End-times prophecies, last days, eschatology, Second Coming of Christ, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Millennium, the Rapture, the Resurrection, Revelation, Dispensational teaching, the Preterist viewpoint, 70 Weeks of Daniel, Authors Pentecost, Walvoord, Gundry, Russell, Hanegraaf.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
MATTHEW 24 & 25: PART 2
24 begins with a brief conversation between Jesus and His disciples in the
Temple complex in Jerusalem.At that
time, Jesus predicted the complete destruction of the Temple.One can fill in some drama in the reaction of
the disciples.They appeared to say
absolutely nothing—dumbstruck by Jesus’ prediction.After some time, when they were alone with
Him outside the city on Mount Olives, they had recovered enough to ask three
questions (the second and third tied together):
us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of
the end of the age?”(Matthew
24:3, all Scriptures English Standard Version unless stated otherwise)
24:4 through the end of Matthew 25 is Jesus’ reply to these questions, as
recorded in Matthew (parallels in Mark 13:5-37 and Luke 21:8-36).
THAT NO ONE LEADS YOU ASTRAY”
Jesus’ first admonition is one that
all should take to heart.If ever there
were ever occasions for deception, it is in interpreting this and other
prophetic Scriptures.Paul remarks about
evil people that they are “deceiving and being deceived.” (II Timothy 3:13) This gives us a clue that the source of
deception is also the source of all other evils.
understanding reminds us that we must always be in prayer that our hearts will
be right before God as we study the Scripture.I believe that a sincere and righteous heart may make a mistake in
interpretation.But such a heart will
have a righteous attitude about the whole enterprise of interpretation.We will not be boastful or bitterly
polemical.We will be willing to be
proved wrong, but will humbly hold fast to what we believe is the truth in the
face of those who seem to have the majority on their side.
we consider interpretation of prophetic Scriptures, we need to take the project
quite seriously.In my first article in
this series, I discussed the fact that lack of interest in eschatology is
symptomatic of a spiritual malaise in the church.As we deal with these Scriptures, over and
again we observe that spiritual exhortation is at the heart of these
Scriptures.We are not simply getting to
see into the future.We are receiving
warnings, comforting thoughts, and exhortations to encourage us to endure to
the end (Matthew 24:13).
we can observe that gross distortions of the Christian message often are
accompanied by gross distortions of eschatology.The Watchtower Society, or Jehovah’s
Witnesses, presents a theology that is far removed from orthodox
Christianity.They reject the Trinity,
and they do not accept the full deity of Jesus Christ.They have taught that Christ returned
“spiritually” in 1914.They have taught
that a select group of Jehovah’s Witnesses are the 144,000 that are described
in Revelation 7 and 14 (Ridenour pages 114-129).
I do not think we have to look to cults and other far-out groups to see
deception in the interpretation of eschatological Scripture.People commonly make mistakes in their
approach to eschatology.
·The most common error is to choose to
ignore the subject.People are
frightened or they are overwhelmed by the complexity or they make judgments on
certain groups that stress eschatology.Whatever their reasons may be, they choose to avoid eschatology and the
Scriptures of eschatology.By doing so,
they remain ignorant of an important segment of the counsel of God.
·Some people overemphasize
eschatology.They tend to judge all
Scripture on the basis of their personal eschatological perspective.This can distort their understanding of
important Scriptural teaching.It also
can deprive them of a foundation for discernment of eschatological teaching.
·Many have succumbed to the temptation to
set dates.Jesus told us we would not
know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:42), yet many cannot resist setting dates.
·Some people are quick to make judgments
about certain teachings because they have observed obnoxious behavior in some
adherents of those teachings.This is
the ad hominem logical error.
·Some people are quick to interpret
current events in eschatological terms.
I believe Jesus was
especially warning about the final item in the list when He warned about
deception in regards to the timing of eschatological events.
INTERPRETING JESUS’ REPLY:
A RANGE OF APPROACHES
There are a number of interpretative approaches to this
complex passage.I shall briefly
introduce some of those approaches.
