lord's return is "near" in our day. We'll discuss this further a little later.

I think that the Lord is simply giving us a universal illustration here which the parallel account in Luke makes clear.

Luke 21:29-30 (NKJV) Then He spoke to them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 "When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.

This is just a simple illustration. When you see the leaves on the tree begin to come out, you know that summer is near. You can understand that, can't you? Jesus said that, just like you know that summer is near when you see the leaves coming out on the trees, "so also" when you see the things come to pass that I have been talking about, (The gospel preached to all the world, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, and the Son of man come in the clouds of heaven) you know that the end is near. It is just like someone standing at the door about to enter.

James used this same illustration of "standing at the door" to speak of the nearness of the Lord's return.

James 5:7-9 (NKJV) Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!

Verse 33 says, "So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near; at the doors!" There is question about what the "it" is that is near. This question is cleared up in the parallel passage in Luke.

Luke 21:31 (NKJV) "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.

Now, we know from other verses that the kingdom of God had come to them already:

Luke 11:20 (NKJV) "But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 "nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

In our text in Matthew 24:33, He is referring to the full manifestation of the kingdom that would come in power and glory at 70 AD.

Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

Jesus here, very plainly and very clearly, tells His disciples that ALL of the things he had mentioned would come to pass in THEIR GENERATION. This includes the gospel being preached in all the world, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, and the coming of the Son of man. This is so clear that it greatly troubles those who hold to a futuristic eschatology. Listen to some comments made on this verse.

C.S. Lewis said, "The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, 'this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.' And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible." (Essay "The World's Last Night" (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385)

Because of his physical view of the nature of the Second coming, he felt that it hadn't happened yet, and therefore Jesus had been wrong. That would be, in fact, much more than embarrassing, it would be devastating to the credibility of Jesus. If Jesus was wrong, as Lewis says he was, what else might he have been wrong about? Will those who believe in Him truly have everlasting life? Jesus wasn't wrong, Lewis was the one who was wrong. We can count on the truthfulness of what Jesus tells us. Aren't you glad of that?

Others also had trouble with this verse. The New Jerome Commentary says "This is a troublesome verse." (p. 667) W. Robertson Nicholl said, "What is said therein is so perplexing as to tempt a modern expositor to wish it had not been there, or to have recourse to critical expedients to eliminate it from the text." (The Expositor's Greek Testament, p. 294)

This verse doesn't fit into their eschatology so they would like to eliminate it. This verse is devastating to a futuristic eschatology, so let's examine it carefully and make sure we understand exactly what Jesus is saying. Let's start by examining the meaning of the word generation. Generation, in our text, comes from the Greek word genea, which means, by implication an age. In Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, we can see that the "genea." means, "The whole multitude of men living at the same time." William F. Arndt and Wilber Gingrich, (A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature) define "genea" as, "basically, the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time. Contemporaries."

If you look at the way Jesus used the word "generation," I think it will be abundantly clear that it always refers to His contemporaries, the Jewish people of His own period. Let's look at a few of the uses of "generation."

Matthew 23:35-36 (NKJV) "that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Jesus is in the temple speaking to the Jews, he says that all the judgement that he had spoken about would come upon them. I don't know of any commentator who understands this as referring to any other than the existing generation.

Luke 17:24-25 (NKJV) "For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 25 "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

What generation did Christ suffer many things from, and what generation rejected Him? It is clear, He is speaking of His contemporaries. Look at how some of the translations deal with this verse.

New English Bible: "I tell you this: the present generation will live to see it all."

Today's English Version: "Remember this! All these things will happen before the people now living have all died."

Moffatt's Translation:"I tell you truly, the present generation will not pass away, till all this happens."

Weymouth's Translation: "I tell you in solemn truth that the present generation will certainly not pass away until all this has taken place."

These translations make it quite clear. The meaning of the word was that of the "present" generation in the time of Christ; not to a future generation thousands of years away.

So in etymology and usage, "generation" means those born at the same time, Contemporaries.

How long is a generation?

John Walvoord said, "A generation is normally from thirty to one hundred years." Now, he is the only one I know of who gives it that broad of a span. Most commentators see a generation as referring to a thirty to forty year time. More important then that, what does the Bible say about the time of a generation? Let's look and see.

Matthew 1:17 (NKJV) So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

In this genealogical table, we have data to estimate the length of a generation. It tells us that from the captivity in Babylon until Christ are fourteen generations. Now the date of the captivity, in the reign of Zedekiah, is said to be 586 BC. From 586 BC until the birth of Christ would be about 586 years which, divided by fourteen, makes the average length of a generation about 41 years.

Hebrews 3:8-10 (NKJV) Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.'

Numbers 32:13 (NKJV) "So the Lord's anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone.

Forty years is a significant number in the Bible, the children of Israel wondered in the wilderness for forty years before entering the promise land. The New Testament saints also were in a transition period for forty years before entering the New Jerusalem, which is above. David reigned for forty years. I believe that Christ's reign from Pentecost to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, was also a forty year reign which Revelation 20 refers to as the millennial reign of Christ.

Some have tried to twist the etymology of the word "generation" in Matthew 24:34 to make it mean "race,"and try to make Jesus say that all these things would happen before the "race" of Jews had passed away. By doing this, they think they can expand the time of the second coming by thousands of years. There is no biblical or linguistic justification for such a position. Generation does NOT mean race!

C.I. Scofield, in his Bible's reference to this verse (Matt. 24:34), recognized this, and actually SWITCHED the definition of the word from that of genea to that of genos, which is an entirely different word!

Scofield said, (p. 1034, old edition, Scofield Reference Bible): "Gr. genea, the primary definition of which is, 'race, kind, family, stock, breed.' (So all lexicons.) That the word is used in this sense here is sure because none of 'these things,' the world-wide preaching of the kingdom, the great tribulation, the return of the Lord in visible glory, and the regathering of the elect, occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70. The promise is, therefore, that the generation-- nation, or family of Israel-- will be preserved unto 'these things'; a promise wonderfully fulfilled to this day."

Scofield used the wrong Greek word with his definition. He did so because of his view of the nature of the second coming. Since he felt that these things hadn't happened yet he had to change the meaning of the word genea. The definition he gives is for the Greek word, "genos." Genos is not the word used in Matthew 24:34. Peter uses the word "genos" in:

1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Here it is evident that "genos" means, kind, nation, offfspring. But this is not the word used in Matthew 24:34.

The following quote by David Chilton is very informative: "Some have sought to get around the force of this text by saying that the word generation here really means race, and that Jesus was simply saying that the Jewish race would not die out until all these things took place. Is that true? I challenge you: Get out your concordance and look up every New Testament occurrence of the word generation (in Greek, genea) and see if it ever means 'race' in any other context. Here are all the references for the Gospels: Matthew 1:17; 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12, 38; 9:19; 13:30; Luke 1:48, 50; 7:31; 9:41; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51;18:8; 17:25; 21:32. Not one of these references is speaking of the entire Jewish race over thousands of years; all use the word in its normal sense of the sum total of those living at the same time. It always refers to contemporaries. In fact, those who say it means "race" tend to acknowledge this fact, but explain that the word suddenly changes its meaning when Jesus uses it in Matthew 24!"

What Jesus meant by all those things happening in that generation, including the parousia of Christ, was that they would all happen while some of those folks to whom He preached were still alive, just as he said they would be in:

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

He also told His disciples this in:

Matthew 10:23 (NKJV) "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Dispensationalists, George Meisiner tries to explain "this generation" this way, "Because Jesus speaks of Jews who see all the signs of the end times, it is best to understand 'generation' as those contemporaries living during the Tribulation. 'This' generation, then, is the Jewish contemporaries coexisting during Daniel's 70th Week; they see all eleven signs of Matthew 24:4-24. In other words, only those who see all the buds of the fig tree, or the signs, are the antecedent of "this generation."

The tribulational generation 'will by no means pass away,' emphasizing its existence throughout the seven year period; events do not annihilate them. Jesus does not mean that each and every Jew survives. Over half of them do not, yet that generation, as a whole, goes through the entire seven years 'till all these things are fulfilled.'" ("The Parable of the Fig Tree" (Matthew 24:32-36) by George E. Meisinger")

So, he is saying that it does not mean Jesus' contemporaries, but the generation that is alive when the tribulation starts, which he sees as some time in our future. Hal Lindsey calls this the "terminal generation."

Along the same line, some say that the "generation" Jesus mentioned would be the generation following the event of Israel becoming a nation in 1948. Then, taking a generation as forty years, they said that the second coming would happen in September of 1988. Do you remember the book, "88 reasons why the rapture will happen in 1988?"

Hal Lindsey said, "When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the 'fig tree' put forth its first leaves.

Jesus said that this would indicate that He was 'at the door,' ready to return. Then He said, 'Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:34 NASB).

What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs -- chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so." (The Late Great Planet Earth, pp. 53-54).

Hal says that the chief sign would be the rebirth of Israel. Where in Matthew 24 do you see anything remotely close to speaking about a rebirth of Israel? It is speaking about Israel's destruction, not its rebirth! He also says that within forty years of 1948, all these things could take place. Well, it has been fifty years and the temple has not even been rebuilt, so it will be a good while before it can be destroyed. It looks like Hal was way off.

Another Dispensationalists, Robert Deffinbaugh, deals with it this way, "In verse 32, Jesus said that 'this generation' would not pass away until all of 'these things' had come to pass. The difficulty with these words should be obvious. How can Jesus say that 'this generation' would not pass away until all these things come to pass when 'all these things' occur over what we can now see to be nearly 2,000 years? The events described in these verses encompass many generations, so that no one generation will see all of them fulfilled in their lifetime.

The difficulties with this verse have led some to attempt to redefine the term 'generation,' so that it may be taken more broadly, to mean either 'mankind' or 'Israel.' I do not think that the context of Luke (or the term 'generation' itself) will allow this broadening. I believe that that generation was specifically in view. That generation had a particular privilege and a particular responsibility, both related to being those who witnessed the coming of the Christ. That generation also had a particular judgment, due to its rejection of Messiah.

I understand, therefore, that when Jesus said 'that generation' would not pass away until 'all these things' had come to pass, He was referring to that generation of Israelites. How, then, do we square this with the fact that 'all these things' must come to pass, when we know that some will fall upon generations to come? My best answer is that 'all these things' really happen twice, not once. They will happen once, to that generation. And, they will happen a second time, in the last days, related to Christ's return. Thus, Jerusalem was sacked in 70 A.D., in fulfillment of our Lord's words. And so, too, Jerusalem will be trodden under the feet of the Gentiles again, during the tribulation (Revelation 11:2-3). There is also a sense in which much of what our Lord predicted would happen (e.g. persecution, betrayal by family, etc.) is something which saints have experienced throughout the intervening centuries.

Our Lord's words, then, have relevance to those who heard Him speak these words. They also have had relevance to the saints over the centuries. And they will be relevant to the saints of the last days as well. No one dares to take these words idly, as though they will relate to a future people at a future time. Jesus does not allow this mentality to prevail." ("Luke: The Gospel of the Gentiles" by Robert Deffinbaugh)

Now let me ask you, does Jesus say, "all these things will come upon this and that generation?" He said "all these things" would be fulfilled in His generation. So is the gospel preached to all the world twice? Are there two abomination of desolations? Are there two tribulations? Is the Son of man to return in clouds twice? Where is one verse of Scripture to indicate this double fulfillment? There is absolutely nothing in Matthew 24 to indicate a double fulfillment, nothing!

When Jesus said "all these things" would occur before that generation was over, He was talking about everything that He had been discussing from verse 4 through verse 33. This included the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory. The disciple's question had been when will your parousia be, and in verse 34, He tells them it will happen in their generation.

If the Lord's teaching on His second coming doesn't agree with our concept of it, what should we do? We need to change our concepts to line up with His teaching, not twist His words to make them fit our views. This is the Word of God, let's not twist it and distort it, let's simply submit to it.

Heinrich Meyer (1852) said, "That the second advent itself is intended to be included, is likewise evident from v. 36, in which the subject of the day and hour of the advent is introduced."

Before closing, I would like to expound a little on the idea of generation meaning race. We have already shown that this is not a legitimate translation of genea. But for those who attempt to translate it as "this race of Jews will not pass, till all these things are fulfilled," it must be understood that THERE IS NO JEWISH RACE TODAY.

Many people today still consider the Jewish people as a race. Numerous verses identify Israel, in New Testament prophecy, in terms of their tribal associations; however, these associations do not extend beyond the first century. One example of this is Matthew 24:30, which we looked at last week, where Christ declares that "the tribes of the (land) shall mourn."

After the destruction of Jerusalem, however, the nation of Israel, after the flesh, was scattered throughout the earth, and lost all tribal relations. This scattering was made immutable due to the fact that all tribal genealogical records were destroyed with the Temple in A.D. 70. The simple fact is that there is no existing Jewish race.

     Consider the following quotations:

The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1973)
"The Jews As A Race: The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to the popular view, there is no Jewish race. Anthropornetric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts of the world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the important physical characteristics." (vol. 12, page 1054)

Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem (1971)
"It is a common assumption, and one that sometimes seems ineradicable even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that the Jews of today constitute a race, a homogeneous entity easily recognizable. From the preceding discussion of the origin and early history of the Jews, it should be clear that in the course of their formation as a people and a nation they had already assimilated a variety of racial strains from people moving into the general area they occupied. This had taken place by interbreeding and then by conversion to Judaism of a considerable number of communities. . . ."

"Thus, the diversity of the racial and genetic attributes of various Jewish colonies of today renders any unified racial classification of them a contradiction in terms. Despite this, many people readily accept the notion that they are a distinct race. This is probably reinforced by the fact that some Jews are recognizably different in appearance from the surrounding population. That many cannot be easily identified is overlooked and the stereotype for some is extended to all - a not uncommon phenomenon" (Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem, 1971, vol. 3, p. 50).

Encyclopedia Americana (1986)
"Racial and Ethnic Considerations. Some theorists have considered the Jews a distinct race, although this has no factual basis. In every country in which the Jews lived for a considerable time, their physical traits came to approximate those of the indigenous people. Hence the Jews belong to several distinct racial types, ranging, for example, from fair to dark. Among the reasons for this phenomenon are voluntary or involuntary miscegenation and the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism" (Encyclopedia Americana, 1986, vol. 16, p. 71).

Collier's Encyclopedia (1977)
"A common error and persistent modern myth is the designation of the Jews as a 'race! This is scientifically fallacious, from the standpoint of both physical and historical tradition. Investigations by anthropologists have shown that Jews are by no means uniform in physical character and that they nearly always reflect the physical and mental characteristics of the people among whom they live" (Collier's Encyclopedia, 1977, vol. 13, p. 573).

Today, being a Jew simply means that one is of the Judaistic religion or a convert to it, or else in a "brotherhood" of those who are. Therefore, being a Jew has nothing to do with race. We are familiar with a number of notable figures, such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, and Tom Arnold, in fact, who became Jews by conversion to the religion of Judaism.

John Bray said, "Many Christians do not know that the vast majority of so-called Jews in the world today are the Ashkenazim Jews, while the remainder of them are the Sephardim Jews. The Ashkenazim Jews have as their background not the nation of Israel but a country called Khazaria, which country at one time was the largest country in Europe. The settlers of Khazaria were Turks and Huns. In A.D. 740 King Bulan of Khazaria decided to adopt the Judaistic religion for his country. A number of Jews were already living there. So he converted to Judaism, along with all his officials, and whole nation ended up being known as a nation of Jews. In 970 Russia came in and dominated the situation, and the Khazars were scattered, many of them going down into Poland and Lithuania. Where at the dawn of our modern civilization the largest concentration of Jews were found. Today, the largest percentage of so-called Jews in the world have as their background this group of people." (This information is fully documented in detail in John Bray's book, Israel in Bible Prophecy)

Funk and Wagnall's New Encyclopedia (1970)
"In 1970 the Israeli Knesset adopted legislation defining a Jew as one born of a Jewish mother or a convert." (vol. 14, p. 214)

H.G. Wells
"There can be little doubt that the scattered Phoenicians in Spain and Africa and throughout the Mediterranean, speaking as they did a language closely akin to Hebrew and being deprived of their authentic political rights, became proselytes to Judaism. For phases of vigorous proselytism alternated with phases of exclusive jealousy in Jewish history. On one occasion the Idumeans, being conquered, were all forcibly made Jews. There were Arab tribes who were Jews in the time of Muhammad, and a Turkish people who were mainly Jews in South Russia in the ninth century. Judaism is indeed the reconstructed political ideal of many shattered peoples - mainly Semitic.... The main part of Jewry never was in Judea and had never come out of Judea" (The Outline of History,p. 505).

Therefore, we can clearly and confidently assert that there is no such thing as a Jewish race, nor ever can there be.

These facts are devastating to Dispensationalism. Obviously, if the nation that they call the heir of Israel is shown to have no relationship to the pre-desolation nation, there is no credibility to that system. There are no twelve tribes today, there is no Jewish race today.

We know that there is no possibility that this passage of the Olivet Discourse has any relation to a future Jewish race, since there is no such thing. Since the fall of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the nation of Israel in the first century, the nation calling itself Israel has consisted of a collection of people from nearly every nation in the world, with no relation to the twelve tribes of the historical nation known as Israel. Any attempts to state that there is, or will ever again be, a race of Israelites are proven to be futile and of no force. There is no Jewish race. So, as you can see, to try to translate the word genea as race, does not fly.

Bishop Newton commenting on Matthew 24:34 said this, "It is to me a wonder how any man can refer part of the foregoing discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem, and part to the end of the world, or any other distant event, when it is here said, so positively, in the conclusion; All these things shall be fulfilled in this generation. It seemeth as if our Saviour was aware of some misapplication of his words, by adding yet greater force and emphasis to his affirmation, verse 35, 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.'"

Matthew 24 was a prophecy that has already been fulfilled, and therefore, has no future fulfillment at all today. It all happened in the generation that heard Jesus speak these words. Jesus said of the days of Jerusalem's fall in 70 AD:

Luke 21:22 (NKJV) "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

All prophecy was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the life time of the generation to which Jesus spoke. Let's not twist and distort Jesus' words to make them fit our views, let's change our views to line up with His words.


 

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on February 8, 1998.

Global Holocaust or Covenantal Change?

Matthew 24:35

Today in our study of the Olivet Discourse, we come to verse 35 where Jesus tells His disciples that, "Heaven and earth will pass away." Peter talked about this same idea in:

2 Peter 3:10-12 (NKJV) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

We know what Jesus and Peter said, but what did they mean? Were they talking about a time to come when the earth will be destroyed by fire? A time when the whole planet will explode and life, as we now know it, will end? It sure looks like that to us, doesn't it?

Think about what we have seen thus far in Matthew 24: Jesus taught that the destruction of Jerusalem would be a time of unprecedented tribulation, and a sign of His return:

Matthew 24:21-22 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

But before this great holocaust, that would not be surpassed, occurred, Christians prayed for their Lord to return:

1 Corinthians 16:22 (NKJV) If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!

Revelation 22:20 (NKJV) He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now, according to the way his coming is commonly understood today, this would mean that they would be praying for an instantaneous fiery destruction of the "whole earth." That not only would far surpass the destruction of Jerusalem, it would wipe out "all flesh" on the earth.

The futurists today can't escape this ridiculous dilemma. In their view of the end, those first-century saints would be waiting for the fall-of-Jerusalem holocaust, being assured by Jesus that all flesh would not perish, while at the SAME TIME they would be waiting, watching, and praying for Christ to come in a destruction that wipes out EVERYBODY. No flesh would be spared. The one destruction would vindicate gospel faith, the other one would extinguish it from the earth. I doubt if the latter was that which the prophets had in mind when they spoke of a coming age, an everlasting age, wherein "all families of the earth" would be blessed.

The Bible is not a history of the planet from its creation to its ultimate destruction. The Bible is about spiritual truths made known through physical things. Genesis introduces spiritual death. Revelation tells how death is conquered. The theme of the Bible is the redemption of man, not the history of the planet. Please keep that in mind.

When I first came to see as truth the fact that the Lord had come in 70 AD and all prophecy had been fulfilled, my first objection was, "This means we are living in the new heaven and the new earth!" My response to that was, "Yea right! If this is the New heaven and earth, we got ripped off." Why did I feel that way? It was because I was looking for a physical fulfillment of 2 Peter 3. I thought that those passages were speaking of physical events. I thought that because I was thinking like a twentieth century American and not like a first century Jew. I didn't understand apocalyptic language. But Jesus' disciples and those living in the first century were very familiar with apocalyptic language. Remember what Jesus had been talking about in Matthew 24C He was telling his disciples of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. That Old Covenant nation was going to pass away in their generation. Remember, this whole chapter is an answer to their question about when the temple was to be destroyed and the Jewish age would end.

John Brown (1853) said, " 'Heaven and earth passing,' understood literally, is the dissolution of the present system of the universe, and the period when that is to take place, is called the 'end of the world.' But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens" (vol. 1, p. 170)

"It appears, then, that Scripture being the best interpreter of Scripture, we have in the Old Testament a key to the interpretation of the prophecies in the New. The same symbolism is found in both, and the imagery of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets helps us to understand the imagery of St. Matthew, St. Peter, and St. John. As the dissolution of the material world is not necessary to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, neither is it necessary to the accomplishment of the predictions of the New Testament." (vol. i. p.200).

One of the fundamentals of hermeneutics is to ask, "What did the passage mean to the recipients of the message?" Modern prophetic interpreters would tell you that these passages meant little or nothing to the hearers because the text dealt with matters that would take place 2,000 years later. That is, God really intended these prophecies for us and not for the people to whom they were spoken or written.

But is this what the Bible teaches? What does God reveal about the timing of these events? We saw last week in our study, in verse 34, Christ states specifically, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place" (Matt. 24:34). "This generation" refers to the time period to which Jesus was speaking. The Bible is clear, that Jesus was warning His generation of impending judgment.

If you want to know what a term means in the New Testament in relation to prophecy, you need to go back to the Old Testament and see what it meant there. If it was used a certain way in the Old Testament, wouldn't it make sense that Jesus and the New Testament writer would use those expressions in the same way? We must get our understanding of "heaven and earth" from the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 31:30 (NKJV) Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended:

Deuteronomy 32:1 (NKJV) "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

In the song of Moses God is speaking to Israel. He calls them, "O heavens," and, "O earth." He is clearly not speaking to the physical heavens and earth, but to Israel. Notice what he says to them in:

Deuteronomy 32:22 (NKJV) For a fire is kindled by my anger, And shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

God is not talking here about burning up the physical earth. God is using apocalyptic and symbolic language to warn Israel of judgement that He will bring upon them. When Israel is finally destroyed, it is as though heaven and earth are burned up.

In biblical apocalyptic language, "heavens" refers to governments and rulers, and "earth" refers to the nation of people. This can be seen in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 1:1-2 (NKJV) The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me;

Isaiah 1:10 (NKJV) Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah:

God is still talking to Israel and He calls them, "Sodom and Gomorrah." The literal Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed for some time. Here we see "rulers" used for "heavens" in verse 2, and "people" used for "earth." So the terms, "heaven and earth" are used to speak of rulers and people of a nation.

Isaiah 34:4-5 (NKJV) All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree. 5 "For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; Indeed it shall come down on Edom, And on the people of My curse, for judgment.

Here we have a description of the fall of Edom; notice the language that is used. This is Biblical language to describe the fall of a nation. It should be clear that it is not to be taken literally. God says that, "His sword will be bathed in heaven," then explains what He means by saying "It shall come down on Edom." The NIV puts it this way, "My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed." So, God speaks of His sword being bathed in heaven, meaning the nation Edom, not the literal heaven. Edom shall be rolled up like a scroll.

Isaiah 51:13-16 (NKJV) And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? 14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, That he should not die in the pit, And that his bread should not fail. 15 But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared; The LORD of hosts is His name. 16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, 'You are My people.'"

The time of planting the heavens and laying the foundation of the earth that is referred to here, was performed by God when He divided the sea (ver. 15) and gave the law (ver. 16), and said to Zion, "Thou art my people@; that is, when He took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a covenant nation. He planted the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth: that is, brought forth order, and government.

If the destruction of heaven and earth were to be taken literally in all of the Old Testament passages, it would mean that heaven and earth were destroyed a bunch of times. This language is clearly not literal, but figurative and apocalyptic.

Gary DeMar (1996) said, "Jesus does not change subjects when He assures the disciples that >heaven and earth will pass away.' Rather, He merely affirms His prior predictions, which are recorded in Matthew 24:29n31. Verse 36 is a summary and confirmation statement of these verses.(6) Keep in mind that the central focus of the Olivet Discourse is the desolation of the >house' and >world' of apostate Israel (23:36). The old world of Judaism, represented by the earthly temple, is taken apart stone by stone (24:2). James Jordan writes, "each time God brought judgment on His people during the Old Covenant, there was a sense in which an old heavens and earth was replaced with a new one: New rulers were set up, a new symbolic world model was built (Tabernacle, Temple), and so forth."(7) The New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant with new leaders, a new priesthood, new sacraments, a new sacrifice, a new tabernacle (John 1:14), and a new temple (John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21). In essence, a new heaven and earth.

The darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars, coupled with the shaking of the heavens (24:29), are more descriptive ways of saying that "heaven and earth will pass away" (24:35). In other contexts, when stars fall, they fall to the earth, a sure sign of temporal judgment (Isaiah 14:12; Daniel 8:10; Revelation 6:13; 9:1; 12:4). So then, the "passing away of heaven and earth" is the passing away of the old covenant world of Judaism led and upheld by those who "crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8). " The Hebrew people understood this kind of language.

So in Matthew 24:35, Jesus is talking about the passing away of Israel when He speaks of heaven and earth passing away. This is what the whole chapter is about C the destruction and passing away of the nation Israel.

Nowhere do the Scriptures teach that the physical creation will be destroyed. Notice what God said after the flood of Noah's day.

Genesis 8:21 (NKJV) And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

Now, folks will say that the Lord destroyed the earth by water one time and He'll destroy it by fire the next time. Is God's promise here to just change his method of destroying everything? Is there comfort in being destroyed by fire instead of water? Or is he promising not to destroy the earth again?

Now, some of you Bible students might say, "What about Psalm 102, that predicts the destruction of the physical planet- doesn't it?" Let's look at it:

Psalms 102:25-28 (KJV) Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: 27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. 28 The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.

This prophecy of David sure sounds like it is referring to the physical earth, doesn't it? As always, the New Testament gives us insight and illumination to the Old Testament. In Hebrews 1, we find the writer quoting this prophecy word for word.

Hebrews 1:10-12 (KJV) And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the fulfillment of these is related to the establishment of the eternal kingdom of Christ.

Hebrews 1:8-9 (KJV) But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

The heavens and the earth (Old Covenant Israel) would perish, but Christ and his throne would remain for ever and ever. The superiority of Christ over angels is shown in that he created the world wherein they were ministering spirits.

Hebrews 1:7 (NKJV) And of the angels He says: "Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire."

Hebrews 2:1-5 (NKJV) Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? 5 For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.

Verse 2 speaks of the Sinaic covenant which was given by angels and compares it to the New covenant salvation that Christ brings. In Hebrews 2:5, the world to come would not be in subjection to angels, in contrast to the world that then was, which would pass away.

How is the world or the heavens and earth of old going to perish? David said they shall, "wax old like a garment," and then they would be "changed." Is it just a coincidence that the Bible speaks of the passing away of the old covenant using the same language?

Hebrews 8:13 (KJV) In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

The same Greek word gerasko, (ghay-ras'-ko) is translated "waxeth" in Hebrews 1:11 and 8:13. The writer here says that the old covenant is about to pass away. Not many years later, it did in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jesus predicted the end of the Jewish age in Matthew 24, and said it would happen in His generation. David said the heavens and earth would perish, but Christ would remain, and this is exactly what Christ taught in Matthew 24:35.

The Bible does not speak of "the end of time." The expression "the end time" or the "time of the end" is found in Scripture, but nowhere in the Bible can we find the expression "the end of time." The expression "the end time" or the "time of the end" speaks of the end of an age, but the end of an age is not the end of time. Scripture does not indicate that God has any plan to destroy this created world that we enjoy.

Peter connects the destruction of heaven and earth with the "day of the Lord:@

2 Peter 3:10 (NKJV) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

What is the day of the Lord? Peter connects "his coming" (verse 4) with "the day of the Lord" (verse 10), to the destruction of the heavens and earth (verse 10 &12). The "day of the Lord" is an expression also taken from the Old Testament, and was used many times as regards to the judgements and destruction of various nations. It usually meant a time when God Himself would punish or judge people by the means of armies of other people. The invading armies of other nations brought judgement and destruction upon various nations, and these times were each called "the day of the Lord" when they were proclaimed of the Lord.

While the various references to "the day of the Lord" in the old Testament referred to various nations, the reference in all such expressions in the New Testament are to that "day of the Lord" in AD 70, when the nation Israel was destroyed.

What is it that causes heaven and earth to pass away? Many today would say it is a nuclear holocaust. But the Bible tells us that the old heaven and earth flees from the face of the Lord.

Revelation 20:11 (NKJV) Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

The word "face" is used in Scripture to denote the arrival or full presence of a person. The old covenant age fled from the face of Christ at His parousia. He came in judgement on Israel.

Well, what was to happen when heaven and earth passed away? In our text in Matthew 24:35, Jesus doesn't tell us but Peter does.

2 Peter 3:13 (NKJV) Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

AAccording to His promise@ C where do you find the promise of a New heaven and new earth?

Isaiah 65:17 (NKJV) "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Isaiah 66:22 (NKJV) "For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me," says the LORD, "So shall your descendants and your name remain.

Let's look at the context of these verses in Isaiah 65:

Isaiah 65:1 (NKJV) "I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' To a nation that was not called by My name.

This is speaking of the Gentiles who would behold the LordC those who had not been called by His name. But notice what it says about Israel:

2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; 3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick; 4 Who sit among the graves, And spend the night in the tombs; Who eat swine's flesh, And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels; 5 Who say, 'Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day. 6 "Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay; Even repay into their bosom; 7 Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together," Says the LORD, "Who have burned incense on the mountains And blasphemed Me on the hills; Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom."

God will destroy disobedient Israel, but He would preserve a remnant:

8 Thus says the LORD: "As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, 'Do not destroy it, For a blessing is in it,' So will I do for My servants' sake, That I may not destroy them all. 9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, And from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, And My servants shall dwell there. 10 Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, For My people who have sought Me.

Here he talks of an "heir" coming out of Judah who will be his elect.

11 "But you are those who forsake the LORD, Who forget My holy mountain, Who prepare a table for Gad, And who furnish a drink offering for Meni. 12 Therefore I will number you for the sword, And you shall all bow down to the slaughter; Because, when I called, you did not answer; When I spoke, you did not hear, But did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight." 13 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; 14 Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. 15 You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord GOD will slay you, And call His servants by another name; 16 So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes.

In these verses, we see the fleshly Israel contrasted to the spiritual Israel C the elect. God is going to slay that fleshly nation of Israel and take a new people, the church. This is the context of verse 17:

17 "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.

If we take the statements from the scriptures at face value, then we should conclude that the first heavens and the first earth passed away and was replaced by the glorious reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, the kingdom without end. The new heaven and earth stands in contrast to the Jewish world, not this present material world.

Peter doesn't tell us much about this New Heaven and earth except that it is a place where righteousness dwells, just as it does in the New Covenant.

2 Corinthians 3:9 (NKJV) For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.

Daniel tells us in chapter 9, that at the end of the seventy weeks after "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem) that "everlasting righteousness shall be brought in."

The Scriptures all bear this out; the old covenant nation is destroyed and the new covenant is fully consummated. It is an eternal covenant of righteousness.

If you want to know more about the new heaven and earth, you have to look to John in his book of Revelation.

Revelation 21:1 (NKJV) Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

Here we see what happens after the old Heaven and earth are destroyed. We see the New Heaven and earth.

Revelation 21:2 (NKJV) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Who is this bride and what is this holy city? Verse 9 tells us who the bride is:

Revelation 21:9 (NKJV) Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife."

The bride is the Lamb's wife. We know from Ephesians 5, that the bride is the church. The bride of Christ is the totality of God's elect.

The book of Revelation is concerned about two women. One woman is the wife of Jehovah. She was a harlot, so God divorced her. Babylon is a picture of Israel who is this unfaithful wife of Jehovah. The other woman is the bride, the wife of Jesus Christ, the New Jerusalem. She comes down out of heaven indicating that she originates in heaven, not on earth.

Revelation 21:10 (NKJV) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

Revelation is also concerned about two cities. The old Jerusalem, which was physical Israel, and the new Jerusalem, which is the bride of Christ. The old city was destroyed but the new city that takes its place is that city which is the bride of Jesus Christ.

Revelation is dealing with two Israels of God, as presented in Paul's allegory in Galatians 4:21-31. In that allegory we have two women who are also said to be two cities, and they derive their origin from two covenants, giving birth to two kinds of children. The first is Hagar, answering to literal Jerusalem, unto whom is born a nation after the flesh. The second is Sarah, answering to new Jerusalem, unto whom is born a nation after the Spirit. These two nations, or Israels, are the theme of Old Testament prophecy, the gospels, the epistles, and finally the Revelation message.

We're often taught that after this life is over, with all its misery and heartache, that we are going to walk on streets of gold in heaven. It does say that this city will have streets of gold, but we must remember that Revelation was written in figurative or apocalyptic language. God is not describing a materialistic city. He is describing His church, His people who are going to live and be with him forever. Let me ask you a question; seriously, would you rather walk on streets of gold or ride a Harley down a country road? The walls of jasper and gates of pearl speak of the blessedness of the new covenant.

Revelation 21:22 (NKJV) But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

There is no temple in this city. Why? The temple represented the presence of God. In the New Jerusalem, we are in the presence of God, we need no temple.

Revelation 21:3 (NKJV) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

This age in which we now live is the New covenant age. We are the New Jerusalem, God's holy bride.

Revelation 21:24 (NKJV) And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.

The saved of the nations walk in the light of this holy city. We are the light of the world today, a city set on a hill.

Revelation 21:25 (NKJV) Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

What does that mean? Look at Isaiah 60:11:

Isaiah 60:11 (NKJV) Therefore your gates shall be open continually; They shall not be shut day or night, That men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, And their kings in procession.

Here we see the reason that these gates are never shut; that men may bring into it the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession. This is a reference to the power of the gospel. The next verse tells us that only the elect enter it.

Revelation 21:27 (NKJV) But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Salvation is always available, the gates are always open to this city. Look at chapter 22.

Revelation 22:1-2 (NKJV) And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Here the river of the water of life flows forth from the temple to the nations of the world. The tree of life is there for the healing of the nations. The river of the water of life was predicted in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 47

Ezekiel 47:1-12 (NKJV) Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. 3 And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4 Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5 Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. 6 He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river. 7 When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8 Then he said to me: "This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9 "And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. 10 "It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. 11 "But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. 12 "Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."

This river comes forth from the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22:1-2, the church, the bride of Christ. We are to be involved in taking the water of life to the nations. What is the water of life?

Revelation 22:17 (NKJV) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

This is a call to salvation! If the new heavens and the new earth are supposed to be the eternal state, why is the invitation to salvation still going out? The new heaven and earth is the New Covenant, the church. And from the church go forth the water of life for the healing of the nations.

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:

John 4:10-14 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." 11 The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" 13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

This water is springing up in the person. In Ezekiel, the water flows out from the temple. What is the temple? We are the temple. We are the dwelling place of God.

John 7:37-38 (NKJV) On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

What Scripture predicted this? Ezekiel 47!

John 7:39 (NKJV) But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 4:14 (NKJV) "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

We are now living in the new heaven and earth. We are the new Jerusalem, which is the bride of Christ. Jesus Christ and His Father are among us and we need no temple, we need none of the rituals and ceremonies of the old heaven and the old earth. We are in God's presence now and forevermore.

 C.H. Spurgeon(1865) said, "Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, or any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under the new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it." (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354).

The old heavens and earth of Judaism have passed away, and we now live in the new heavens and new earth of the New covenant. May God help us to fully understand and appreciate our position in the new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells, and where God dwells with His people.

 

 

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on February 15, 1998.

 
A Third Coming?

Matthew 24:36-42

We are studying the Olivet Discourse of our Lord found in Matthew 24. This is a very important chapter; it is in fact the heart of New Testament prophecy. We have seen that looking at this text through first century glasses gives us a whole new meaning of Jesus' words. Jesus is not talking to us (twentieth century Americans), but to His disciples (first century Jews). Things that were future (to them), at the time of the writing, are ancient history to us. This whole discourse is concerned with answering the disciple's questions concerning the end of the Jewish age (not world) and the parousia of Christ, both of which would be demonstrated by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple. The majority of Christisdom looks for a future Second Coming of Christ, but according to Jesus' own words, all these things took place in "that generation," to whom He spoke. Jesus came in 70 AD in power and great glory and His coming was manifested in the destruction of Jerusalem. The heavens and earth of Old Covenant Israel passed away and the new heavens and earth of the New Covenant, the church, were consummated.

Among those who are partial preterist, there is a great deal of agreement with all I have said in the interpretation and the application of Matthew 24:1-35 to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Among these same preterists, however, a debate arises over a proposed shift in topics and eras with verses 36 being seen as a time transition verse. The debate concerns whether Christ dealt with two issues (the destruction of Jerusalem vs.1-35- and the end of the world vs36ff.) or just one, that being the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish age.

Matthew 24:36 (NKJV) "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

J. Marcellus Kik writes in his commentary on Jesus' Olivet Discourse, An Eschatology of Victory, that "many have recognized that with verse 36 a change in subject matter occurs. [Charles H.] Spurgeon indicates this in his commentary on verse 36 [of Matthew 24]: 'There is a manifest change in our Lord's words here, which clearly indicates that they refer to His last great coming to judgment.'" Kenneth L. Gentry, author of many helpful works on prophecy, takes a similar view.

 Is it a big deal if Matthew 24 can be divided or not? Absolutely! If the chapter is only dealing with a first century fulfillment, which I believe it is, then the futurist has no text to indicate a future coming of Christ. And he must admit that the Parousia of Christ was a first century spiritual event which keeps in tact all the imminent time statements made concerning His coming (e.g. Matt.16:27-28; Lk.21:20-36; Jn.21:22-23; Rom.13:11-12; 1 Cor.1:4-8; Heb.8:13; 10:25,37; Jas.5:7-9; 1 Pet.4:5,7,17; 1 Jn.2:18; Jude 17-19; Rev.1:1-3,7; 22:6,7,10,20; to name a few).

The full preterist view is that the second coming of Christ happened in AD 70 and was a judgement and removal of the Old Covenant system (heaven and earth), and it established fully the kingdom, the New Covenant (New heavens and earth). Jesus came in the first century, just as He said He would, and there is NO mention anywhere in Scripture of a "third" coming.

Let's look at some different arguments that demonstrate that this chapter cannot be divided.

1. This day and That day

One of the KEY arguments by those who divide this chapter is that four times in three different verses, Matthew 24:19,22,29, Jesus refers to "those days." However, we are told, in verse 36 we have a direct contrast when Jesus says, "But of 'that day' and hour knoweth no man." Stafford North says, "Verse 36 starts with the word `but', suggesting a contrast with what has gone before. Before verse 34, moreover, Jesus uses the plural `days' to refer to his major subject, while after verse 34 he speaks in the singular of `that day.`" Kik also emphasized this distinction: "The expression `that day and hour' gives immediate evidence of a change of subject matter." Gentry writes, "We should notice the pre-transition emphasis on plural 'days' in contrast to the focus on the singular 'day' afterwards.

Gentry also writes, "There seems to be an intended contrast between that which is near (in verse 34) and that which is far (in verse 36): this generation vs. that day. It would seem more appropriate for Christ to have spoken of 'this day' rather than 'that day' if He had meant to refer to the time of 'this generation.'"

I think "that" all of "this" is much ado about nothing. "This generation" refers to the present generation Jesus was addressing. "This" is therefore the appropriate word for something present while "that" is the most appropriate word for something future (to them). Arndt and Gingrich agree: "This refers to something comparatively near at hand, just as ekeinos [that] refers to something comparatively farther away."

These writers do not believe "that day" can be a reference to the fall of Jerusalem. They argue that the singular, "that day" can only refer to a future (to us) coming of Christ. It is easy to show how wrong they are by comparing Scripture with Scripture.

Luke 17:31 (NKJV) "In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.

Here Jesus uses the singular expression, "That day" which is clearly referring to the same situation that is spoken of in Matthew 24:17 which those who divide Matthew 24 say is speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:17 (NKJV) "Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.

You cannot say "that day" of Luke 17:31 refers to a past event to us, and "that day" of Matthew 24:36 refers to a future event to us. They are clearly speaking of the same event! So when Jesus uses the expression, "But of that day," in verse 36, He is still talking about the same subject.

Doesn't it make sense that "those day" would culminate in "that day?" "Those days" led to the passing away of the heavens and earth which is "that day" referred to in verse 36.

One of the reasons a distinction between "those days" and "that day" is seen by many commentators is because of a pre-conceived idea that the disciples had asked questions about two subjects, the destruction of Jerusalem and end of time. With this presupposition, the interpreter then sees Jesus changing the subject in verse 36.

Where is the contextual evidence that the disciples had any other coming in mind than the coming just mentioned by Jesus--his coming to destroy Jerusalem in that generation? It is pure eisegesis to import another coming into this context!

2. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

Another argument that those who divide the chapter use, is the absence of signs in verse 36. They say that Jesus gave signs in the first part of the chapter, but in verse 36 He says, "But of that day and hour no one knows." They say, "One day has signs, the other doesn't, therefore it can't be the same day!" North says "He had told the disciples...precisely when the destruction of Jerusalem would be: during their lifetime and they could read the sign of the approaching army so closely that they could escape it. But of His coming, no one knows when it will be--neither man, his angels, nor Jesus himself."

If you examine carefully all three synoptic accounts ,you will see that Jesus never told them that they would know "the Day" in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. You won't find it anywhere. The signs He gave them was to tell them when it would be "NEAR," He never gave them a day or hour.

Matthew 24:36 (NKJV) "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

To this, Mark adds, "Neither the Son." Jesus, as the God-Man, laid aside the prerogatives of deity, one of them being omniscience. As a man, Jesus himself didn't know the exact day or hour of Jerusalem's destruction.

Luke 2:52 (NKJV) And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Many today use verse 36 to prove that we have no knowledge of the time of a future to us, second coming of Christ. But, as we have already seen, "that day" refers to the passing away of the heavens and earth which was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Old Covenant. Jesus had already told them, in verse 34, that it would happen in their generation (forty years or so). But they did not know the "day or hour" that it would happen.

When a woman gets pregnant, we know that in about forty weeks she is going to have a baby. We don't know the day or hour but we can know that it will happen in about forty weeks. That is exactly what Jesus is saying here. And it is quite interesting that the time prior to the consummation of the kingdom is often referred to as birth pangs.

Matthew 24:8 (NKJV) "All these are the beginning of sorrows.

The Greek word translated "sorrows" is odin. It means a pang or throe, especially of childbirth:--pain, sorrow, travail. This same word is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 translated, labor pains.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 (NKJV) But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.

So, the illustration of gestation and child birth is a biblical one. We know when the birth of the child is near, but we do not know the day or hour.

John Lightfoot (1859) said, "Of what day and hour? That the discourse is of the day of the destruction of Jerusalem is so evident, both by the disciples' questions, and by the whole thread of Christ's discourse, that it is a wonder any should understand these words of the day and hour of the last judgment" (vol. 2, p.442)

N. Nisbett (1787) said, "But though the time was hastening on for the completion of our Lord's prophecy of the ruin of the Jews; yet the exact time of this judgment, laid hid in the bosom of the Father. Verse 36. 'Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.' St. Mark has it: 'Neither the Son, but the Father;' but the sense is the same. Some men of great learning and eminence have thought that our Lord is here speaking, not of the destruction of Jerusalem, but of that more solemn and awful one of the day of judgment. But I can by no means think that the Evangelists are such loose, inaccurate writers, as to make so sudden and abrupt a transition, as they are here supposed to do; much less to break through the fundamental rules of good writing, by apparently referring to something which they had said before; when in reality they were beginning a new subject, and the absurdity of the supposition will appear more strongly, if it is recollected that the question of the disciples was, 'When shall these things be?' 'Why,' says our Saviour, 'of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only'" (pp. 38-39)

Adam Clarke(1837) said, "Verse 36. But of that day and hour is translated season by many eminent critics, and is used in this sense by both sacred and profane authors. As the day was not known, in which Jerusalem should be invested by the Romans, therefore our Lord advised his disciples to pray that it might not be on a Sabbath; and as the season was not known, therefore they were to pray that it might not be in the winter; Matthew 24:20. See on Mark 13:32." (Adam Clarke's Commentary On Matthew 24)

So they knew the season but not the day or hour.
3. Does the word "but" signal a transition? 

It has been said that by the use of the word "But," Jesus changed the subject to something else. Does the fact that verse 36 starts with "but" signal a contrast in subject matter? No! The word "but" is used as a conjunction and not a preposition. As a conjunction, "but" is not a word of contrast but joins what has just been said with what is about to be said. The New Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament says, "The conjunctival usage of 'de,' is by far the most frequent use of the particle `de' in the New Testament".

If the use of "de" at the beginning of a verse introduces a break in subject, there are 8 subject changes in chapters 24! See Matthew 24:6,8,13,20,32,36,43,48. By examining the verses before 24:36 and after, you will see that the most common usage of "but" in Matthew 24-25 has nothing to do with changing subjects!

Thomas Newton (1754) said, "It is to me a wonder how any man can refer part of the foregoing discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem, and part to the end of the world, or any other distant event, when it is said so positively here in the conclusion, 'All these things shall be fulfilled in this generation.' It seemeth as if our Saviour had been aware of some such misapplication of his words, by adding yet greater force and emphasis to his affirmation, v 35 - 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away'" (p. 426)

4. Matthew's words for "coming."

I think that we can clearly prove that verse 36 is not a transition verse switching to another subject by noticing Matthew's use of the Greek words for coming. The Greek word "parousia" is used four times in Matthew 24, twice before verse 36 and twice after it.

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV) Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming (parousia), and of the end of the age?"

Matthew 24:27 (NKJV) "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be.

Matthew 24:37 (NKJV) "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be.

Matthew 24:39 (NKJV) "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be.

Not only is "parousia" used on both sides of verse 36, but so is the Greek word "erchomai" which is also translated coming.

Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming (erchomai) on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Matthew 24:42 (NKJV) "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming (erchomai).

"Erchomai" is also used in verses 44, 46, and 50. Now, some commentators apply all three "coming" passages before verse 36 to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and say the same exact words used after verse 36 refer to a future to us coming of Christ. Are there two comings of Christ discussed in this passage? Does Jesus use the exact same words to speak of two totally different events in the same passage of Scripture? I think not!

Ed Stevens said, "Jesus never distinguishes between two different 'comings' (Greek parousia) of 'the Son of Man' accompanied by 'the angels' 'in glory' with 'the clouds.' We would have to look for such a clarification somewhere else in Jesus' teaching (since it cannot be found in the Matthew 24 context). And what is interesting, the Greek word 'parousia' is not used by Jesus anywhere else in the four gospel accounts. So, there is no place in Jesus' teaching where He distinguishes between two different 'parousias' separated by thousands of years."

David Chilton (1996) said, "...any proposed division of Matthew 24 into two different 'comings' is illegitimate, nugatory, and gossamer. Scripture foretells a Second Coming (Heb.9:28) - not a third!" (Foreward to What Happened in AD70?)

Alright, so far I have given you four arguments as to why this chapter cannot be divided; we looked at the "this day, that day" argument, the absence of signs argument, the big "but" argument, and the Greek words used for "coming" argument. Now, all of those pale in comparison (and I think they are all good) to the next argument that I want to put forth. To me this one ends the discussion and sends the dividers of Matthew 24 running. My final argument is a divine answer that ends all questions, it is Luke 17.

You will notice that in this parallel account of Luke, all of these same signs and symbols are being applied to the question asked by the Pharisees as to "when the kingdom would come." If Jesus is using signs in Luke's account to answer when the kingdom would fully come that in Matthew's account are applied to the destruction of Jerusalem, it doesn't take a "brain surgeon" to figure out that any attempt to apply the coming of the kingdom, that Luke is talking about, to Pentecost is patently false.

The dividers of Matthew 24 assert that the first part, verses 1-35 can only refer to the destruction of Jerusalem at 70 A.D., while the second part, verses 36 - 51 is completely different and only can be applied to the end of the world and the "real" second coming of Jesus.

But a simple reading of Luke 17 will reveal that, according to Luke's arrangement of the signs and symbols, he only understood Christ to be referring to one event, which, as we have already stated, pertained to the full coming of the kingdom in AD 70. No distinction is possible when examining Luke's context. He uses the signs from the first part of Matthew 24 and the second part in an intermingled fashion. Notice the following comparison:

THE OLIVET DISCOURSE CANNOT BE DIVIDED

Matthew 24 
SECTION ONE Verses 1-35 

1. Matthew 24:17-18 (NKJV) 

Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 "And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 
 
 

2. Matthew 24:26-27 (NKJV) 

"Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it. 27 "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 
 
 

3. Matthew 24:28 (NKJV) 

"For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together. 
 
 

SECTION TWO Verses 36-51 

4. Matthew 24:37-39 (NKJV) 

"But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 
 
 

5. Matthew 24:40-41 (NKJV) 

"Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 "Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 

Luke 17 
2. Luke 17:23-24 (NKJV) 

"And they will say to you, 'Look here!' or 'Look there!' Do not go after them or follow them. 24 "For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 
 
 

4. Luke 17:26-27 (NKJV) 

"And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 "They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 
 
 

1. Luke 17:31 (NKJV) 

"In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 
 
 

5. Luke 17:35-36 (NKJV) 

"Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 "Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left." 
 
 

3. Luke 17:37 (NKJV) 

And they answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?" So He said to them, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together." 

 

Notice how Luke records the same events as Matthew, but in a different order. Matthew's order is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, but Luke's order is scrambled 2, 4, 1, 5, 3. Luke has an event from section 1 followed by one from section 2, then another from section 1 followed by section 2, and finally one from section 1. If Matthew 24 really deals with two different comings, that happen thousands of years apart, then Luke made a mistake. He mixes Matthew's events up and makes them all happen at one time. The way I see it, you have one of two choices, you can either say that Luke is wrong, thus denying inspiration, or you can conclude that Matthew 24 all speaks of one event. Which do you choose? Think carefully now. The simple answer is that Jesus returned in the first century, just as He said He would, and there is no "third" coming mentioned anywhere in Scripture.

J. Stuart Russell said, "There is not a scintilla (1. a spark. 2. a particle; the least trace.) of evidence that the apostles and primitive Christians had any suspicion of a twofold reference in the predictions of Jesus concerning the end." (The Parousia p. 545)

Matthew 24:37-39 (NKJV) "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Jesus draws on a familiar Old Testament judgment event -- the flood. Jesus, teaching by analogy, shows how the coming of the flood waters and His own coming are similar.

It is clear that Jesus is still speaking about His coming and the destruction of Jerusalem; twice He says, "so also will the coming of the Son of Man be."

Jesus is here making a comparison between His coming and Noah's flood. As the flood came and took them all away, so the judgement on Israel will take them all away. The unbelievers of Israel, just like the unbelievers in Noah's day, will be taken away in judgement. Keep in mind what he was just talking about -- "no one knows the day or hour." The point that Jesus is making is that just as in the days of Noah, the wicked didn't know until the flood came and took them away, so will it be at His coming.

In the days of Noah they were eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, with no sense of apprehension of the coming flood, so also would it be in those days prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.

In answering the Corinthian's questions on marriage, Paul reminds them of the coming judgement.

1 Corinthians 7:25-29 (NKJV) Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress; that it is good for a man to remain as he is: 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. 29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none,

In light of the judgement that was coming, Paul cautions his readers against marriage. Being married during the Jewish wars would make life all the more difficult.

But the unbeliever would go on with life as if nothing was happening, just as they did in Noah's day. To the account of Noah, Luke adds a word about Sodom.

Luke 17:28-30 (NKJV) "Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 "but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed."

In the case of both Noah and Lot, judgement came swiftly and completely on the unbelievers while the believers escaped. Just as Lot escaped the fires of judgement on Sodom and Gomorah by leaving the city, so the early Christians escaped the judgement that fell on Jerusalem by fleeing to Pella.

In verse 30, Luke mentions the Son of Man being "revealed." In Matthew 24 it mentions "the coming of the Son of Man." Both of these expressions refer to the same thing. His parousia / coming was His apokalupto / revelation. In the destruction of Jerusalem, it was revealed to all that Jesus was truly the Messiah of Israel. Jerusalem's destruction was the sign that the Son of Man, Jesus, was in heaven.

Luke 17:31-32 (NKJV) "In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 "Remember Lot's wife.

Jesus is warning His disciples that they could end up like Lot's wife if they didn't get out of Jerusalem quickly once they saw the abomination of desolation. He is also telling them that they will be able to escape the judgement if they didn't look back like Lot's wife.

It should be obvious that this has no reference to a future second coming where the earth is barbecued and the planet ends, how could they flee from that? They couldn't! This reference to Noah and Sodom makes it clear that this is not a reference to the annihilation of the universe. Human life on the planet did not end. But the wicked were judged and the righteous spared.

Matthew 24:40-42 (NKJV) "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 "two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

These verses have nothing to do with the rapture. "Be taken" is not a reference to being "caught up" but to "be taken" in judgement. In case you doubt what I am saying, let's go to Luke again.

Luke 17:34-37 (NKJV) "I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 "Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 "Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left." 37 And they answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?" So He said to them, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."

If you remember our study in of Matthew 24:28 you will remember that this is a picture of judgement. They are taken away to judgement and slavery- not to heaven.

In light of His coming in judgement on Jerusalem, Jesus cautions His disciples to "watch."

Matthew 24:42 (NKJV) "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

Would it make sense for Jesus to urge His disciples to "watch" for something that was not to take place for another 2,000 years of so?

Folks, you cannot divide Matthew 24. There is no indication that Jesus is describing two comings separated by an indeterminate period of time. What would have led the disciples to conclude that Jesus was describing a coming different from the one He described moments before when He uses identical language to describe both of them?

It's as plain as the nose on your face to anyone who is honestly looking, that you cannot divide this chapter. So why the big effort to divide it? So they will have some verses that speak of a future (to us) coming of Christ. They can't let go of the traditional view of a future coming of Christ to destroy the planet, so they try to get two comings out of Matthew 24. But it can't be done. Jesus only spoke of one coming and that happened in AD 70. In reference to the judgement coming of Christ upon Jerusalem, notice again what Jesus said:

Luke 21:20-22 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

Jesus said that in the destruction of Jerusalem, "all things written would be fulfilled." All prophecy was fulfilled in AD. 70. There is no future coming or any other prophecy yet to be fulfilled.

There are some men who believe that all of Matthew 24 and 25 have been fulfilled and yet they still believe in a future coming of Christ. Men like Gary DeMar and John Bray. The desperation of this position is clearly seen in John Bray's latest booklet, Jesus is Coming Soon! Mr. Bray says this, "The New Testament references to the parousia/coming of Christ had reference to that "momentous" and signal event which occurred in AD 70. The time statements in the New Testament prove this. Any reference to a future (to us) coming of Christ found in the new testament is found by inference and deduction, and not by express statement."

Do you hear what he is saying? He is saying that he holds to a future coming of Christ but there is no Scripture to support it, it is only seen in inference and deduction.

Mr. Bray goes on to say, "All men will be resurrected (John 5:28-29). All men will be judged (Revelation 20:13). Jesus is the judge (John 5:22)."Therefore, JESUS WILL COME AND JUDGE ALL THE WORLD (emphasis DBC). This is one deduction from general statements of the Bible. Henry Hammond (1839) and E. Hampden Cook (1894), both preterists, taught that this future coming will be a third coming. Their thoughts on this were compelled by the fact that they knew the second appearance of Christ (Hebrews 9:28) was in the first century."

He knows that Jesus is coming again because "All men will be resurrected (John 5:28-29)." The passage that Mr. Bray gives is a quotation of Daniel 12.

John 5:28-29 (NKJV) "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 "and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Daniel 12:1-2 (NKJV) "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Daniel says that this resurrection will come after a time of great trouble for the Jewish nation. That sounds just like Matthew 24:21. But notice also verse 3:

Daniel 12:3 (NKJV) Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Now compare that with:

Matthew 13:40-43 (NKJV) "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 "and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Both Daniel 12 and Matthew 13 are speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The resurrection is an event that happened in AD 70. Believers today don't need a resurrection because Jesus said:

John 11:26 (NKJV) "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

Mr. Bray also says, "All men will be judged (Revelation 20:13). Jesus is the judge (John 5:22)." Let's look at the passage that he gives in Revelation:

Revelation 20:11-13 (NKJV) Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

Notice that this judgement is after heaven and earth have fled away. Mr. Bray teaches that we are now living in the New heavens and new earth but says that judgement is yet future. This passage teaches that men were judged at the time that heaven and earth fled away.

2 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

Here Paul tells Timothy that Jesus Christ is going to judge all men at his appearing. Young's literal translation puts it this way, "I do full testify, then, before God, and THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, WHO IS ABOUT TO JUDGE living and dead at his manifestation and his reign."

Mr. Bray's deductions are faulty. All prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 in the day of God's wrath, just as Jesus said it would be. Any ideas of a" third coming" are truly speculation and have no shred of biblical backing. There is only one parousia talked about in the New Testament. That is the parousia that took place in the fall of Jerusalem. The parousia that brought about the fulfillment of all of the promises that God make to the fathers of Israel.

Where does the New Testament differentiate between two comings? Where is the New Testament passage that states that the AD 70 event is but a type of something yet to come? Why is there needed yet a future coming to bring about an end to something which was designed by God to be eternal?

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on February 22, 1998.

Watch-Be Ready!

Matthew 24:42-51

As we come to the close of Matthew 24, the Lord gives his disciples a parable to push home the truth of their need to "watch" for His coming. Remember, the Lord is here talking to his disciples, they have asked Him questions concerning; the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, His parousia and the end of the Jewish age. Their question was basically two fold; when will these things happen and what signs will precede them? Jesus has given them several signs; He told them that the gospel would be preached in all the world (vs. 14), He told them that they would see the "abomination of desolation," spoken of by Daniel (vs. 15), He told them that they would see the great tribulation (vs.21), and that they would see the collapse of the heaven and earth of Jerusalem (vs. 29 ), thus ending the Jewish age and manifesting the parousia of Christ. Jesus told them that all these things would happen in their generation.

Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

A generation was about 40 years, so they knew that the Lord would return in their life time, but they did not know the "day or the hour," as Jesus told them in:

Matthew 24:36 (NKJV) "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Because they did not know the day or hour, they were to always be ready and watching.

Matthew 24:42 (NKJV) "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

In light of His coming in judgement on Jerusalem, Jesus cautions His disciples to "watch." This exhortation to watch is not given to us, twentieth century Christians, but to them, first century Christians. We must understand this or we will never understand what our Lord is saying here.

The word "watch" is the Greek word gregoreuo.. It means to keep awake, i.e. watch (lit. or fig.):--be vigilant. It is in the present imperative, meaning "to be constantly on guard." Would it make sense for Jesus to urge His disciples "to be constantly on guard" for something that was not to take place for another 2,000 years or so? Some think so. Cook said, "The use of the second person does not necessarily imply, as Meyer maintains, that our Lord represents His presence in judgement as coming during the lifetime of the disciples. They, like the rest of mankind, are to be kept in ignorance of that day: this very ignorance is to be the ground of their watchfulness: and it is equally their duty, and that of all men, to watch, whether the day is fixed in God's counsels within their own lifetime or not."

I think the second person does imply that he was speaking to the disciples, but we don't need an implication, we have plenty of clear evidence that He was to come during the lifetime of the disciples.

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

Their Lord had told them that He would come in their lifetime, but they did not know the day or hour so they (first century Christians) were to always be watching. Since we know the day was fixed in their lifetime, it was that generation and that generation alone that was to be watching. They were to be watching for His coming in judgement upon that wicked city of Jerusalem. Israel's house was to be destroyed. Christians who were watching could escape the judgement on the city by fleeing from it, as their Lord had instructed them.

Matthew 24:15-18 (NKJV) "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 "Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 "And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

The lives of those early Christians were dependant upon their watchfulness. They were to be watching for their Lord's coming in judgement upon apostate Israel. Before we go any further, let me ask you a question, "Who was to be watching?" Christians! Isn't that who the Lord was talking to?

Matthew 24:43-44 (NKJV) "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

This comparison of the Lord's coming with that of a thief in the night is found in several places in the New Testament. As we look at these different texts, please take note of who is being addressed.

The apostle exhorts to be always ready for the coming of Christ in judgment, which will be with suddenness and surprise.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 (NKJV) But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

Who is he speaking to? "Brethren" or Christians. How did they know this? Their Lord had told them this in the sermon on mount Olive. The phrase "day of the Lord" is an expression taken from the Old Testament, and was used many times as regards to the judgements and destruction of various nations. It usually meant a time when God, Himself, would punish or judge people by the means of armies of other people. The invading armies of other nations brought judgement and destruction upon various nations, and these times were each called "the day of the Lord," when they were proclaimed of the Lord.

While the various references to "the day of the Lord" in the old Testament referred to various nations, the reference in all such expressions in the New Testament are to that "day of the Lord" in AD 70, when the nation Israel was destroyed. So, the phrase "The day of the Lord" refers to Jerusalem's destruction by the Roman armies, and Paul here says that it will come "as a thief in the night." We can see by comparing the Thessalonian passage with Matthew 24 that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70 and the coming of the Lord are synonymous events.

1 Thessalonians 5: 3-4 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.

Notice the difference here between the "you" and the "they." "They say," "destruction comes upon them," "they shall not escape," "but you, brethren." The Lord is a thief in the night only to those who are not watching. Therefore, the Christians are admonished to watch.

1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NKJV) Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

Peter uses this same idea of the Lord coming as a thief in the night:

2 Peter 3:10 (NKJV) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

So, Jesus used it, Paul used it, Peter used it, and John uses it in quoting Jesus:

Revelation 3:3 (NKJV) "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Notice what Jesus says, He comes as a thief if they are not watching.

Revelation 16:15 (NKJV) "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

Again, we see Christ coming as a thief and the blessedness of those watching.

Common in all of these passages is the idea of suddenness and unexpectedness of the coming, and consequently, the danger of unpreparedness on the part of those first century saints who saw the promise of His parousia fulfilled.

The idea of a thief, with us, means one who takes goods without doing violence, secretly, silently. The original word means one who does it by housebreaking, or by highway violence. Jesus had told them he was coming, and they were to be expecting it and prepared for it. If a man knows the approximate time a thief may come to break into his house, he takes precautions and prepares accordingly.

Let me illustrate: When I was in youth work, several of the teens would come by my house in the middle of the night and cover my trees with toilet paper. The precious little darlings would also take the wood from my wood pile and spread it all over my yard. Theses little visits of theirs would take me some time to clean up. This happened on several occasions. To say the least, I was not too thrilled with their expression of love. One night before a big youth activity, I received an anonymous phone call from someone telling me that the teens were going to TP my house that night. I was thrilled! I waited up all night in the front bedroom ready for their arrival. Every time I heard a car, I would look and see if it was them. I feel asleep a couple of times but I woke up at each sound I heard. I was ready for their coming. But they never came. That morning, as the teens were arriving for the activity and getting on the bus, one of the teens said to me with a big smirk on his face, "Did you get a good nights sleep last night?" I could have killed him. Well, let me say that the Lord is not like those kids. He was not pulling a prank on the first century saints. He told them to watch because He was going to come in their generation and destroy Jerusalem and the Old covenant system.

In verse 44, the Lord says to His disciples, "Therefore you also be ready, (just like a man who knows a thief is coming is ready) for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. The Greek word for ready is hetoimos, from an old noun heteos (fitness); adjusted, i.e. ready:--prepared. Luke puts this same warning this way:

Luke 21:34-36 (NKJV) "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 "For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

They were to always be watching and praying that they would be able to escape the coming judgement of Jerusalem.

To drive home the need of watchfulness, the Lord gives His disciples a parable to contrast the difference there would be between those who were watching and those who were not.

Matthew 24:45-51 (NKJV) "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 "Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' 49 "and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This parable intensifies the need to "watch." The contrast is extreme! Those who are faithful servants are blessed and put in charge of all the master's goods. Those who are not faithful are cut in half. That is a strong contrast.

Let me say a word here about parables. A parable is a brief story or narrative drawn from human life or from nature, not relating to some actual event, but true to life and concerning something very familiar to the listeners, given for the purpose of teaching "a" spiritual truth. It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The etymological meaning of the word parable is "a placing alongside of" for the purpose of comparison.

The intention of parabolic teaching is given by Christ in Matthew 13: 11-17. First, it is a method of teaching the responsive disciple. The second intent of parabolic teaching was to hide the truth from the unresponsive, and so aid in the hardening of their heart as they continuously rebelled against God.

Bernard Ramm, in his book, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, says, "The golden rule of parabolic interpretation is -- Determine the one central truth the parable is attempting to teach. Practically all writers on the subject mention it with stress." Dodd says, "The typical parable presents one single point of comparison, the details are not intended to have independent significance." Others have put the rule this way: Don't make a parable walk on all fours. So, our objective, as we study this parable, is to find its one central message.

It should be clear that this parable is an amplification of one word which our Lord gave to his disciples, after he had outlined the course of events. He said to them, "Watch!" That word is stressed throughout this whole passage. It is the one command Jesus gives to those that are waiting for his coming. This parable tells us what it means to watch. What did our Lord mean when he said, "Watch?" Our Lord did not mean that they were to be standing forever gazing up into the heavens, like an air raid sentry on duty. He meant that they were to live a life of faithfulness to His commands. The word "then" indicates the connection with the preceding verses; as if to say, "such readiness implies faithfulness." The ever present anticipation of His return was to keep them faithful in the midst of the apostasy that surrounded them. Lang says, "Watching is here indicated in its concrete form, as fidelity to the calling."

In this parable, we have a household whose master is away and the household is waiting for him to return. The master has appointed certain servants and given them responsibility during the time of his absence. The only activity mentioned is that of feeding the household. These servants have the primary and important task of feeding the household at the proper time. That is the first essential, then, in watching. Watching included feeding and being fed by the Word of God. This is most obvious in the parable, is it not? The household must be fed the Word of God or they will, out of ignorance, turn back to Judaism and would thus be destroyed in its fall. That is basic, fundamental. If they do not eat, they will not survive, they will perish. They can do nothing else until they have established their health and strength by eating. To feed the flock of God, was the primary responsibility of the church's leaders.

John 21:15-17 (NKJV) So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

Acts 20:28 (NKJV) "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 (NKJV) Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

As the early church was taught the truth of the New Covenant, they were being protected from apostasy.

The Word of God is truth. It is the unveiling of reality. It is the revelation of the way things really are. Thus, if you are going to live, you have got to know what life is all about, to know the way things really are. That is why the word of truth is also food. It is referred to as such in many places in Scripture: In his first letter, Peter exhorts us:

1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

There is a certain quality about the Word of God that is like milk to a baby: it feeds and establishes life. In another place, Paul mentions the strong meat of the word:

Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

It touches everything. You never can understand life unless you understand the Word of God. Paul told Timothy that in order to prevent apostasy, he was to continue in doctrine:

1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

1 Timothy 4:13-16 (NKJV) Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Timothy was to save himself and his hearers from apostasy by continuing in the Word. The faithful servants are those who were involved in teaching the truth of Scripture.

Notice that the faithful servants are blessed. Because of their faithfulness, they are made rulers over all the master's goods. We see this principle fleshed out in the life of many Old Testament saints. Joseph is just one example of this.

Genesis 39:4 (NKJV) So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.

And not only Joseph, but David, Daniel, and Esther became more than subjects under their respective masters.

This parable was to the first century disciples in view of the coming of the Lord, but it applies to us in that God also calls us to be faithful, and that faithfulness comes through being students of His Word. The truth that God rewards faithful service, still applies to us also. As we spend time in His Word we will be strengthened in our faithfulness, and thus be rewarded by our Lord.

In contrast to the faithful servant, there is the unfaithful servant.

Matthew 24:48-51 (NKJV) "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' 49 "and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Notice that the evil slave says, "My master is delaying his coming." The evil slave then proceeds to "beat his fellow-slaves and eat and drink with drunkards." But to the surprise of the "evil slave," the master returned when he least suspected. The master did not return to cut the evil slave's distant relatives in pieces; he cut him in pieces. The evil slave was alive when the master left, and he was alive when the master returned. In this context, "delaying his coming" must be measured against a person's lifetime. In context, two years could be considered a long time if the master usually returned within six months. It is not hard to imagine that the passage of several decades would lead some to doubt the reliability of the prophecy, especially as the promised generation was coming to a close. The horrendous events of A.D. 70 silenced those who thought his delay would go on.

This unfaithful servant fails to feed the household of God. The Lord tells us what happens. He begins to beat them. He indulges his own appetite to extremes, eats and drinks with the drunken. When the master returns, he finds the man failing in his primary task, and he is destroyed. He is cut in two.

This is quite a contrast to the blessing received by the faithful servant. The one was ready, watching and faithful. The other was not ready, not watching and unfaithful.

Who is this unfaithful servant?

Many say it represents an unbeliever and their punishment in hell. But does that fit the context? Who is told to watch? Are unbelievers told to watch? No, it is believers who are to watch for His coming. In Matthew 24, we know that the Lord is talking to His disciples. But notice what Luke adds:

Luke 12:39-41 (NKJV) "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 41 Then Peter said to Him, "Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?"

The Lord doesn't really answer Peter; He goes on and gives the parable that we are looking at in Matthew. But Mark says:

Mark 13:33-37 (NKJV) "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34 "It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35 "Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming; in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning; 36 "lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"

So we see that Jesus is addressing all believers when he says, "watch." He warns them not to get caught sleeping, but to be watching. The idea of sleeping is not to be taken literally. I think the idea is that of morally sleeping; not being faithful to the Word of God. This idea is seen many places in the New Testament.

Ephesians 5:1-3 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Here, Paul is exhorting the believers to walk in love. Walk is speaking of their conduct. They are to put away sin and walk in holiness.

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;

They are to do this because they are light and they are to live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8 (NKJV) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

They are light. That is their position, their identity. Because of who they are, they are to walk as children of light. That is to be their practice.

Ephesians 5:14-17 (NKJV) Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

The Greek word used here for sleep is katheudo, to lie down to rest, i.e. (by impl.) to fall asleep (lit. or fig.). This is the same word used in Mark. This is a call for believers to "watch," to awake out of sleep. He is speaking about their conduct. They are to wake up and be careful how they walk, that is speaking of their practical lives. Notice also:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 (KJV) But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Again, he affirms their identity, their position, they are children of light; and because of that they are to stay awake.

1 Thessalonians 5: 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

"Therefore"- because of who we are. The word "sleep" here is katheudo and the word "watch" is gregoreuo. These are the same words that our Lord used in the parable of the unfaithful servant. It is believers who are not to sleep.

1 Thessalonians 5: 7-9 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

The wrath, here, is not speaking of Hell, but the destruction of Jerusalem that they can escape if they watch. Notice carefully, what he says in the next verse:

1 Thessalonians 5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

Who did the Lord die for? His elect! These are the same Greek words; if they wake or sleep, they will still live together with Jesus Christ. The difference is that if they sleep, they will suffer great harm physically.

Revelation 3:3 (KJV) Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

The word "if" is a third class condition - maybe you will and maybe you won't. If those in Sardis did not watch, Christ would come to them as a thief, speaking of judgement. If they watched, His coming would not take them by surprise.

Let's go back to our text and see what happens to the unfaithful servant.

Matthew 24:51 (KJV) And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

He is cut asunder- that is physical punishment. It doesn't say he is a hypocrite, but that he shares in their punishment. Many see the weeping and gnashing of teeth as a reference to hell. I think it is a picture of the pain and torment that was experienced in the Jewish war in AD 70. In Luke's version of the parable of the unfaithful servant, he records Jesus as saying this:

Luke 12:49 (KJV) I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?

The fire the Lord kindled is on earth. He is referring to judgement at the hand of the Romans. Each time this phrase is used it is used in relation to Israel and their punishment for rejecting Christ. Their city was burned, destroyed forever.

Matthew 8:12 (NKJV) "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Matthew 22:13 (NKJV) "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Matthew 24:51 (NKJV) "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:30 (NKJV) 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Luke 13:28 (NKJV) "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.

In this closing section, Jesus is again stressing the need to watch and be ready for his coming. When they see the signs approaching, they are to flee. He is warning them that if they turn back to the decaying system of the Old Covenant, they will greatly suffer for it: "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). He would come in their lifetime and bring destruction on Jerusalem. If they were faithful and watched, they could escape.

All of this underscores the importance of feeding on and knowing the word. That is the whole thrust of this parable, it is what our Lord wants to emphasize. What does the Word of God accomplish that makes it so absolutely, fundamentally, necessary?

The Word of God reveals Jesus Christ as the savior of all who will put their trust in Him. And it thus strengthens and refreshes the human spirit. That is its primary purpose. If it does nothing else than that, it has achieved its major task. It is not to give us information, primarily; it is to help us to see a Person, the Lord Jesus. What the Son says to us is the ultimate revelation of life. To see the Son, through the medium of the word, is to find your own heart attracted and drawn to this marvelous personality, this magnificent One, this spotless, unsullied Son of God, in all the magnificence of his strength and greatness. That is the Bible's primary purpose. When you read it, read it for that. Read it to find Christ, because he is on every page of the Old and the New Testament. The Bible is all about Jesus Christ.


 
This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on March 8, 1998.
Watch-Be Ready!

Matthew 24:42-51

As we come to the close of Matthew 24, the Lord gives his disciples a parable to push home the truth of their need to "watch" for His coming. Remember, the Lord is here talking to his disciples, they have asked Him questions concerning; the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, His parousia and the end of the Jewish age. Their question was basically two fold; when will these things happen and what signs will precede them? Jesus has given them several signs; He told them that the gospel would be preached in all the world (vs. 14), He told them that they would see the "abomination of desolation," spoken of by Daniel (vs. 15), He told them that they would see the great tribulation (vs.21), and that they would see the collapse of the heaven and earth of Jerusalem (vs. 29 ), thus ending the Jewish age and manifesting the parousia of Christ. Jesus told them that all these things would happen in their generation.

Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

A generation was about 40 years, so they knew that the Lord would return in their life time, but they did not know the "day or the hour," as Jesus told them in:

Matthew 24:36 (NKJV) "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Because they did not know the day or hour, they were to always be ready and watching.

Matthew 24:42 (NKJV) "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

In light of His coming in judgement on Jerusalem, Jesus cautions His disciples to "watch." This exhortation to watch is not given to us, twentieth century Christians, but to them, first century Christians. We must understand this or we will never understand what our Lord is saying here.

The word "watch" is the Greek word gregoreuo.. It means to keep awake, i.e. watch (lit. or fig.):--be vigilant. It is in the present imperative, meaning "to be constantly on guard." Would it make sense for Jesus to urge His disciples "to be constantly on guard" for something that was not to take place for another 2,000 years or so? Some think so. Cook said, "The use of the second person does not necessarily imply, as Meyer maintains, that our Lord represents His presence in judgement as coming during the lifetime of the disciples. They, like the rest of mankind, are to be kept in ignorance of that day: this very ignorance is to be the ground of their watchfulness: and it is equally their duty, and that of all men, to watch, whether the day is fixed in God's counsels within their own lifetime or not."

I think the second person does imply that he was speaking to the disciples, but we don't need an implication, we have plenty of clear evidence that He was to come during the lifetime of the disciples.

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

Their Lord had told them that He would come in their lifetime, but they did not know the day or hour so they (first century Christians) were to always be watching. Since we know the day was fixed in their lifetime, it was that generation and that generation alone that was to be watching. They were to be watching for His coming in judgement upon that wicked city of Jerusalem. Israel's house was to be destroyed. Christians who were watching could escape the judgement on the city by fleeing from it, as their Lord had instructed them.

Matthew 24:15-18 (NKJV) "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 "Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 "And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

The lives of those early Christians were dependant upon their watchfulness. They were to be watching for their Lord's coming in judgement upon apostate Israel. Before we go any further, let me ask you a question, "Who was to be watching?" Christians! Isn't that who the Lord was talking to?

Matthew 24:43-44 (NKJV) "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

This comparison of the Lord's coming with that of a thief in the night is found in several places in the New Testament. As we look at these different texts, please take note of who is being addressed.

The apostle exhorts to be always ready for the coming of Christ in judgment, which will be with suddenness and surprise.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 (NKJV) But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

Who is he speaking to? "Brethren" or Christians. How did they know this? Their Lord had told them this in the sermon on mount Olive. The phrase "day of the Lord" is an expression taken from the Old Testament, and was used many times as regards to the judgements and destruction of various nations. It usually meant a time when God, Himself, would punish or judge people by the means of armies of other people. The invading armies of other nations brought judgement and destruction upon various nations, and these times were each called "the day of the Lord," when they were proclaimed of the Lord.

While the various references to "the day of the Lord" in the old Testament referred to various nations, the reference in all such expressions in the New Testament are to that "day of the Lord" in AD 70, when the nation Israel was destroyed. So, the phrase "The day of the Lord" refers to Jerusalem's destruction by the Roman armies, and Paul here says that it will come "as a thief in the night." We can see by comparing the Thessalonian passage with Matthew 24 that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70 and the coming of the Lord are synonymous events.

1 Thessalonians 5: 3-4 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.

Notice the difference here between the "you" and the "they." "They say," "destruction comes upon them," "they shall not escape," "but you, brethren." The Lord is a thief in the night only to those who are not watching. Therefore, the Christians are admonished to watch.

1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NKJV) Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

Peter uses this same idea of the Lord coming as a thief in the night:

2 Peter 3:10 (NKJV) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

So, Jesus used it, Paul used it, Peter used it, and John uses it in quoting Jesus:

Revelation 3:3 (NKJV) "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Notice what Jesus says, He comes as a thief if they are not watching.

Revelation 16:15 (NKJV) "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

Again, we see Christ coming as a thief and the blessedness of those watching.

Common in all of these passages is the idea of suddenness and unexpectedness of the coming, and consequently, the danger of unpreparedness on the part of those first century saints who saw the promise of His parousia fulfilled.

The idea of a thief, with us, means one who takes goods without doing violence, secretly, silently. The original word means one who does it by housebreaking, or by highway violence. Jesus had told them he was coming, and they were to be expecting it and prepared for it. If a man knows the approximate time a thief may come to break into his house, he takes precautions and prepares accordingly.

Let me illustrate: When I was in youth work, several of the teens would come by my house in the middle of the night and cover my trees with toilet paper. The precious little darlings would also take the wood from my wood pile and spread it all over my yard. Theses little visits of theirs would take me some time to clean up. This happened on several occasions. To say the least, I was not too thrilled with their expression of love. One night before a big youth activity, I received an anonymous phone call from someone telling me that the teens were going to TP my house that night. I was thrilled! I waited up all night in the front bedroom ready for their arrival. Every time I heard a car, I would look and see if it was them. I feel asleep a couple of times but I woke up at each sound I heard. I was ready for their coming. But they never came. That morning, as the teens were arriving for the activity and getting on the bus, one of the teens said to me with a big smirk on his face, "Did you get a good nights sleep last night?" I could have killed him. Well, let me say that the Lord is not like those kids. He was not pulling a prank on the first century saints. He told them to watch because He was going to come in their generation and destroy Jerusalem and the Old covenant system.

In verse 44, the Lord says to His disciples, "Therefore you also be ready, (just like a man who knows a thief is coming is ready) for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. The Greek word for ready is hetoimos, from an old noun heteos (fitness); adjusted, i.e. ready:--prepared. Luke puts this same warning this way:

Luke 21:34-36 (NKJV) "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 "For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

They were to always be watching and praying that they would be able to escape the coming judgement of Jerusalem.

To drive home the need of watchfulness, the Lord gives His disciples a parable to contrast the difference there would be between those who were watching and those who were not.

Matthew 24:45-51 (NKJV) "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 "Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' 49 "and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This parable intensifies the need to "watch." The contrast is extreme! Those who are faithful servants are blessed and put in charge of all the master's goods. Those who are not faithful are cut in half. That is a strong contrast.

Let me say a word here about parables. A parable is a brief story or narrative drawn from human life or from nature, not relating to some actual event, but true to life and concerning something very familiar to the listeners, given for the purpose of teaching "a" spiritual truth. It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The etymological meaning of the word parable is "a placing alongside of" for the purpose of comparison.

The intention of parabolic teaching is given by Christ in Matthew 13: 11-17. First, it is a method of teaching the responsive disciple. The second intent of parabolic teaching was to hide the truth from the unresponsive, and so aid in the hardening of their heart as they continuously rebelled against God.

Bernard Ramm, in his book, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, says, "The golden rule of parabolic interpretation is -- Determine the one central truth the parable is attempting to teach. Practically all writers on the subject mention it with stress." Dodd says, "The typical parable presents one single point of comparison, the details are not intended to have independent significance." Others have put the rule this way: Don't make a parable walk on all fours. So, our objective, as we study this parable, is to find its one central message.

It should be clear that this parable is an amplification of one word which our Lord gave to his disciples, after he had outlined the course of events. He said to them, "Watch!" That word is stressed throughout this whole passage. It is the one command Jesus gives to those that are waiting for his coming. This parable tells us what it means to watch. What did our Lord mean when he said, "Watch?" Our Lord did not mean that they were to be standing forever gazing up into the heavens, like an air raid sentry on duty. He meant that they were to live a life of faithfulness to His commands. The word "then" indicates the connection with the preceding verses; as if to say, "such readiness implies faithfulness." The ever present anticipation of His return was to keep them faithful in the midst of the apostasy that surrounded them. Lang says, "Watching is here indicated in its concrete form, as fidelity to the calling."

In this parable, we have a household whose master is away and the household is waiting for him to return. The master has appointed certain servants and given them responsibility during the time of his absence. The only activity mentioned is that of feeding the household. These servants have the primary and important task of feeding the household at the proper time. That is the first essential, then, in watching. Watching included feeding and being fed by the Word of God. This is most obvious in the parable, is it not? The household must be fed the Word of God or they will, out of ignorance, turn back to Judaism and would thus be destroyed in its fall. That is basic, fundamental. If they do not eat, they will not survive, they will perish. They can do nothing else until they have established their health and strength by eating. To feed the flock of God, was the primary responsibility of the church's leaders.

John 21:15-17 (NKJV) So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

Acts 20:28 (NKJV) "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 (NKJV) Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

As the early church was taught the truth of the New Covenant, they were being protected from apostasy.

The Word of God is truth. It is the unveiling of reality. It is the revelation of the way things really are. Thus, if you are going to live, you have got to know what life is all about, to know the way things really are. That is why the word of truth is also food. It is referred to as such in many places in Scripture: In his first letter, Peter exhorts us:

1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

There is a certain quality about the Word of God that is like milk to a baby: it feeds and establishes life. In another place, Paul mentions the strong meat of the word:

Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

It touches everything. You never can understand life unless you understand the Word of God. Paul told Timothy that in order to prevent apostasy, he was to continue in doctrine:

1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

1 Timothy 4:13-16 (NKJV) Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Timothy was to save himself and his hearers from apostasy by continuing in the Word. The faithful servants are those who were involved in teaching the truth of Scripture.

Notice that the faithful servants are blessed. Because of their faithfulness, they are made rulers over all the master's goods. We see this principle fleshed out in the life of many Old Testament saints. Joseph is just one example of this.

Genesis 39:4 (NKJV) So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.

And not only Joseph, but David, Daniel, and Esther became more than subjects under their respective masters.

This parable was to the first century disciples in view of the coming of the Lord, but it applies to us in that God also calls us to be faithful, and that faithfulness comes through being students of His Word. The truth that God rewards faithful service, still applies to us also. As we spend time in His Word we will be strengthened in our faithfulness, and thus be rewarded by our Lord.

In contrast to the faithful servant, there is the unfaithful servant.

Matthew 24:48-51 (NKJV) "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' 49 "and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Notice that the evil slave says, "My master is delaying his coming." The evil slave then proceeds to "beat his fellow-slaves and eat and drink with drunkards." But to the surprise of the "evil slave," the master returned when he least suspected. The master did not return to cut the evil slave's distant relatives in pieces; he cut him in pieces. The evil slave was alive when the master left, and he was alive when the master returned. In this context, "delaying his coming" must be measured against a person's lifetime. In context, two years could be considered a long time if the master usually returned within six months. It is not hard to imagine that the passage of several decades would lead some to doubt the reliability of the prophecy, especially as the promised generation was coming to a close. The horrendous events of A.D. 70 silenced those who thought his delay would go on.

This unfaithful servant fails to feed the household of God. The Lord tells us what happens. He begins to beat them. He indulges his own appetite to extremes, eats and drinks with the drunken. When the master returns, he finds the man failing in his primary task, and he is destroyed. He is cut in two.

This is quite a contrast to the blessing received by the faithful servant. The one was ready, watching and faithful. The other was not ready, not watching and unfaithful.

Who is this unfaithful servant?

Many say it represents an unbeliever and their punishment in hell. But does that fit the context? Who is told to watch? Are unbelievers told to watch? No, it is believers who are to watch for His coming. In Matthew 24, we know that the Lord is talking to His disciples. But notice what Luke adds:

Luke 12:39-41 (NKJV) "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 41 Then Peter said to Him, "Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?"

The Lord doesn't really answer Peter; He goes on and gives the parable that we are looking at in Matthew. But Mark says:

Mark 13:33-37 (NKJV) "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34 "It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35 "Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming; in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning; 36 "lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"

So we see that Jesus is addressing all believers when he says, "watch." He warns them not to get caught sleeping, but to be watching. The idea of sleeping is not to be taken literally. I think the idea is that of morally sleeping; not being faithful to the Word of God. This idea is seen many places in the New Testament.

Ephesians 5:1-3 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Here, Paul is exhorting the believers to walk in love. Walk is speaking of their conduct. They are to put away sin and walk in holiness.

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;

They are to do this because they are light and they are to live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8 (NKJV) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

They are light. That is their position, their identity. Because of who they are, they are to walk as children of light. That is to be their practice.

Ephesians 5:14-17 (NKJV) Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

The Greek word used here for sleep is katheudo, to lie down to rest, i.e. (by impl.) to fall asleep (lit. or fig.). This is the same word used in Mark. This is a call for believers to "watch," to awake out of sleep. He is speaking about their conduct. They are to wake up and be careful how they walk, that is speaking of their practical lives. Notice also:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 (KJV) But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Again, he affirms their identity, their position, they are children of light; and because of that they are to stay awake.

1 Thessalonians 5: 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

"Therefore"- because of who we are. The word "sleep" here is katheudo and the word "watch" is gregoreuo. These are the same words that our Lord used in the parable of the unfaithful servant. It is believers who are not to sleep.

1 Thessalonians 5: 7-9 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

The wrath, here, is not speaking of Hell, but the destruction of Jerusalem that they can escape if they watch. Notice carefully, what he says in the next verse:

1 Thessalonians 5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

Who did the Lord die for? His elect! These are the same Greek words; if they wake or sleep, they will still live together with Jesus Christ. The difference is that if they sleep, they will suffer great harm physically.

Revelation 3:3 (KJV) Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

The word "if" is a third class condition - maybe you will and maybe you won't. If those in Sardis did not watch, Christ would come to them as a thief, speaking of judgement. If they watched, His coming would not take them by surprise.

Let's go back to our text and see what happens to the unfaithful servant.

Matthew 24:51 (KJV) And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

He is cut asunder- that is physical punishment. It doesn't say he is a hypocrite, but that he shares in their punishment. Many see the weeping and gnashing of teeth as a reference to hell. I think it is a picture of the pain and torment that was experienced in the Jewish war in AD 70. In Luke's version of the parable of the unfaithful servant, he records Jesus as saying this:

Luke 12:49 (KJV) I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?

The fire the Lord kindled is on earth. He is referring to judgement at the hand of the Romans. Each time this phrase is used it is used in relation to Israel and their punishment for rejecting Christ. Their city was burned, destroyed forever.

Matthew 8:12 (NKJV) "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Matthew 22:13 (NKJV) "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Matthew 24:51 (NKJV) "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:30 (NKJV) 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Luke 13:28 (NKJV) "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.

In this closing section, Jesus is again stressing the need to watch and be ready for his coming. When they see the signs approaching, they are to flee. He is warning them that if they turn back to the decaying system of the Old Covenant, they will greatly suffer for it: "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). He would come in their lifetime and bring destruction on Jerusalem. If they were faithful and watched, they could escape.

All of this underscores the importance of feeding on and knowing the word. That is the whole thrust of this parable, it is what our Lord wants to emphasize. What does the Word of God accomplish that makes it so absolutely, fundamentally, necessary?

The Word of God reveals Jesus Christ as the savior of all who will put their trust in Him. And it thus strengthens and refreshes the human spirit. That is its primary purpose. If it does nothing else than that, it has achieved its major task. It is not to give us information, primarily; it is to help us to see a Person, the Lord Jesus. What the Son says to us is the ultimate revelation of life. To see the Son, through the medium of the word, is to find your own heart attracted and drawn to this marvelous personality, this magnificent One, this spotless, unsullied Son of God, in all the magnificence of his strength and greatness. That is the Bible's primary purpose. When you read it, read it for that. Read it to find Christ, because he is on every page of the Old and the New Testament. The Bible is all about Jesus Christ.


 
This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on March 8, 1998.
The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14-30

The familiar parable of the talents found in Matthew 25 is the third in the series our Lord gave his disciples at the close of his great Olivet discourse. In answer to their question, the Lord outlines the course of events from the time of his departure through the destruction of Jerusalem under the Roman armies, which was to be the end of the age and His parousia. He closes with a word of admonition contained in one word, "watch." They were to be watching because they didn't know the "day or hour" that His coming would be. They only knew that it would be in "their generation." To expound on the word watch, he has given us these parables. They described what it meant to be watching for his return. It is obvious that there is no break between the previous parable and this one. There is really no new element introduced in this parable, for the representation of the coming of Christ as a time of judgement, runs through the whole prophetic discourse of our Lord. Like the preceding one, this parable had an immediate lesson for those who heard it for the first time. It contains a solemn warning to the servants of Christ to be faithful and diligent in the absence of their Lord. It points to a day when He would return and reckon with them. It sets forth the abundant reward of the good and faithful, and the punishment of the unfaithful servant.

Matthew 25:14-15 (NKJV) "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

James Stuart Russell writes, "The connecting particle 'for' in verse 14 distinctly marks the continuation of the discourse. The theme is the same, the time is the same, the catastrophe is the same. Up to this point, therefore, we find no break, no change, no introduction of a different topic; all is continuous, homogeneous, one. Never for a moment has the discourse swerved from the great, all-absorbing theme, -- the approaching doom of the guilty city and nation, the solemn events attendant thereon, all to take place within the period of that generation, and which the disciples, or some of them, would live to witness."

It is evident, even this early in the story, that we have the same basic pattern as in the other two parables. Here is a master who is absent, and certain ones are waiting for the return of their absent lord. Clearly this is a parable addressed to the Apostles. They were waiting for the parousia of Jesus Christ. This parable, then, is intended to instruct them during that time.

The phrase, "the kingdom of heaven," is in italics, meaning that it is not in the original, but was added by the translators. It is defiantly implied.

This parable was primarily addressed to the Apostles alone. They were the ones who asked Jesus the questions and He was answering them.

Mark 13:1-4 (NKJV) Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" 2 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"

Once Jesus sat down on the mountain, the disciples approached him and questioned him about the temple's destruction. According to Mark, the questions were asked by Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Matthew and Mark, say they came "privately." In both Matthew and Mark this is used to set the disciples apart from the crowds, not from each other. I think that this means that they were the ones who raised the questions, not that they were the only disciples present. So, keep in mind that Jesus is here speaking to His disciples. Jesus had told a similar parable to the Pharisees in Matthew 21:33-46. That parable is addressed to the unbelieving Jews, but the parable of the talents is addressed to the Apostles and their responsibility during the Lord's absence.

Let's look at the parable itself. W. M. Taylor says of the parable that it is true to the Oriental life of our Lord's time: "When a wealthy man was leaving his home for a while, two courses were open to him for the arrangement of his affairs. Either he might make his confidential slaves his agents, committing to them the tilling of his land and giving to them his money to be used by them in trade; or he might take advantage of the money-changing and money-lending system which had been introduced by the Phoenicians, and which was at that time in full operation throughout the Roman Empire. In the present use, the Lord adopted the former of these courses; and there was at least a tacit understanding, if no formal contract, that the servants would be rewarded for their fidelity."

The talent:

There are some who take the word talent as referring to the natural gifts that each of us possess. They say the teaching of this parable is that we are to use our talents for the Lord's sake. But if you read the parable that way, you are being misled by the modern use of the word talent. Talent, to us, means an ability, a capacity, a natural ability to do something. You may have a talent, perhaps, for singing, or for organizing, or for leadership, or athletics, or whatever it may be. But that is not what talent means here. In biblical times, a talent meant a weight of money, a considerable weight. A talent could be gold, silver, or copper, each with its own value. The Greek word used for "money" in verse 18 is argurion, a word that can mean either "money" or "silver," which may hint at the second meaning. It is best to compare the talent with modern currency in terms of earning power. If a talent was worth six thousand denarii, then it would take a day laborer twenty years to earn so much-- perhaps five hundred-thousand dollars. So the lord, when he went away, distributed money among his servants, a considerable amount.

Notice how the lord distributes these talents, "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability." The lord of the servants goes on a journey after he had given them different responsibilities.

Matthew 25:16 (NKJV) "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.

The NKJV has the word "immediately" connected with the lord's departure, but it most likely goes with verse 16 and the servant's response. The NAS reads, "Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them." The faithful servant immediately put his master's money to work.

Matthew 25:18 (NKJV) "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.

This servant did not care to be bothered by the task that had been assigned to him. So he dug a hole in the ground and buried the talent there. Don't try to come up with some symbolic meaning for this; it was a common practice in the Lord's day and is simply a part of the story.

Matthew 13:44 (NKJV) "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

At that time, it was safer to put your money in the ground than in the deposit system.

Matthew 25:19-23 (NKJV) "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' 21 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' 22 "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' 23 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

Here we see the lord coming back and settling the accounts. These two servants are bubbling over with enthusiasm. They are thrilled, and excited about their lord's return because they have been faithful. The lord praises and rewards these servants for their faithfulness. In the eyes of the master, they had proven themselves to be thoroughly reliable. They both doubled their money, and both received identical praise.

"After a long time" -- Dr. Herbert Lockyer, commenting on this says, "this does not imply that Jesus meant to teach that His second advent was not to be expected for centuries. He never set a time for His second coming." I agree with Dr. Lockyer, except for his last sentence. He must have missed Matthew 24:34, where Jesus said that he would return in their generation. The time was set, but the day and the hour were not known.

Matthew 25:24-27 (NKJV) "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' 26 "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.

This servant is saying that the master is grasping, exploiting the labor of others, and putting the servant in an objectionable position. In verse 26, "you knew" is an interrogation, and should be rendered "Did you know?" It is not an admission of the accusation of the servant, but a question of astonishment, implying, however, that even if the charge were true, the servant was not therefore justified in his conduct. Literally, the master said, "You should have invested my money with the bankers." These bankers were the men who displayed their coins on the benches. They were money exchangers and bankers all in one. For a small fee, they exchanged money, and they also paid interest on money that was deposited with them. There is no praise and no reward for this servant. He is called wicked and lazy.

Matthew 25:28-29 (NKJV) 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

Albert Barns writes, "This seems to be a proverbial expression. It means, whosoever rightly improves what is committed to him shall receive more, or shall be rewarded; but he that misimproves what is committed to him shall not be rewarded." The idea seems to be that of, use it or lose it.

Matthew 25: 30 "And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The Bible does not reveal all that is implied by the term, "outer darkness," which seems to imply a "darkness outside some region of light." It sure seems to imply a deep sense of sorrow and maybe pain. I do not believe that this is speaking of Hell. Again, in this parable we see a strong contrast between the faithful and unfaithful servants.

What is the spiritual truth that Jesus is teaching with this parable? As we attempt to understand this parable, please keep in mind the main rule of parabolic interpretation -- a parable has one central truth. All the details are not to be made to mean something.

The main ideas of the parable are not hard to find. The wealthy master, referred to as "lord" by the servants, is the Lord Jesus Christ. The journey into the far country refers to His departure into heaven at His Ascension. The servants are the Apostles to whom Jesus is speaking. Are you with me so far? What do the talents refer to? Before he went, he distributed "his property." Thus, the talent here in this story represents something that belongs to God, not to men. It is not something we have; it is something He owns and distributes among men according to his will. What is it? I believe that the valuable merchandise that is given to the Apostles is: the glorious Gospel of redeeming love and grace. Such wealth, beyond compare, was committed to the Apostles to invest. Paul, speaking of the gospel, says..

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

In answer to the disciple's questions as to when the end would be, the Lord answered them in:

Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Unless we take this verse clear out of its setting, "the end" in view here is the end or destruction which was to come upon Jerusalem and the temple, ending the Jewish age. Jerusalem would be destroyed, but "first" the gospel would be preached unto all nations.

Now whose responsibility was it to proclaim this gospel to all the world? Well, in Matthew 24:14, Jesus predicted what would be done; and in Matthew 28, he commanded it to be done.

Matthew 28:16-20 (NKJV) Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The "Great Commission" was given to the disciples, the same disciples who Jesus gave the parable of the talents to, the same disciples who asked him the questions about the end of the age. They were responsible to take the treasure of the gospel to all the world. They knew that the end would not come until they had finished their task. The end that was to come once the gospel was preached in all the world was not the end of the material world, or the end of the Christian age. The Christian age has no end:

Luke 1:32-34 (NKJV) "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." 34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The end that was to come once the gospel had been preached in all the world, was the Old Covenant world of Judaism.

This proclamation of the gospel into all the world was something that was ever before Paul's eyes. His desire was to be a faithful servant and hear his Lord say, "Well done!"

Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:

8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

"Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor." This teaches that there are greater and lesser rewards. This is the same idea that we saw in the parable of the talents. The idea of the Lord coming to reward His own was one of Paul's greatest motivations.God rewards on the basis of labor, faithful service. We saw in the parable that those servants who were faithful were rewarded by the Lord at His return.

9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.

We, ministers, are co-laborers for God. Paul is saying that Apollos and he are not working for themselves, but work for God. They are God's servants, rather than His colleagues. Just as in the parable, they are distributing God's goods.

Now, at the end of verse 9, he says you are God's building, you exhibit God's activity in spiritual architecture. Three times in this verse he says "we are God's." God owns the laborers, the farm, and the building. Paul is now going to use that imagery of a building in verses 10-17. He uses the metaphor of a field in verses 5-8, and the metaphor of the building in 10-17. He tells us in these verses that a minister is a builder in the house of God. Paul is addressing the ministers and their responsibilities in these verses.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

When did the Church reach full maturity? At the second coming, when the Lord came for his bride. During the interim period, the servants of God were building up His church.

In this section, the builders and their works are in view, not a believer and his personal spiritual life, he is talking about those first century saints who were called of God to proclaim the gospel.

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

Now, note carefully that Paul is addressing builders, he is not speaking to every Christian, but to those who were called and gifted by God to preach and teach the word of God. He gives a caution to them at the end of verse 10, "But let each one take heed how he builds on it." The words, "each one" refer to each of the builders. Now in the following verse, Paul is going to lay down two responsibilities for every builder. The first is that he is to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Paul's message to Corinth was Jesus Christ and him crucified- the doctrine of the atonement: the coming in the flesh of the Son of God; the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus; and the reality of forgiveness and restoration for everyone who accepts Christ in true faith. The person and work of Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures is the true foundation on which the church is built.

Now the second responsibility of a minister is to build upon that foundation using only good materials, which is probably referring to grace as apposed to law. Remember, the Galatians were trying to add the works of the law to the foundation of the Gospel.

The materials are described for us in verse 12.

12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

The whole thesis of the passage relates to the builder/minister/servant and his duty, and his duty is to teach the gospel of grace. The church is the temple of God and that which adorns the temple of God is doctrine. Wood, hay and straw was not used in the erection of the temple, it was used in the erection of a home. They represent the false teaching of the Judaizers.

13 each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.

There was coming a day of judgement that would clearly reveal that the doctrines of Judaism were over and had been replaced by the gospel.

Paul's image is this, he sees a large building being built and many men involved in building it. Some are using good materials and some are using very poor materials. At the parousia of Christ, the materials will be judged. Just as wood, hay and straw can't stand before a fire, false doctrine will not stand before the judgement of God. In verses 14 and 15, two different types of workers are going to be exposed at that day of judgement.

First we see the wise worker in verse 14

14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

This is the man that has built with gold, silver and precious stones, the things that endure. He has taught the truths of the Gospel of grace. The wise builder will be rewarded by God for his faithfulness. This is the same idea that we see in the parable of the talents.

In contrast to the wise workman, is the foolish workman of verse 15

15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

He will suffer loss of reward, not salvation. The stress in this passage is upon the servant's service to Christ. He will be saved, but through fire-- This could be a picture of those Christians who were clinging to the works of the law and were in Jerusalem at its destruction.

16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

There are two words in the NT translated temple: one, hieron, which refers to the temple with all its precincts. The other word the NT uses is, nahos, which refers not to the whole temple, but to the Holy of Holies. That is the word Paul uses here.

What did that mean to these people? It was the dwelling place of God. Do you not know, that is what you are? That is what the church really is. It is that institute through which God is to be manifested to the world.

Because the church is God's temple, he goes on to say:

"If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are."

The word defiles and destroy are the same Greek word, phtheiro, to spoil by any process or to ruin, corrupt, defile, or destroy. The Corinthians were God's temple and God dwelt within them. Any man who would seek to destroy that temple through false teaching shall be destroyed by God.

1 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV) Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

The word he uses here in chapter 4:1 is huperetes, this word referred to a rower in the lower tier of the galley of a ship. What Paul is doing here is explaining the relationship between the master and the servant. Paul is telling us that we ought to regard those who minister the word, not as superiors, but as subordinates of Christ.

We are also to regard them as a steward of the mysteries of God. A steward was a very familiar person to the readers of the NT. He was a slave who was given a special privileged responsibility by the master, he was, in a sense, the overseer of the house of the master. So here is one slave that is elevated above the other slaves and is given the responsibility of dispensing to the members of the household the provisions and the stores of the master that were needed by those in the household.

As a steward, then, the minister of the gospel has as his primary function dispensing the mysteries of God. Mystery is the Greek word musterion, in its Biblical use, it is not something that is mysterious, but is a secret, that man cannot know without God revealing it. It is only understood by revelation. It is something that was hidden in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. The mystery Paul is talking about is all that God has revealed in Jesus Christ, all the truths of the Christian life. And his prime responsibility is to dispense that message. That is his prime function and his prime requisite is faithfulness, as verse 2 states, "2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." Remember, in this context he is talking to those who are preaching the gospel. Stewards are to be faithful. He is to be viewed simply as a man who is intrusted with a stewardship. In the dispensing of those mysteries, his prime requisite is to be faithful. He is to be faithful to his master.

1 Corinthians 4:5 (NKJV) Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.

Judgement will take place when the Lord comes. Paul says the Lord will "expose the motives of men's hearts" which is an explanation of his statement "he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness."

In this text in Corinthians, Paul is saying the same thing that the Parable of the talents is saying. I think this shows us clearly that the parable was directed to the Apostles in their ministry of proclaiming the gospel between the Lord's Ascension and His parousia.

The Old Covenant was a ministration of death:

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV) who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Old Covenant could not give life:

Galatians 3:20-21 (NKJV) Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.

God had promised a New Covenant that would give life:

Jeremiah 31:29-31 (NKJV) "In those days they shall say no more: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' 30 "But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. 31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;

As the Church was being matured, the Old Covenant was growing old:

Hebrews 8:13 (NKJV) In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

This is why the gospel had to be preached in all world before the end would come. The New Covenant world had to be perfected before God removed the Old World. His disciples were to be faithful in proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom until He returned.

So, we see from this parable that God rewards faithful service, and he punishes those servants of his that are unfaithful.

As I said, this parable deals with the original disciples and their mission of world evangelism. If we compare this parable to Luke's parable of the pounds, we can see some additional thoughts. Different aspects are stressed in these two parables. In the parable of the talents, Jesus addresses His disciples while at the Mount of Olives; in the parable of the pounds, He is speaking to the multitude at Jericho. In the talents, variety of stewardship is dealt with. They differ from each other in the amount of gifts received. In the pounds, all are equally responsible. The servants differed from each other in the diligence they displayed.

Both parables exhibit the distinction between the faithful and the faithless, between reward and discipline.

Luke 19:12-14 (NKJV) Therefore He said: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13 "So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.' 14 "But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us.'

The first difference we see here is that all the servants got the same stewardship-- they each received a pound. The second thing we notice is that an additional aspect is introduced here; "his citizens hated him," and rejected his reign. These citizens are destroyed at his return:

Luke 19:27 (NKJV) 'But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.'"

"The citizens" refers to the Jews who are destroyed in AD 70.

Luke 19:15-19 (NKJV) "And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 "Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.' 17 "And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.' 18 "And the second came, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned five minas.' 19 "Likewise he said to him, 'You also be over five cities.'

The third difference we see here is that the servant did much more than just double his master's money, but what I want you to see is that in verse 17, the faithful servant is given rule over ten cities. What exactly this is referring to, I'm not sure, but it is clear that it is some kind of reward for faithful service.

The fourth difference that I see is that the unfaithful servant is not said to be cast into outer darkness, but he loses his pound and is not given any reward.

I think that this parable emphasizes the responsibility of all first century believers to proclaim the gospel message until the Lord returned. I think it also teaches us the principle that God rewards faithful service.

Back to the parable of the talents...

Matthew 25:30 (NKJV) 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

The "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is not referring to hell, but to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The unfaithful servant would not proclaim the gospel for fear of persecution from his Jewish brethren. We see this idea in....

John 12:42-43 (NKJV) Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Because of their love of man's praise, they would have kept their associations with Judaism, and thus would have most likely been destroyed with the city. They would have suffered the same physical fate as the citizens in Luke's account, except for the fact that were redeemed.

This parable was addressed to the disciples, they were to be faithful in the proclamation of the gospel until the end of the age. The over riding principle in this parable is that rewards are given according to faithfulness, and chastening is brought on by lack of faithfulness.

What does this parable mean to us? It teaches us the principle that runs throughout the Bible; Negligence of spiritual truth is punished and diligence is rewarded.

We also have a stewardship to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom -- eternal life to all who will believe. We are the Bride of Christ, and we are to be calling the world to faith in the gospel.

Revelation 22:17 (NKJV) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

We also will be held accountable for the stewardship that has been entrusted to us. May we, like the first century saints, seek to hear His words, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

This message preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on March 22, 1998.

Judgement of the Sheep and Goats

Matthew 25:31-46

This morning we conclude our study of the Olivet Discourse. In this discourse the Lord is answering His disciple's questions about the destruction of the temple, His parousia, and the end of the Jewish age.

Up to this point we have seen that the Olivet discourse of Jesus is one connected and continuous prophecy, which was all to take place, according to our Lord's prediction, before the existing generation should pass away.

Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

Now we encounter a passage which, in the opinion of almost all commentators, cannot be understood as referring to Jerusalem or Israel, but to the whole human race and the consummation of all things. This passage seems to take a wider range than Jerusalem and Israel; it reads like the judgment, not of a nation, but of all nations; not of a city or a country, but of a world; not a passing crisis, but final consummation.

This is not a new section, introducing a new subject, it is an integral part of the prophecy against Israel. This text deals with the judgment of Israel and the end of the Jewish age. Strictly speaking, this passage is not a parable, though it does contain parabolic elements.

Matthew 25:31-32 (NKJV) "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

This text is connected with what goes before. This is apparent by the language used. If we compare this text with Matthew 24:30-31, we will see that he is talking about the same thing.

Matthew 24:30-31 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

In both texts we see the Son of man coming in glory, with His holy angels for the purpose of judgement. The text in Matthew 24:30-31 has a very clear time statement with it:

Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

The Lord's coming in glory with his angels, for the purpose of judgement, was to come in the life time of those to whom He spoke. Matthew 25:31-46 is speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the end of the Jewish age. It is not a new topic, but simply an elaboration of Jerusalem's judgement.

It deserves particular notice that the description of the coming of the Son of man in his glory, given in our text, corresponds in all points with that in Matthew 16: 27-28, of which it is expressly stated that it would be witnessed by some then present when the prediction was made.

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

If we compare the two texts, we will see: (a) That in both passages the subject referred to is the same, the coming of the Son of man- the Parousia. (b) In both, passages He is described as coming in glory. (c) In both, He is attended by the holy angels. (d) In both, He comes as a King. "Coming in his kingdom;" "He shall sit upon his throne; Then shall the King," etc. (e) In both He comes to judgment. (f) In both, the judgment is represented as, in some sense, universal. "He shall reward every man." Before him shall be gathered "all the nations." (g) In Matthew 16:28, it is expressly stated that this coming in glory was to take place in the lifetime of some then present. This fixes the time of the Parousia within the limit of a human life, thus being in perfect accord with the period defined by our Lord in His prophetic discourse. "This generation shall not pass."

I think that we can clearly see that the coming of the Son of man in Matthew 25:31-32, is identical with that referred to in Matthew 24:30-31 and 16:27-28, which some of the disciples were to live to witness. Our text is clearly speaking of a first century event. This judgement took place in AD 70. The destruction of Jerusalem, the coming of Christ, the resurrection, and the judgement are all connected in Scripture. Notice the similarity of our text to:

Matthew 13:40-43 (NKJV) "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 "and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

At the end of the (Jewish) age the Son of Man returns with His angels to judge the wicked and reward the righteous. We see from verse 43 that this is also a time of resurrection. Verse 43 is a quotation of Daniel 12.

Daniel 12:1-3 (NKJV) "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Verse 1 speaks of the great tribulation of Matthew 24:21, which will be a time of deliverance for the elect of God.

We see this same idea in:

2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 (NKJV) since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 2 of Daniel 12 tells us that at this time the resurrection takes place. Those resurrected are either given everlasting life or everlasting contempt. We see this same idea in our text in Matthew 25. Verse 3 of Daniel 12, is the verse that is quoted in Matthew 13. Thus, the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 25:31, is the same as His coming in Matthew 13:41, which is the same event spoken of by Daniel in 12:1-3. This all happened in AD 70 and was manifest by Jerusalem's destruction.

Verse 31 of Matthew 25, states that, "Then He will sit on the throne of His glory." This is not a literal throne, it expresses the idea that he will come as a king and judge. In Matthew 20:21, two of the disciples ask Jesus to grant them the right to sit on His right and left hand, "in the Kingdom." The parallel passage in Mark 10:37 says they asked to sit with him, "in thy glory." The kingdom is the glory of Jesus! Thus, if Jesus came in his glory, he came in his kingdom.

The words, "all nations" in verse 32 have led many to believe that this passage is not referring to the destruction of Jerusalem at the close of the Jewish age, but to a universal and final judgement of all mankind.

Does the phrase, "all nations" jump us ahead thousands of years to a future judgement of the world? I don't think so. We know that it is not uncommon to find in Scripture universal propositions which must be understood in a qualified or restricted sense. For example we see this in:

Matthew 24:22 (NKJV) "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

Now, we know from our study of Matthew 24 that the tribulation was the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Roman armies, and yet we have an expression used in regard to the inhabitants of a city or country, "no flesh would be saved," which is wide enough to include the whole human race.

The phrase, "all nations" is equivalent to, "all the tribes of the land" used in:

Matthew 24:30 (NKJV) "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

There is no error in designating the tribes as nations. In our Lord's time it was usual to speak of the inhabitants of Palestine as consisting of several nations. Josephus speaks of, "the nation of the Samaritans," "the nation of the Galileans,"-- using the very word ethnos which we find in our passage. Judea, was a distinct nation, often with a king of its own; so also was Samaria; and so with Idumea, Galilee, Paraea,-- all of which had, at different times, princes with the title of Ethnarch, a name which signifies the ruler of a nation. It is doing no violence, then, to the language to understand ethnos as referring to, "all nations" of Palestine, or "all the tribes of the land."

This view can be supported by the fact that the same phrase is used in the great commission:

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

This commission is given to the 11 disciples (Matthew 28:16). Did they understand this as a charge to evangelize the whole world? I don't think so. If they did understand it this way, they were negligent in acting upon it.

Professor Burton observes : " It was not until fourteen years after our Lord's ascension that St. Paul traveled -for the first time, and preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Nor is there any evidence that during that period the other apostles passed the confines of Judea."

The disciples seemed quite surprised to find out that, "the Gentiles had received the gift of the Holy Ghost," and that, "God had granted to the Gentiles also repentance unto life."

Acts 10:45 (NKJV) And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Acts 11:18 (NKJV) When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."

When Peter was challenged for going in, "to men uncircumcised, and eating with them," he doesn't appeal to the great commission saying, "we were commanded to go to all nations." That would have been my response if I was in his place. Unless I didn't view the great commission as a call to world evangelism.

If the phrase, "all nations" had been understood by the disciples in its literal sense, it is difficult to imagine how they could have failed to recognize at once the universal character of the gospel, and their commission to preach it alike to Jew and Gentile. It required a distinct revelation from heaven to overcome the Jewish prejudices. Peter tells Cornelius about his vision from God.

Acts 10:28 (NKJV) Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

When did God show Peter that? It was in Acts 10, which was about ten years after the great commission was given.

Paul, through revelation, learned the mystery, "that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel."

Ephesians 3:3-6 (NKJV) how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,

In light of these texts, it seems reasonable to to give the phrase, "all nations" a restricted sense and to limit it to the nations of Palestine. In this sense it fits well with the words of our Lord in:

Matthew 10:23 (NKJV) "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes."

They were commissioned to preach the gospel to Israel and Jesus told them that they would not reach all of its cities before the Son of Man came in His parousia.

Matthew 25:33-34 (NKJV) "And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

God's elect are represented under the common image of His "sheep." God's sheep are blessed inasmuch as they now take their inheritance. The kingdom was prepared for God's elect from the foundation of the world. Those who come to God for salvation, come because they have been chosen by Him from eternity past.

Ephesians 1:4 (NKJV) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV) But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,

The Judge tells them that the kingdom was prepared for them, that is designed for them, or appointed for them from the beginning. God has no new plan.

Matthew 25:35-40 (NKJV) 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

We see here that the destiny of the righteous and the wicked is determined by their treatment of those Christ calls, "my brethren." There is nothing said here about faith, the judgement is based on acts of love toward the distressed brethren of Christ. It is not surprising that this text causes much perplexity both to theologians and general readers.

William Barclay writes, "This is one of the most vivid parables Jesus ever spoke, and the lesson is crystal clear-- that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need."

Is this the doctrine of Paul? Is this the ground of justification before God set forth in the New Testament? Are we to conclude that the everlasting destiny of the whole human race, from Adam to the last man, will finally turn on their love and sympathy towards the persecuted and suffering brethren of Christ? Not according to the teaching of the New Testament.

Romans 3:24 (NKJV) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

The Greek word used here for, "freely" is dorean. It means gratuitously (lit. or fig.):--without a cause, freely. "Freely by his grace"- the expression is redoubled to show that all is of God and that nothing in this act of justification belongs to, or proceeds from man.

Romans 3:28 (NKJV) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Romans 11:6 (NKJV) And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

The clear teaching of the New Testament is that salvation is by grace through faith alone. Yet this text in Matthew 25 seems to be saying that judgement is based upon works. The difficulty is easily and completely solved if we regard this judicial transaction as the judgment of Israel at the close of the Jewish age. It is the rejected King of Israel who is the judge: it is the hostile and unbelieving generation of Jews, the last and worst of the nation, that is arraigned before His tribunal.

Matthew 23:35-36 (NKJV) "that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

As those first century Jews responded to Christ's disciples or "brothers" and aligned themselves with their distress and afflictions, they aligned themselves with the Messiah whom they preached. The acceptance or rejection of the disciples was based upon their acceptance or rejection of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. Saul persecuted Christians because he did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. In attacking them, he was attacking Christ.

Acts 9:5 (NKJV) And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

The people designated as,"these my brethren," and who are taken as the representatives of Christ Himself, are evidently the apostles of our Lord, in whom He hungered, and thirsted, was naked, sick, and in prison. All this is in perfect harmony with the words of Christ to His disciples, when He sent them forth to preach"

Matthew 10:5-7 (NKJV) These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The were called to preach the gospel of the kingdom to Israel. Those of Israel who didn't receive their words would receive a judgement worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Matthew 10:14-15 (NKJV) "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 "Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

Jesus warns them that Israel hated Him, so it would also hate them.

Matthew 10:25 (NKJV) "It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!

Jesus told them that their reception or rejection would be His reception or rejection.

Matthew 10:40-42 (NKJV) "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."

Because the Jews hated Christ, they mistreated His followers.

Those who believed in Christ were kind in their treatment of His disciples. Thus, judgement is based upon faith or rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.

Matthew 25:41-46 (NKJV) "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 'I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' 44 "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' 45 "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Those who trust in Christ are blessed and enter the kingdom. Those who reject Christ are punished by being eternally separated from Christ -- "depart from me." Their destiny is "everlasting fire" -- the image employed here is used to express extreme suffering. I do not think that the fire is literal. The truth intended to be taught here is not the manner of suffering, but the duration, certainty, and intensity of it.

Notice here that the everlasting fire was prepared for the Devil and his angels. Since the Devil and his angels are spirits, the fire could not be literal.

Notice in verse 44 that the goats call Him Lord. This is the fulfillment of:

Philippians 2:11 (NKJV) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Please notice the contrast in verse 46:

Matthew 25:46 (NKJV) "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Everlasting punishment-- the original word here translated, "punishment" means torment, or suffering inflicted for crime.

The noun is only used one other place in the New Testament-- I John 4:18, "Fear hath torment." The verb from which the noun is derived is used twice:

Acts 4:21 (NKJV) So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.

2 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,

If this word does not teach that the wicked will suffer, no word could express the idea. The word translated, "everlasting" is the Greek ionios. The New Testament uses this word sixty-six times. Of these, in fifty-one instances it is used of the happiness of the righteous; in two, of God's existence; in six, of the church, the Messiah's kingdom; and in the remaining seven, of the future punishment of the wicked. If in these seven instances, we attach to the word the idea of limited duration, consistency requires that the same idea of limited duration should be given it in the fifty-one cases of its application to the future glory of the righteous, and the two instances of its application to God's existence, and the six cases of its appropriation to the reign of Messiah and the glory and perpetuity of the church.

Both the punishment and the life are designated by the same adjective, "aionios," clearly indicating their equal duration. It is regrettable that the translators used two different adjectives to translate the word, aionios. If one can be proved to be limited in duration, the other can by the same arguments.

We have here, not the final judgment of the whole human race, but that of the guilty nation or nations of Palestine, who rejected their King, despitefully treated and slew His messengers, and whose day of doom was now near at hand. This being so, the entire prophecy on the Mount of Olives is seen to be one homogeneous and connected whole. It is a clear, consecutive, and historically truthful representation of the judgment of the Theocratic nation at the close of the age, or Jewish period.

A universal judgement in our future is entirely unnecessary, those who have died since AD 70 already know where they will spend eternity. When a person dies, his spirit immediately enters heaven or hell. So, what purpose would there be of a final judgement?

John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

John 5:24 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ will not see life, they are under the wrath of God. Believers have already passed from death to life and will not come into judgement. Believers will stand before Christ to give an account of what they have done in the body and to receive rewards.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (NKJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

The bema (judgment seat) was well known to the Corinthians. Believers will be judged in a review of their works for the purpose of rewards.

As we come to the close of the Olivet Discourse, I would like to read you a quote from J. Stuart Russell, "Before passing away from this deeply interesting prophecy it may be proper to advert to the marvelously minute fulfilment which it received, as testified by an unexceptionable witness,-- the Jewish historian Josephus. It is a fact of singular interest and importance that there should have been preserved to posterity a full and authentic record of the times and transactions referred to in our Lord's prophecy; and that this record should be from the pen of a Jewish statesman, soldier, priest, and man of letters, not only having access to the best sources of information, but himself an eye-witness of many of the events which he relates. It gives additional weight to this testimony that it does not come from a Christian, who might have been suspected of partisanship, but from a Jew, indifferent, if not hostile, to the cause of Jesus.

So striking is the coincidence between the prophecy and the history that the old objection of Porphyry against the Book of Daniel, that it must have been written after the event, might be plausibly alleged, were there the slightest pretense for such an insinuation.

Though the Jewish people were at all times restless and uneasy under the yoke of Rome, there were no urgent symptoms of disaffection at the time when our Lord delivered this prediction of the approaching destruction of the temple, the city, and the nation. The higher classes were profuse in their professions of loyalty to the Imperial government: 'We have no king but Caesar' was their cry. It was the policy of Rome to grant the free exercise of their own religion to the subject provinces. There was, therefore, no apparent reason why the new and splendid temple of Jerusalem should not stand for centuries, and Judea enjoy a greater tranquillityand prosperity under the aegis of Caesar than she had ever known under her native princes. Yet before the generation which rejected and crucified the Son of David had wholly passed away, the Jewish nationality was extinguished : Jerusalem was a desolation; ' the holy and beautiful house' on Mount Zion was razed to the ground; and the unhappy people, who knew not the time of their visitation, were overwhelmed by calamities without a parallel in the annals of the world.

All this is undeniable; and yet it would be too much, to expect that this will be regarded as an adequate fulfilment of our Savior's words by many whom prejudice-or traditional interpretations have taught to see more in the prophecy than ever inspiration included in it. No doubt there are some portions of this prediction which are capable of verification by human testimony. Does any one expect Tacitus, or Suetonius, or Josephus, or any other historian, to relate that 'the Son of man was seen coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; that He summoned the nations to his tribunal, and rewarded every man according to his works'? There is a region into which witnesses and reporters may not enter; flesh and blood may not gaze upon the mysteries of the spiritual and immaterial. But there is also a large portion of the prophecy which is capable of verification, and which has been amply verified. Even an assailant of Christianity, who impugns the supernatural knowledge of Christ, is compelled to admit that 'the portion relating to the destruction of the city is singularly definite, and corresponds very closely with the actual event.'"

Earnest Hampden-Cook in his book, "Christ Has Come," written in 1905, puts it this way: "By a process of reasoning the astronomer Adams discovered the planet Neptune before it had been seen by human eyes. He knew that there must he such a planet, because its existence was essential for the explanation of other undoubted facts. In the same way, although it cannot be proved from history that the Lord Jesus personally and visibly returned to the earth at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D., yet relying on His solemn teaching we may be morally certain that He did so return. The past Second Advent is the key to the understanding of the whole New Testament. In the light of this one event a world of mystery vanishes and a new world of truth stands revealed."

Russell continues. "The punctual fulfilment of that part of the prophecy which comes within the field of human observation is the guarantee for the truth of the remainder, which does not fall within that sphere. We shall find in the sequel of this discussion that the events which now appear to many incredible were the confident expectation and hope of the apostolic age, and that the early Christians were fully persuaded of their reality and nearness. We are placed, therefore, in this dilemma -- either the words of Jesus have failed, and the hopes of His disciples have been falsified; or else those words and hopes have been fulfilled, and the prophecy in all its parts has been fully accomplished. One thing is certain, the veracity of our Lord is committed to the assertion that the whole and every part of the events contained in this prophecy were to take place before the close of the existing generation. If any language may claim to be precise and definite, it is that which our Lord employs to mark the limits of the time within which all His words were to be fulfilled. Whatever other catastrophes, of other nations, in other ages, there may be in the future, concerning them our Lord is silent. He speaks of His own guilty nation, and of His judicial coming at the close of the age, as had been often and clearly foretold by Malachi, by John the Baptist, and by Himself."


 
This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on April 5, 1998.

The Rapture -- Physical or Spiritual?


 

We talked last week about the passing away of the old heaven and earth and the establishment of the new heaven and earth. I stated that we are NOW living in the new heaven and earth. Obviously I don't view the new heaven and earth as physical, we are certainly not living in a physical paradise. I believe that the new heaven and earth is a spiritual reality. I believe that Isaiah 65-66 and 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21-22 speak of spiritual truths not physical truths. Am I spiritualizing too much of the Bible? Is it wrong to make spiritual application to things or is it the way that things should be interpreted?

John 6:62-63 (NKJV) "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Jesus' message was not earthly or fleshly in hope, but he came to bear testimony unto the spiritual. Entry into his kingdom requires a spiritual birth.

John 1:17 (NKJV) For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

What is meant by truth? Jesus said in his prayer to God in John 17:17, "Thy Word is truth," but this can't be what he means here because the law is also the word of God. The law was not the truth, and the truth was not the law, but they were both the Word of God. What then is the difference?

Hebrews 10:1 (NKJV) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

The law was a shadow or type of good things to come. The purpose of the law was to set forth spiritual things by its physical types and shadows.

Hebrews 8:5 (NKJV) who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

The purpose of the tabernacle built by Moses was never intended to be anything more than a pattern, for the purpose of leading man to the spiritual tabernacle.

Hebrews 9:9-11 (NKJV) It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience; 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

The first tabernacle with all its physical things represented the tabernacle to come under Christ, which is not made with hands; meaning that it is spiritual in nature.

What is truth then that came by Jesus Christ? Truth is the spiritual nature of the NT system in contrast to the fleshly nature of the OT system. This is seen in the nature of the two sons of Abraham; Ishmael and Isaac.

Galatians 4:21-31 (NKJV) Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

The mothers of these two sons represent the two covenants, and the two sons represent the two nations born of the covenants, namely physical and spiritual Israel. I believe that God wants us to see the priority of the spiritual over the physical.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV) Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

God wants us to realize that the totality of our existence is not confined to that which can be experienced by the five senses. When we look around us we see a world that has visuals and textures and smells and sounds. It is so easy for man's attention to be drawn away from the creator to the creation and we live as if this is our reality. When man fails to realize his essential spiritual nature he drifts from the God who is a spirit. God wants us to realize that there is more to man than what meets the eye. We are spiritual beings in the here and now. Sometimes we act as if were physical now and we'll be spiritual later, that is wrong. You and I are spiritual being's right here, right now.

Because God is drawing our attention to the spiritual I want to make a case to you of understanding the eschatological texts in the NT in a spiritual sense. I want to ask you to review your paradigm of eschatology. When you read 2 Peter 3 about the heavens melting and the earth being burned up and all that. If that is physical none of us has any arguments as to whether that has happened. The earth is not toast. But if these are physical words describing spiritual realities then its going to change our paradigms. Jesus said he was going to come in his disciples life. Was he mistaken? If these difficult texts are understood spiritually then the time frames don't have to be explained away. Jesus meant exactly what he said. If we say these men were mistaken on the time references then we are in fact questioning inspiration.

Jesus said:

Matthew 16:6-7 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread."

Notice Jesus response to them:

Matthew 16:8-11 (NKJV) But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9 "Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 "Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 "How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?; but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

When Jesus said leaven, they took it to mean the physical leaven that leavens bread. They didn't understand how Jesus was using the word leaven. Jesus was talking about a spiritual influence but he used physical words to describe spiritual realities.

In John 2 Jesus said:

John 2:19-21 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

They assigned their own meaning to the temple and therefore didn't understand what Jesus was saying. They didn't understand how Jesus was using the word. We need to make sure we understand how each other are using words when we communicate. If it is important to understand how others are using words how much more important is it to understand how our God uses words.

Had you ever noticed that the disciples in the first century missed the second coming of Elijah? There is a prophecy in:

Malachi 4:5 (NKJV) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

In one of his discussions with the disciples they questioned him on this prophecy.

Matthew 17:10-12 (NKJV) And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 11 Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 "But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

They knew the prophecy about Elijah, apparently they thought it would be fulfilled physically. It was actually fulfilled but it was not physically fulfilled. John came in the Spirit of Elijah. Speaking to Zacharias his wife Elizabeth the angel said:

Luke 1:17 (NKJV) "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

The Jews expected the reappearance of the literal Elijah, and John replies to that mistaken notion in:

John 1:21 (NKJV) And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."

Jesus is telling them if you want to understand the second coming of Elijah you've got to look at the spiritual.

Matthew 11:13-14 (NKJV) "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 "And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.

How are we saved?

Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

We're saved by his blood. What does that mean? Is the power there physical or spiritual? Someone will say its physical because he physically shed his blood. Have you got any of it? The blood of Christ is what saves us. And yes Jesus Christ shed his physical blood and yes that is what saves us. But it is spiritually applied, is it not? We don't have the physical blood of Jesus.

Let me give you a case for a spiritual model -- Adam. We all know that he is responsible for the fall. Adam sinned. What was his basic problem? Was it the fruit that he ate? Was his problem fruit or was it not a spiritual problem? Because of Adam we all share this spiritual problem -- we are all spiritually separated from God because of our sin.

Lets talk about the kingdom that the Messiah was to bring into the world. Lets examine what the nature of that kingdom is because when the Bible says it was at hand, it either was or it wasn't. If it is a physical kingdom and its going to happen over in the physical city of modern Jerusalem, that hasn't happened. What does the Bible say about this kingdom?

1 Corinthians 15:50 (NKJV) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

John 18:36 (NKJV) Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."

Hebrews 11:10-16 (NKJV) for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 "nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

We are so physically minded we put so much emphasis on the physical. But the spirit is where three things are -- the value, the power and the need. The value for mankind is in the spirit. Men, how do you show your love to your wife on a daily basis? Perhaps by a hug. Women, what is the value in that hug for you? Let's say that that man was insincere and that he no longer loved you. Would his hug mean anything, would it hold any value? It might even become a reprehensible thing to you. On the other hand if, God forbid, that your husband should become a quadriplegic and loose his ability to hug you. As long as you know that the love for you is in his heart then you can live without the hugs. Women, if you could have one or the other, the love in his heart or the hugs, which one would you take? You would want the love because the value is in the spirit, not in the physical.

The power is also in the spirit.

1 John 3:1-2 (NKJV) Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

This is clearly a second coming passage. John says that when he appears we're going to see him as he is. Notice that it doesn't say we're going to see him as he was. We'll see him as he is. Now someone describe Jesus Christ to me. How would you describe Him? Loving, kind, gentle, compassionate, merciful. Now these things are all spiritual. Tell me what he looks like physically. About five foot six inches tall, dark hair, brown eyes. What if Jesus appeared to you physically tonight and tomorrow you told people about it, what is the first question they would ask you? What did he look like? Let's say that you described him physically to them. How much power would there be in that description to transform your life? None. But when we look upon Jesus Christ as he is and see his mercy and kindness, and love and righteousness, these things are able to transform our lives. That is where the power is. The power is not in the physical but the spiritual.

The need is also in the spirit. Isn't our need truly spiritual? What does Genesis 6 say about the earth:

Genesis 6:11-12 (NKJV) The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

The earth was corrupt. Now lets say that we could take all humans and transport them to another planet. Now look back at the earth is it still corrupt? No. The problem is man. It's the same problem that is in our society today. The problem is within us. We don't need God to burn up the earth and make a new one. What we need is something that deals with the spirit of man. We need a new heart, a spiritual change. So the spiritual realm is where the value is, it's where the power is and folks it's where the need is.

How does God communicate to us about this spiritual dimension of life? That is what the kingdom of God is all about. The kingdom of heaven is intended to lift you up to live in the realm of the spirit on a consistent daily basis. How does God equip us to see the kingdom of God which we cannot see with the physical eye? Well the first step is we need a spiritual birth. Then he gives us a vocabulary. As vocabularies are developed we can conceptualize. God has done that for mankind in at least two ways. 1. Through the physical creation, the son, the moon, and the stars. Light and darkness. God teaches us through our material universe. You know what it's like to stumble around in the darkness and not know where you are going. That is what it's like for someone who doesn't have the counsel of my word. You know how clearly you see things when the sun is out and its bright? That is what life is like when you walk in the counsel of my word. When Jesus gave sight to the physically blind, He illustrated a point about spiritual sight and spiritual blindness:

John 9:39 (KJV) And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

Had he been talking about physical sight and blindness, He would have been promising physical blindness to most of mankind. However, he used the physical to illustrate the spiritual.

God also allowed us to develop a conceptual vocabulary through the Jewish nation. God set up a priesthood and a sacrifice and a temple and all those things. And when you and I learn what a high priest was and what he did and why he did it, then we can take that information and transfer it to the spiritual realm because God wasn't really talking about the physical high priest anymore than he was the physical temple. That box that Solomon built was a symbolic place for the presence of God to reside. But God desired to live in the hearts of men. To walk among us but sin death prevented that. Sin death separated men from God. But God had a plan and from 30 AD to 70 AD he created a new temple made out of living human spirits. Then he destroyed the old one and moved into the new one. And today he walks among us.

When we talk about a conceptual vocabulary we're talking about physical words that allow us to peer into the spiritual realm. We need to understand that this material creation and the Jewish system is God's way of giving us insight into the spiritual realm. By the earthly tabernacle with it's curtain, God was saying you're here and I'm here. I want you to be where I am but it can't be because of your sin. God was illustrating man's spiritual condition.

Keep this idea of the spiritual kingdom and spiritual realities in mind as we look at the famous rapture passage. When the Thessalonians of the first century read this passage what did they understand?

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (NKJV) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Many Christians today view this passage as an escape from the troubles of this world.

They believe that the Church will be "raptured" out of this world. I'm sure you've seen the pictures of the unmanned cars crashing and bodies coming out of the graves with everyone going up into the sky. Do the Scriptures teach this kind of escapism? I think just the opposite , Jesus in his high priestly prayer prayed that the Father would "not to take them (the elect) out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15).

Let's look at this text and see if we can't understand what the Lord is teaching us. First of all who are those who sleep in Jesus? These are the dead saints of the OC. Prior to Christ resurrection all those believers who died did not go to heaven but to Abrahams bosom. They couldn't enter the presence of God until sin had been dealt with.

Luke 16:22 (NKJV) "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.

At the second coming these saints were taken into the presence of God, they experienced a resurrection. Also notice what Paul wrote: "By the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord" in both verses 15 & 17 of 1 Thessalonians. They were expecting the parousia in their lifetime. We need to keep in mind audience relevance as we read the Bible. We need to stop looking at the NT as if it was written in our generation. The Bible was not written to us but it was written for us.

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.

This is figurative or apocalyptic language speaking of judgement. Comparing this text to a parallel text in Matthew 24 will help us to better understand its meaning.

Matthew 24:30-31 (KJV) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Does that sound familiar? It should, this is a parallel text to the Thessalonian passage. Jesus spoke these words in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem and said that their generation would see all these things fulfilled (Matthew 24:34). In biblical language "clouds" are symbolic of God's wrath and judgement against the enemies of His people. David said that the Lord delivered him from his enemies while descending on clouds in Psalm 18:3-15. The Lord said that He would ride into Egypt on a cloud and punish them:

Isaiah 19:1 (KJV) The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.

The Lord did not literally ride on a cloud but Egypt did receive this judgement at the hands of the Assyrians (Isaiah 20:1-6). The idea of Jesus physically coming on the clouds would have been contrary to the nature of their understanding of the OT prophets.





A comparison between 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and Matthew 24 is fascinating. As we keep in mind that Jesus uses apocalyptic language in Matthew 24: 29-35 we can't expect the same language to be literal in 1 Thessalonians 4-5. Those who believe the coming in Matthew refers to the spiritual events surrounding Jerusalem's fall would insist that we not literalize the clouds, the angels or the trumpet blast. If they are not literal in Matthew why would they be in Thessalonians? Matthew is the source of the language in Thessalonians!



1. Christ Himself Returns
Matt. 24:30
I Thess. 4:16
2. From Heaven
Matt. 24:30
I Thess. 4:16
3. With a Shout
Matt. 24:30 (in power)
I Thess. 4:16
4. Accompanied by Angels
Matt. 24:31
I Thess. 4:16
5. With Trumpet of God
Matt. 24:31
I Thess. 4:16
6. Believers Gathered
Matt. 24:31
I Thess. 4:17
7. In Clouds
Matt. 24:30
I Thess. 4:17
8. Time Unknown
Matt. 24:36
I Thess. 5:1-2
9. Will Come as a Thief
Matt. 24:43
I Thess. 5:2,4

10. Unbelievers Unaware of Impending Judgment

Matt. 24:37-39
I Thess. 5:3

11. Judgment Comes as Travail upon Expectant Mother

Matt. 24:8
I Thess. 5:3
12. Believers to Watch
Matt. 24:42
I Thess. 5:4
13. Warning Against Drunkenness
Matt. 24:49
I Thess. 5:7





In Matthew 24 Jesus predicted his coming to gather together the saints in that generation. In 1 Thessalonians 4-5 Paul spoke of the same coming of the Lord to gather the saints. How many comings of the Lord, with his angels, in fire, in power and glory, to gather the saints, are there in the NT? Just ONE! The conclusion is inescapable that 1 Thessalonians 4-5 is dealing with exactly the same coming, judgment, and gathering that Matt. 24 is.

You might ask, "what does the Bible mean when it says that we shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air?" Does this mean we'll be sucked up into the sky? What does the word "air" mean? Is it in our atmosphere or the air we breath? I think that Ephesians two gives us an idea of what air means here.

Eph 2:2: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."

The word "air" is an another word for heavenly or spiritual realm. Satan was always an opponent of the scheme of the redemption as we can see throughout the Bible. He was the prince of the power of the air. In Rom. 16:20 Paul says that Satan would be crushed "shortly" under their feet (original relevance). Jesus now has taken over that sphere and rules in the "air" with the saints since the destruction of Jerusalem. If that is the same "air" where the saints were to meet and be gathered, then there is no necessity for us to believe that the rapture gathering and meeting was to be physical. It was accomplished when the faithful remnant of Jewish believers with the ingrafted Gentiles was transformed into Christ's new spiritual Israel when the old covenant was taken away in AD 70. The "gathering together" is the heavenly places in Christ - the spiritual kingdom of God. Being caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air is simply accommodative language denoting the end-of-the-age gathering together of God's elect.

Ephesians 1:10 (NKJV) that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; in Him.

To insist on a literal reading of that which is clearly symbolic language is to miss the spiritual truths contained in such passages.

Verse 17 says that we are going to "meet the Lord in the air", the word 'meet' apanteas

(ap-an'tay-sis) is only used three times in the Bible, each time signifying the sending of an advance party to meet a dignitary, and then escort him back to where they came from. In the case of Acts 28:15, the Christians in Rome went out to 'meet' Paul at the Appii forum, and then they escorted him back to their homes. The other usage of this word is found in the parable of the ten virgins, in Matthew 25. In the parable of the ten virgins, the kingdom of heaven "is likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom." The word used to 'meet' the bridegroom is 'apanteas', which means to meet to escort back, as is evidenced by the fact that they met the bridegroom, and then went in to the house from which they came:

Matthew 25:10 (NKJV) "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. V13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."

In verse 13, Christ clarifies that this is what will occur in that generation when He comes. The significance of this is that when Christ came in the clouds, he literally, yet spiritually, gathered those that were alive to be caught up in the kingdom with Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ spiritually returned with the believers to the earth, to ever be with them. This was a spiritual event that was visibly manifest in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Did you know that a number of historians have substantiated the fact that Christ's coming in the clouds occurred in that generation? Josephus, a Jewish general present at the destruction of Jerusalem, wrote of the coming in the clouds as being a very real event (See Wars of the Jews Archive). He wrote:

Besides these [signs], a few days after that feast, on the one-and-twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence."

Tacitus, the Roman historian, relating the same events, wrote:

"In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure" (Histories, v. 13).

Eusebius, the bishop at Palestine (See Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History), wrote this in the fourth century:

"For before the setting of the sun chariots and armed troops were seen throughout the whole region in mid-air, wheeling through the clouds and encircling the cities.

The establishment of the kingdom is directly related to the 'gathering of the saints' in that generation, as seen in Matthew 24:30-31. In fact, the very next chapter has the explanation of the gathering and the kingdom in parabolic form. In the parable of the sheep and goats, Christ identifies that the righteous and the wicked would be gathered when He came later in that generation (v. 31; see Matt. 16:27-28). At the time of this gathering, Christ burns the wicked with fire, but says to the righteous, "Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." This is precisely the same gathering as seen in 1 Thess. 4:17:

The word "rapture" is nowhere to be found in the Bible, neither is it taught there. There is no Scriptural support for it. This escapist philosophy is pure fiction. We are not taught to escape reality in the Scripture, but rather to face it knowing that God will work all things out for our good (Rom. 8:28-30). When Jesus Christ returned he gathered the elect of all the ages into his kingdom. We as believers now live in the kingdom of God. May we learn to focus on the spiritual and not the physical. Remember the value, the power and the need are in the spiritual realm and not the physical.

This message was preached by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it on May 11, 1997.


 

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