Passage Fraught with Problems:R. V. G. Tasker wrote the commentary on
Matthew in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries—a collection of evangelical
commentaries that has been very helpful to me over many years.But Tasker approaches the Olivet Discourse through
eyes of scholars (in many cases solid in their orthodoxy) who only see the
“problems” of the passage.The following
are quotes from his first paragraph on the passage:“In this very difficult section the
evangelist has brought together sayings of Jesus which foretold the downfall of
Jerusalem and the final coming of the Son of man [sic] in judgment…[Scholars]
have found it extremely difficult to say with any degree of certainty which
parts of the chapter contain an answer [to when the destruction of Jerusalem would
take place] and which parts are a response to their supplementary question
[what will be the sign of the His coming and of the end of the age].”In a footnote, Tasker refers to the “problems
raised by this chapter…” (Tasker page 223)
Prediction of the Judgment on Judaism—the True Parousia:J. S. Russell published his book in 1878 that
established the interpretive theory that came to be known as Preterism.In that book he contended that the Parousia
was evidenced by the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.He claimed that this event was Jesus’ coming
in judgment upon the nation of Israel and that constituted the Second Coming,
or Parousia, of Jesus Christ.His book
surveyed the entire New Testament (together with some Old Testament
Scriptures).In his commentary of
Matthew 24-25, he said:“What we contend
for is the unity and continuity of the whole [Olivet] discourse…The theme is
the approaching consummation of the age…the woes which were to overtake that
‘wicked generation,’ comprehending the invasion of the Roman armies, the siege
and capture of Jerusalem, the total destruction of the Temple…along with this
we find the true Parousia,…the judicial infliction of divine wrath upon the
impenitent, and the deliverance and recompense of the faithful.”(Russell, pages 63-64)
Description of the Tribulation Period and Beyond:Dwight Pentecost is a representative author
of the Dispensationalist school of interpretation.He understands this passage to be focused on
prophecies that are pertinent to the nation of Israel:“The first event in Israel’s program for the
end of the age is the tribulation period, described in Matthew 24:4-26.”(Pentecost, page 277) He does not believe
that any of this material applies to the church:“Consistency of interpretation would seem to
eliminate any application of this portion of Scripture to the church or the
church age, inasmuch as the Lord is dealing with the prophetic program for
Israel.”(Pentecost, page 278)
Prediction of Events of the First Century that Foreshadow the Future Events
that Focus on the Second Coming of Christ:G. Eldon Ladd has carefully looked at this
and other passages with a scholar’s eyes, but also has tempered his approach
with a conviction of traditional prophetic teaching.He recognizes that the destruction of
Jerusalem in AD 70 is certainly an element in the Olivet Discourse.However, the events of the first century do
not exhaust or fulfill the prophecy that Christ gave in His discourse.He quotes C. E. B. Cranfield:“‘in the crises of history the eschatological
is foreshadowed.The divine judgments of
history are, so to speak, rehearsals of the last judgment and the successive
incarnations of antichrist are foreshadowings of the last supreme concentration
of the rebelliousness of the devil before the End.’”(Ladd, pages 198-199)
Prediction of Events that Will Affect the Church:One of the most controversial subjects of
prophecy study is the timing of the rapture/resurrection.The Dispensationalists, of whom Pentecost is
a representative, generally believe in a “Pretribulation” Rapture.Some Dispensationalists, while accepting many
of the tenets of that school, believe in a “Post-tribulation” Rapture.Robert H. Gundry is a representative of this
group.He believes that Jesus’ discourse
was directed especially to the church, as He spoke to the Disciples as the
future Apostles of the church.Thus, he
believes that Jesus described a Post-tribulation Rapture in Matthew 24:31 (Gundry,
Own Approach:It is easy to describe one’s interpretation as “objective,” but I
recognize that, when one has a certain preconception, it is impossible to avoid
being influenced by that preconception.I was introduced to the Post-tribulation Rapture idea about 30 years ago.As I have studied Scripture over the years, I
have generally confirmed that theory for myself.So, I approach this passage with a tentative
idea that Jesus is describing events that culminate in His future Second Coming
and the Rapture/Resurrection of the saints.Nevertheless, as I study other students of prophecy, I recognize that
they often make strong arguments for their positions and one must take them
seriously.As I progress through this
passage, I hope that I can look at critical evidence with an open mind and make
decisions based on Scriptural evidence and not simply based on my own bias.
Gundry, Robert H.The
Church and the Tribulation.Grand
Publ. House, 1973.
Eldon.A Theology of the New Testament.Grand Rapids, MI:William B.
Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1974.
Dwight.Things to Come.Grand Rapids,
MI:Zondervan Publ. House,
Ridenour, Fritz.So What’s
the Difference?Ventura, CA:Regal Books (Gospel Light),
Russell, J. S.The
Parousia, A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our
Lord’s Second Coming.(Google Internet Book)London:Daldy, Isbister
& Co., 1878.
Tasker, R. V. G.The
Gospel According to St. Matthew.Vol.
1 of Tyndale New
Testament Commentaries.General Ed.R. V. G. Tasker, Grand Rapids: