Posts filed under ‘End times’
There are 8 previous entries in this series on Matthew 24. Since it has been a while since I wrote anything on this subject some of you may want to go back and read a few of the previous posts. This post will focus on the second of three questions the disciples asked Jesus about the future. If you want a little taste of this series before reading today’s post you could start with 24.2. Find it HERE.
Question #2 What will be the sign of your coming? (24:3)
My background as a dispensationalist was not only good for me, because of their deep love for the Scriptures, it also taught me important principles about how to study the Bible and how to evaluate teaching as to its validity or credibility. An unfortunate thing about that training is that it also taught me to read my bias into what I was studying, especially in the area of eschatology. (the study of how the world will end)
A futurist reads this question and immediately decides it is about the second coming of our Savior. They are convinced, through some, in my opinion, incredible leaps of interpretive gymnastics, that the signs Jesus speaks of in Matthew 23-24 are yet to occur and so believe that the return of Jesus is waiting the culmination of these signs.
I have already explained (to my satisfaction) how all of these signs, like wars, earthquakes, famines and the rest were signs that came prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Those signs have been fulfilled. While there may still be wars, earthquakes, famine and all the other disasters mentioned in 24 around today, they are not the “signs” Jesus was talking about. Those are behind us.
When the disciples were listening to Jesus, they were not thinking about the Second Coming of Jesus, in fact at that point they were not even thinking about Jesus death, let alone a second visit to planet earth, some day. So that alone is enough to say they were not asking about the “Second Coming”. (the kind of Second Coming understanding the futurists teach and has been made popular by the Left Behind book series)
When they ask “what will be the sign of Your coming?” what did they mean by this word “coming”? The Jews historic fixation on the coming of the Messiah colored everything in their lives. All of their hopes, dreams, desires, understanding of who they were and what their destiny was, was focused on the Messiah coming and setting up a Kingdom where they would be in control and the Romans would be out of their collective lives. (see for example Matthew 20:20-23)
So their question was directedat finding out when Jesus would come into His Kingdom and take a position of authority and reveal Himself as King.
A Kingdom view of these verses and all the other references to Kingdom, authority, rule, reign, etc are fulfilled in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to His place on the throne at the right hand of God, the Father. All authority was given to Him both in the heavenlies (spirit world) and on earth. Jesus came into His rightful and authoritative Kingdom at the moment He entered the heavenlies and sat down next to the Father. That took place 2000 years ago in the generation that was alive when these insightful questions were asked.
What else could it mean when Jesus says these words recorded in Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1? “There are some of you standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
It seems brilliantly clear to me that some of the people who were sitting right in front of Him, as He spoke on the Mount of Olives, would live to see Him come into His Kingdom. Jesus took His place on the throne 2000 years ago.
And now, as Kingdom people, given “all power and authority” by Jesus, before He went and sat down on His throne, we are, filled with the Spirit, with supernatural wisdom and revelation, in the process of taking back what was lost in the garden, renewing and redeeming this planet through the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom, anticipating the glorious return of our King and Bridegroom Jesus, to a spotless, pure and “made ready” Bride. (Ephesians 5)
Jesus came into His Kingdom 2000 years ago. We are not still waiting signs to tell us He will come into It real soon. He is on the throne right now and we His Kingdom people are establishing His Kingdom by His power and authority.
These posts are a work in progress. I am getting my thoughts in order as I write them here. I want to be real clear that Jesus has already “come into His Kingdom.” He is on His throne. We are not waiting for “signs” to be fulfilled so He can finally have all power and authority. He gave that to us in what we now call the Great Commission (Matthew 28) We await His return, but we do not wait for signs. We await His coming to rule and reign on a planet redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. (Read Revelation 12:11 with this post in mind)
With all of that in mind we will better understand the answer Jesus gives to Question #2 “What will be the sign of Your coming”. More on His answer in the next post.
I intended to write about the anti-christ as it is spoken about in Matthew 24 but found this article on the subject and it was quite good and helpful I thought it better to reproduce it and the link here. Take time to read it, it is clear, focused and fits nicely with this current series.
You can go directly to the link HERE. Or scroll down to read it. If you don’t read it all at least read the parts I have highlighted.
Identifying the Antichrist
By Joseph Mattera www.josephmattera.org
Much has been made since the end of the nineteenth century regarding the “last days” and identifying the antichrist. During World War II a number of preachers even had scriptures to prove that Adolf Hitler was the antichrist and that they were the last generation. Numerous best-selling books have been written regarding the mark of the beast, the false prophet, and the identity of the antichrist and when he would appear. Every time there is an oil crisis or another war in the Middle East, you can count on preachers like John Hagee to come out with best-selling books regarding this as a sign that we are in the “last days.”
The following points will clearly establish the biblical definition of the antichrist:
I. In 1 John 2:18 the Apostle John said that he was living in the last days when the antichrist would appear.
1. Obviously, “last days” couldn’t refer to the end of the world over 2,000 years ago. Some try to get around this by saying that we are now living in the “last of the last days,” which amounts more to eisogesis than biblical exegesis.
2. Examining other passages dealing with the last days clearly shows that Peter, Paul, John, and others thought they were all living in the last days (Acts 2:16-17; 1 John 2:18; 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Timothy 3:1; Jude 17-19; Revelation 1:1).
A.One can only conclude from this that “last days” was not referring to something thousands of years later but rather it was the “last days” for the Jewish Levitical system of animal sacrifices, and the “last days” for the Jewish nation that was to be destroyed in one generation from the crucifixion. This would then officially inaugurate the new “kingdom age.” (Read Matthew 24:34; Luke 9:27; Hebrews 12:27-28.) Remember: The apostles and the early church were all Jewish believers who were speaking of the judgment of God on the nation of Israel for rejecting Jesus as Messiah.
B. The last days of Israel came in A.D. 70 within one generation of the death of Christ, when the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and desecrated the holy temple. The abomination of desolation is referred to in Luke 21:20.
II. The Apostle John identifies the antichrist as people who didn’t continue in the church, thus identifying it as the “last hour.” Read 1 John 2:18-19.
III. The Apostle John also identifies the spirit of antichrist loosed in the world as those who don’t confess that Jesus “has come in the flesh.” (Read 1 John 4:2-3.)
1. He was obviously referring to those attempting to bring platonic Gnosticism in the church. Gnosticism, which was a heretical cult that did much damage to the church in the first few centuries, believed that the flesh was evil and that only the spiritual world was good. They even taught that the god of the Old Testament was evil (the god of the flesh who created the natural world and needed animal sacrifices to be appeased), and that the god of the New Testament was good; that true Christianity was really about attempting to get free from the flesh and to live in the spirit.
IV. The antichrist is a false spirit that brings false doctrine into the church; it is not a single person.
1. Never once is the term “antichrist” used in the Book of Revelation or any of the other epistles besides 1 John and 2 John.Yet most writers never refer to the antichrist as a spirit of false doctrine that takes the power and relevancy of Jesus away from the flesh or natural realm.
V. A new kind of Gnosticism has crept into the church during the past 120 years.
1. The church has fled the cities to find a sort of paradise in the suburbs or countryside.
2. The church has just concentrated on spiritual things and abandoned cultural and societal reform, unlike their predecessors in America who started most of the Ivy League colleges and universities with the intent to develop Christians to lead the nation in every realm of life.
3. The Evangelical church has now espoused an escapist theology and is now focused on going to heaven and the rapture than the focus of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, in which Jesus told us to concentrate on His will “on earth as it is in heaven.”
VI. The ironic thing is, those preachers and authors focusing on the “last days,” identifying one man as the antichrist, the rapture, and the mark of the beast, have actually fallen prey to the spirit of antichrist because they take the practical application of the cross of Christ away from the realm of the flesh. That is to say, their escapist teaching is semi-Gnostic because the kingdom cannot be totally applied in the flesh or natural realm.It is almost like saying Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh like 1 John 4:2-4. That is to say, their teaching implies that the cross wasn’t for the reconciliation of the natural created order but just for our eternal spiritual life in heaven. Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus came to reconcile both things in heaven and on earth. Thus, redemption is for the natural realm of the flesh in the created order, not just the spiritual realm in heavenly places.
VII. Best-selling books like the Left Behind series by Tim Lahaye are taking kingdom focus off the earth and into the next world, something totally foreign to the teachings of the apostles and Jesus, who actually prayed in John 17:15: “I pray not that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” Thus, praying against the rapture mentality!
Unless we rid the church of this new Gnosticism, Christians will continue to live a dualistic life in which they just care about their inward piety and holiness, and leave the stewardship of the planet to the heathen. Dualism is causing the church to separate from the institutions of politics, law, education, economics, science, history, and philosophy, and is the major reason why the cultures in Western Europe and North America are continuing to erode. May the church fulfill its mission and become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
I trust this has been helpful in this lengthy discussion. I do not know the author and perhaps would not agree with everything he teaches but this article is very clear and I believe correct in its orientation. More on 24 after Camp of Champions is over.
I stated early on in this teaching on Matthew 24 that the futurists take the 3 questions the disciples asked Jesus and combine them into one question. Then they assume this “one” question is about the Second Coming and the end of the world. But we have shown in previous posts that there really are 3 distinct questions and they are not about some time yet in the future but are about the events the disciples, who heard Jesus prophetic words, were going to face in the days ahead.
It is interesting to note that Matthew’s fellow gospel writers record only the first of the three questions in their accounts of this conversation. The first question and the answers are simply about when the temple would be destroyed (Mark 13; Luke 21) The futurists want us to believe the 3 questions are really only one question and refer to a time yet to come. But Mark and Luke include only one question and the answers they record to that question are clearly about the destruction of the temple, an event history has already shown us, has taken place. Is it not fair to assume that all three disciples are writting about the same events?
That Mark and Luke do not include the other questions, but do include Jesus’ answer to the first question in the same way Matthew does, is confirmation that Jesus is answering only the first of the three questions and that all the other things He says would happen took place within the same 40 year period.
One can not understate how important an event it was when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Jerusalem was the holy city and Mt. Moriah where the temple was situated was the place where Abraham was willing to offer up his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2) It was also the place where God met with David (2Chronicles 3:1) and the place where Solomon built the first temple. It was the place where sacrifice was made for sin and the center of Jewish life and culture. There was no place more important to the men who were listening to Jesus than the temple. Their heritage and every thing sacred to them as Jews was wrapped up in that temple.
But not only did the destruction of the temple destroy their heritage and culture, it also brought to an end the Jewish religious system, the old covenant, replacing it with a new covenant made possible through the death of Jesus, an event that took place shortly after Jesus’ prophesies recorded in 24.
The writer of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear: When God speaks of a new covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and ready to be put aside. (8:13)
It was the destruction of the temple that made the old covenant obsolete and ushered in the New Covenant, a covenant made with better and more lasting promises. Jesus’ death on the cross provided us with a High Priest who made the ultimate, complete and final sacrifice.
The destruction of the temple is the pivotal point of Christian history and the Bible. It is where the Father’s plan makes a big turn and moves from law to grace as the means of salvation. It destroyed a religion of rules and replaced it with a relationship of grace and love.
To suggest that this question, when will these things happen, is pointing to some time yet in the future is to ride right over the most important point in the salvation story and miss the point of these crucial and critical events.
No wonder the enemy wants you to think we are still waiting for these prophesies to be fulfilled!
As we move through Matthew 24 we are looking at the prophesies that Jesus makes to see if they were fulfilled during the 40 years or so that immediately following the time He spoke these words. There are several different prophesies in 24 and I wrote about a number of them in the last post. Even though I will not take the time to do it, it can be shown that all the prophesis of 24 were fulfilled during the time period Jesus said they would and there is no need to be looking at the “signs” of these current times to determine when Jesus will return.
Here are two of the remaining ones that get peoples attention.
A great tribulation: For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occured since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (24:21-22)
Futurist teachers say this time of great tribulation (greater horror than anything the world has ever seen-NLT) will come at a time, yet in the future, just before the end of the world. Christians, especially western Christians, have talked so much about this horrible time it has taken on a life of its own own- known as- The Great Tribulation.
If you know anything at all about the time when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, you know it was the most horrific of times, perhaps not in magnitude (6 million Jews slaughtered by Hitler, the killing of millions in Africa in the 20th and 21st centuries are both larger in number) but certainly no period of time rivals the anguish and suffering of the days that occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the total destruction of the Temple.
Josephus, (the dude has his own website [HERE] and he is nearly 2000 years old!) perhaps the best historian of that period, tells how the Jews committed unthinkable atrocities to each other, including cannibalism, during the famine I wrote about in the last 24 post. He tells a story of a woman murdering her little boy, cooking and eating him and then arguing with thieves who broke into her house looking for food, as to who would eat the other half.
During the famine Jews swallowed diamonds and other precious stones in hopes of escaping and carrying them to a safe location. The Romans knew about this ploy and captured these men and women and cut open their stomachs and intestines searching for whatever they could find. They ripped open dozens of empty stomachs to find one with a diamond.
Titus put a stop to that kind of torture but the Romans found other ways to massacre Jews. Jewish men, desperate to find food for themselves and their families, would try to escape the city only to be caught by the Romans who would cut off their hands and send them back into the city. Josephus writes that 500 men were whipped, tortured and crucified, everyday. There were so many crosses at the gate of the city they ran out of room. This slaughter continued until there were less than 100,000 Jewish people left in the city and these were led off to captivity in Egypt or given by the Romans as gifts to the leaders of nearby provinces to be used for sport in their coliseums.
When Jerusalem was destroyed it set off the killing of Jews in other regions and countries surrounding Jerusalem. Even places where the hatred of Rome was nearly as great as it was in Israel joined in the frenzied genocide of the Jewish people. You can easily find periods in history where more people have been killed, but the violence during the AD 70 tribulation of the Jewish nation was extreme in its horror.
One of the problems I have long had with The Great Tribulation is attempting to vision how things could be worse then they were during this historical period. We have seen and will continue to see horrible treatment of human beings by other human beings, even treatment as terrible as it was during these days but we will never see a time where the torture will be worse. To suggest there is a tribulation of greater horror than these days, prophesied by Jesus yet to come, is to miss the point.
I was going to write about the anti-Christs too but will add that in later. Can’t stomach any more today.
My point with all of this will be made clear in the days ahead but I need to say this: A Kingdom view of the end of days focuses not on how bad it is or how bad it might get but instead focuses on making ready a victorious Bride for the coming of the Bridegroom and the establishing of an unshakable Kingdom, one rescued life at a time.
The American church especially, has spent so much of it’s time and resources warning people about the perceived horror of The Great Tribulation and visualizing some AntiChrist in every leader they don’t agree with, including the current president of the USA, while ignoring the strategic mission of the Church.
Our mandate is to change the culture by being salt and light, bringing real hope, real healing (especially physical and emotional), real deliverance (there is a war out there) and real freedom by loving people, especially those who “persecute us and say all kinds of ugly stuff about us, which is untrue” (Matthew 5:11)
It doesn’t matter, in fact won’t matter, what any world leader or culture does if the Body of Christ will actually be the Body of Christ. We must stop looking for the return of Jesus and start being Jesus. I am pretty sure the point of His leaving, was so there would be billions of Jesus’ to do the job rather than One.
His Kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth in the same way as it is in heaven, not when Jesus returns or we are jerked out of here but when each one of us, operating by the Spirit in the ”spiritual places” wages war and takes back the territory lost in the garden proclaiming Jesus is Lord to the glory of God, one day at a time, one person at a time, one situation at a time, one location at a time.
Trying to re-fulfill prophesy is a monumental distraction we do not need to waste our time on.
I decided a few weeks back that I was going to take the time to study and write about Matthew 24 from a Kingdom perspective in order to cement in my own mind just why I have never been very willing to accept the futurist view of the end times. I call a futurist one who takes the predictions of Matthew 24 and makes them predictions of a time yet in our future but one they are pretty sure is going to happen real soon. (you might want to scroll down and get some background before you read the rest of this post)
24:4-28 contains, in addition to the destruction of the temple which we wrote about in 24.4, at least 10 more predictions of events to come during the generation who were listening to Jesus speak, or about 40 years. I will not refer to all 10 but will touch on a few, including the prediction of a “great tribulation” and an anti-Christ.
vv.4-5 See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will mislead many.
The futurist reads these words of Jesus spoken to His intimate friends and immediately makes the leap over 2000 years and predicts they will happen shortly before the end of the world. So every person that makes a claim to be the Messiah, both crack pot and zealot causes them to say: “see the end is near”.
If Jesus was predicting false claims of messiahship for the generation of His listeners, did He get it right? Were there impostors attempting to infiltrate the church in the first century? The answer of course is yes. When Jesus died there were many who came out of the dark to clam the hearts of the Jewish people, who had a certain kind of messiah in mind. They were desperate for someone to come and free them from Roman domination. Their hope and much of their religious system was based on a coming Messiah. When Jesus died many followers fell away and began to look for someone else and of course, the false messiahs flourished. There is no question that extra biblical history supports this fact. (Eusebius, The Venerable Bede and others)
vv.6-7 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars… For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
When you read these verses don’t you quickly think “that has to be today”? There is a new war or the rumor of a new war nearly everyday, these days. But interestingly, that was not the way it was in 1st century Palestine. There were no signs of war or rumors about war at the time Jesus made this prophesy. The power of Rome provided a stable and strong environment, even though they made it happen through force. That period in history is even known as Pax Romana or Roman Peace because no one was even daring to take a run at the Romans. This is the environment into which Jesus prophesied of coming wars and rumors of wars.
Did the climate around Israel change within the 40 year period after Jesus made this prophesy? Was Pax Romana interrupted? In fact wars started erupting all over the Roman Empire and the Jews were forced to live in constant terror. 50,000 Jews were killed in Seleucia and another 20,000 in Caesaria. in AD 66 50,000 Jews were killed in the city of Alexandria. Within the span of 18 months, four Roman emperors were violently killed causing civil war to break out all over the empire including in the city of Rome. It was a time of almost constant rebellion and turmoil in the usually quiet Roman Empire and there was an almost constant flow of rumors of additional outbreaks washing over the Jewish people.
One more for today. v.7 …in various places there will be famines.
In Acts 11 there is a bold prophesy of severe famine in the region of Judah and in two places in the New Testament we read where Christians took offerings for the believers who were suffering in Judah. (Acts 11:29; 1Corinthians 16:1-3) Obviously this Acts 11 prophesy came true and at the same time Jesus prophetic word as fulfilled.
Knowing of the coming famine and the horrible destruction of Jerusalem on the cross, Jesus said to the women of Israel: Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed” (Luke 23:28-29) Historical writer Eusebius wrote: Under Claudius the world was visited with a famine, which writers that are entire strangers to our religion have written in their histories.
Every prophesy of Jesus contained in Matthew 24 can be shown to have happened in the 40 years immediately after He made them. The prophesy about earthquakes 24:7 happened all over the Roman Empire. I found mention of 11 cities where history records seismic activity, including the moment Jesus died on the cross and again when He rose from the dead. (Matthew 27, 28)
The evidence is clear. The prophesies of Matthew 24 have been fulfilled. I will do the tribulation and anti-Christ ones later.
Question #1 When will all this take place? (24:3)
Matthew 23 flows into 24 with, as you know, no chapter break. In vv.1-2 of 24, Jesus repeats again that the Temple was going to be totally demolished. Immediately after His prediction, Jesus and His disciples take a walk up on to the nearby, Mount of Olives (24.1) When Jesus sits down to have a private conversation with his disciples on the hill across from the Temple, they are looking right down on the place they had just left. Mark’s account of this conversation confirms the disciples were facing the Temple when they asked the 3 questions (see 24.3 for content of 3 questions).
So, if you were one of the disciples and your leader has just told you the building at the heart of your whole religious and cultural life is going to be pulverized, what would you want to know? I would want to know when this dramatic and life changing event is going to happen, wouldn’t you?
Now, the futurist teacher assumes the disciples were asking about the end of the world, but that is the third question they ask, not the first. To Jewish boys, like the disciples, their first concern was for the Temple, because destroying the Temple would be such a huge event to them, they had to be wondering if such an event might not be the end of the world. It had to be shocking to them that God’s holy Temple would be destroyed. What would life be without it? To these simple men, whose whole history was wrapped up in the Jewish life and faith, the Temple was as central as anything in their lives. To think of it being destroyed would easily have made them think their whole world was coming to an end.
We will come to questions 2 and 3 another time, but for now let’s answer the first question with the context just described firmly in our minds. When is the Temple (and potentially all of Jerusalem) going to be destroyed?
Have these words of Jesus already come to pass or are we still waiting? To meet Jesus’ time table of the Temple being destroyed within the “generation” of those to whom he was speaking, the Temple would have to be destroyed by AD 70, about 40 years (a generation) after His prophetic statement. Did that happen?
Within 40 years after Jesus declared judgement, 20,000 Roman soldiers, under the command of General Titus, surrounded the city for four months, starving the citizens of Jerusalem. Then the soldiers marched into the city and without mercy slaughtered more than one million Jews. The soldiers set the Temple on fire and took nearly 100,000 Jews into captivity. Nothing much is heard about the Jews for the next 60 years until they attempted one more rebellion against Rome. After 3 years of fighting, the Romans crushed the rebellion, killing another 600,000 Jews. Israel was not recognized as a nation again until 1948.
The Roman soldiers so demolished the Temple that every stone was carried away and the land on which the Temple stood was plowed under until absolutely nothing was left, just as Jesus said it would be!
Jesus’ answer to question one is in 24:34 “I assure you, this generation, will not pass away until all these things take place.” If we take His answer literally and understand a generation to be 40 years, then Jesus’ answer was right on. The Temple was destroyed just as He predicted.
Now, the futurist teachers see all of the events in Matthew 24 happening not in AD 70, but 2,000 plus years (and counting) into our future. They do not accept that the “generation” Jesus declared in both 23:36 and 24:34 is referring to the “generation” alive when Jesus spoke these words. Sometimes they redefine “generation” to mean “race,” as in the Jewish “race”, so they say the Jewish race will not pass away until the end of the world, which we continue to wait for. Futurists must give the word “generation” some other meaning, other than the commonly held 40 year period, if they are to make Jesus’ predictions yet to be fulfilled.
But why would you explain it that way? Why would you not just take a plain, literal explanation of the text? If you have no Left Behind books, no Scofield Bible, no prophetic TV to watch, no dispensational theology to confuse you, and you read Jesus’ words without any coaching and with only history to study, could you or would you see His answer as referring to something yet to take place, now more than 2000 years into the future?
The disciples ask a simple question of Jesus, as they look down on the Temple they were just in, from the hill right across from that building. It is the question I would want answered if I had just heard that the religious and cultural center of my life was to be destroyed.
If you were given a prediction of the total destruction of Washington DC, the White House and all the other monuments in our nations capitol, by a person you considered to be trustworthy and your promised Savior, what would you want to know?
I would want to know “when will all this take place?” and I certainly would not expect the answer I received would be about something totally unrelated and 2000+ years into the future, would you?
I can’t imagine it. Jesus knew exactly what He was speaking about, and everything He prophesied between Matthew 23:36 and 24:34 took place just as He said it would, during the generation that was alive when Jesus spoke the words.
While this blog is not the place to try and speak to all the predictions found in Matthew 23-24, I will attempt over the next post or two to write about some of the other predictions Jesus made that some how have been moved from the 40 year period that followed His speaking them, to a day yet in the future. (if all of the predictions in 24 are already fulfilled we are free to read Daniel 2, 9 and Revelation in a very different way. More on that later.)
If you have read this stuff to this point you might be wondering why you should read on or what my point is. Here is my reason for putting so much of myself into this study and asking you to work hard to understand it: What Jesus predicts in these verses is ugly, negative, vicious and life changing for those who live or die as they go through it. The futurists, of all persuasions, tell us these terrible times are still in our future. Some futurists say the Church will be raptured out before it gets real bad and so find “joy” in the signs of the times. Other futurists predict we will be here for all these events, while some others say we will stay for half or less of the bad days. If we choose to believe their report we spend our time and energy in certain ways.
However if we see these events as already fulfilled in the 40 years immediately after they were predicted, then we are free to live another way, building the Kingdom that will never pass away, the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, the Kingdom given to us by Jesus to advance, until as His Bride we are fully clothed in His righteousness and purity, radiantly displaying to the world the glory of His presence. His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. Why destroy what you have called your Kingdom citizens to advance?
Before I jump into Matthew 24 here is this morning’s Henri Nouwen devo. It has Kingdom all over it:
The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality. With an abundancy mentality we say: “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love … everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people we give them food. When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends.
When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love … everything. There will even be many leftovers.
Now on to 24!
Question #1. When will these things happen?
The disciples ask Jesus three questions in Matthew 24: …Tell us, when will these things happen and what will be the sign of your coming, and (what will be the sign) of the end of the age?
Some translations, maybe even yours (for example the KJV) ends this sentence with the word “world” and in doing so makes the 3 questions into an inquiry about the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world. What happens when the word is translated world is it moves the focus of these questions on to a summary of what the world will be like just before it comes to an end, rather than a “simple” asking of questions related to what Jesus has just spoken about.
But the Greek word aion can also be translated, and in my opinion should be translated, “age“. By translating aion as age, or a period of time, and not world, we are not tempted to move the fulfilment of this text from its first century setting into the 21st century. The ending of an age and the ending of the world are two very different things.
The Kingdom view attempts to read nothing into the text, to not see a summary, but 3 distinct questions about how the current age, the age the disciples were living in when the questions were asked, would end. 1. When will these things happen? 2. What will be the sign of your coming? 3. What about the end of the age?
When we make a decision, to let the text say what it says without adding or summarizing, it frees us to understand the answers Jesus gives to these questions in a very different way than the futurist sees them.
So, first question; When will these things happen? What are “these things”? If you have been taught, like I have the futurist view, we immediately think that “these things” refers to events that will happen right before the second coming of Jesus. But what does the context of Matthew 24 tell us? Many of you have been reading it and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you, so before you read my answer to the question, ask yourself, what is the context here? What is the conversation about? What is Jesus talking to His disciples about? Take a minute and read the chapter. Start back in chapter 23 and let it lead you into 24.
Jesus is speaking in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The first thing He does is warn the crowd and the disciples to be very careful about the Jewish Temple leadership. You can see this in vv.2-12. Next Jesus turns to His disciples and, with no mincing of words, rips the religious leaders. The flavor of His comments are clear: v.13 … woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. v.14…Woe to you… v.15…Woe to you… v.16 Woe to you blind guides. Jesus is ripping into the Jewish Temple religious leadership (and cultural leaders) with an intensity that can’t be missed. He repeats these same words in vv.23-29.
With even greater intensity, Jesus winds up His beat down in vv.33-36 with a scathing rebuke of these phony and controlling leaders: You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will beat in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the alter. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. (33-36)
Jesus is passing judgment on a generation of religious leaders who have spilled the blood of “every righteous person, from A-Z, Abel to Zechariah” (in the Hebrew Bible Abel is book 0ne and Zechariah is the last book) Jesus is telling these religious leaders that the blood of every righteous person in their Holy Book, from start to finish is on them.
Typically in the Scriptures a generation was considered to be 40 years. So if we assume that the judgement Jesus is passing is going to come true in a literal sense (why would we not take it literally) then those who heard Jesus speak these words could expect judgment to fall on them. (Jesus began this rebuke and judgment back in Matthew 23 and some of the specifics of the judgement are included there (vv.37-38).
A literal reading of these verses makes it really hard to see this judgment happening at any other time than during the generation (40 years or so) immediately following the speaking of the words.
Question 1. When will these things happen? What things? Answer: These things= vv.33-36 23:37-38) When? Answer: Over the next 40 years or so, from the time they were spoken.
I find it hard to make this text say anything at all about the time we are living in today. How about you?
Almost all prophesy writing of a futurist nature (Left Behind series, Scofield Study Bible, Dispensational theology, popular prophetic writing, etc) moves Jesus’ answers from the 40 years immediately following His speaking to the time we are currently living in. That is really poor hermenuetics (logical guidelines for interpreting historical writings) and there is no reason for it. Let the text and the historical evidence speak for “themselves”!
Next post. Did the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, come true during the next 40 years or so, or are we still waiting for them to happen?
No meanderings this week. I didn’t have time yesterday and we really haven’t done much meandering this last week. Will see what happens next Monday.
When I was preaching regularly (which I miss) I would find myself often being tested, tempted, even attacked in the very area I was studying. Sometimes it was pretty intense. Since I decided to write down what I believe is a more positive, Kingdom view of eschatology (study of last things) I have felt more pressure to not do it than anything I have done recently. Thoughts like, “who really cares what you think?” With each new world crisis comes the inevitable “doesn’t look too positive right now, does it?” or this question “what makes you think you know more than_________?” Fill in the blank with a hundred different names of people who see the end as ugly and negative.
But here is why I am going ahead with it. It is my blog, and I write what is going on in my life and head. No one has to read it if they don’t want to. There seems to be a hunger in people for an authentic Kingdom view of life. Whoever chooses to read it is totally free to be blessed by it, disagree with it, blow it off, embrace it, whatever, so here we go.
There are a lot of views out there about last things. Do a search of words like “end times”, “last things”, “end of the world”, “eschatology” etc and you will find everything from the weird to the complex to the helpful. There are two I will spend most of my time interacting with.
Today’s popular view, that things are winding down to a fateful and horrible end, made the more horrible by a particular individual called the anti-christ, through a miserable 7 years of tribulation, out of which the “church” will be raptured, culminating with a 1000 year earthly reign by King Jesus. That view I will refer to as the futurist view. The view I will contrast with the futurist view is referred to as the partial preterist view. Preterist comes from a Latin word that means roughly “things that are past”. Rather than to use the words partial preterist I will refer to this view as the Kingdom view.
A pretty easy way to define these two understandings of last things is to say the futurist looks at Matthew 24 and Revelation and says most, if not all of the prophesies found there, are yet to be fulfilled. The Kingdom view, as I call it (partial preterist view) sees the prophesies of 24 and Revelation as fulfilled primarily in the past and partially in the future.
As I said in a previous post the Kingdom view is one held by the church for centuries while the future view is a much more recent view of last things. That isn’t all that important but I wanted you to know that what I am going to write about didn’t just show up in recent days, in fact it is the futurist view that is the most recent of the end times scenarios.
As He (Jesus) was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, asking, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
There are three key questions being asked of Jesus and how we understand the answers Jesus gives to these 3 questions determines how we will understand the end times, the tribulation, the antichrist and how future events will play out.
Jesus answers these 3 questions by talking about people who come along claiming to be the Messiah, about wars, famines, earthquakes, heavy persecution of Christians, and about people who claimed to be followers of Jesus who slip away under pressure. He also speaks about the gospel going out into the world, followed by some really bad things happening and people being taken away.
Futurists look at the way Jesus answers the three questions and come to the conclusion that all the events Jesus speaks of, are going to happen sometime in the future, a future far beyond the days of the disciples to whom Jesus is speaking. In other words the futurist reads what Jesus says and rather than to see what He speaks of as taking place soon after He answers the questions, they vault them over the disciples day and land them, if you believe the futurist, in days yet to come, more likely, they would say, in our immediate future.
The partial preterist view, or Kingdom view as I call it come to very different conclusions, when they study 24. We view Jesus’ answers to these 3 important questions as not yet to be fulfilled but actually finding their fulfillment in a period of time more likely less than 100 years from the time Jesus answered the questions.
You should know that the futurist has all kinds of ways to object to the Kingdom view. I will mention a few of them as we move through Matthew 24. But remember, my goal is not to refute the futurist view. I have lived much of my life under the futurist view and found it very debilitating. No doubt, the enemy tries to get to me by pointing out all the ugly stuff happening in our world today and trying to get me to look at how obvious it appears to others that all the signs point to the end being right around the corner. But there has never been a time in my nearly 59 years when people were not pointing to signs of the times and telling us the end was near. Time to our Father is relative because He neither lives in it nor is He bound by our calendar.
How about another point of view, how about we see if there isn’t a blessed hope that the Kingdom really is without end and that by living out the Gospel of the Kingdom, we really will change the world, and that the Bride really will be beautiful and pure at His coming and that the Body of Christ, really can be made ready and that every knee will bow and confess, not out of fear but out of joy at His coming? How about we take a look at those possibilities? Can’t hurt.
Next question number 1. “When will these things happen?”
Most of what I know, especially about the Bible, I learned by doing 3 things: First, I study the Bible itself. I have always tried to read whatever I am studying several times and just let it say what it says, as opposed to reading what someone else thinks it says. (that comes later). During this step I ask myself questions to try and help me understand what is being said, to whom it is being said, why it is being said, who is saying it and so on. I take notes, I think about it but most importantly, I ask the Holy Spirit to teach me.
Secondly, I carry what I have read around in my head for a while and let it soak. Over time, could be a few hours, a few days or in the case of Matthew 24, a few years, but when I let it soak, I usually get something fresh, something I have never heard before. That doesn’t mean no one else has thought of it but it means the Spirit speaks fresh to me.
In the third step I try to find out if anyone else has written anything about the subject I am studying, something that confirms, challenges or affirms what I believe the Spirit has taught me. This is always the third step because if I do this first or second I never get to see the Spirit guide me into truth and just end up knowing what other people know (that is not always bad). When I depend too much on what others think I usually end up in the ditch on one side of the road or the other.
Candidly, I have never liked the whole end times teaching that was part of my dispensational upbringing and training. I never found any joy or hope in things spinning downward through a Great Tribulation, The anti-Christ, “melting with frevent heat” and all that horror. But just because I didn’t like it didn’t mean it wasn’t true. Who was I to challenge or disagree with my professors, who were very intelligent men and very sincere and Godly men besides, who I liked and who loved and cared about me? Who was I to go against the increasingly strong tide of an end game that looked more and more right on with each new world crisis, new war, new famine, new disaster and so on? So I joined the pre-tribulational, pre-millennial crowd and tried to force the questions out of my mind.
But still questions would boil in my mind and heart whenever I would hear something about the Great Tribulation. What about the people in the Sudan, Dufar or any of the other beat down, diseased nations where millions have died, is it possible that there could be a greater tribulation for them, yet to come? Why is it that most of the pessimistic end times scenarios originate in the United States, the richest and most blessed nation in the history of the world? How come this view of our Father’s plan for His Family has appeared only recently? Was it progressive revelation that brought it along or was it more a desire to make sense of the bad things that were happening at the time dispensationalism came on the scene? Why didn’t Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and even thinkers further back than them, not buy into the pessimism of this end times view?
Whatever one chooses to believe about how the future is going to play out begins in Matthew 24. Depending on how one understands the questions the disciples ask Jesus and the answers Jesus gives, sets you on course to see other prophetic passages like Daniel 2 and 9 and the vision of Revelation a certain way. So in my mind Matthew 24 is central and critical to determining whether we should view the future as going downhill to an ugly end or view the future as a glorious and beautiful Bride welcoming her Bridegroom to a planet where every knee is, by choice, bowing and every tongue confessing that this Groom is Lord, to the Glory of the Father.
So here is my suggestion to you. Read 24. Try to read it in something other than a study Bible and maybe use a fresh translation. Ask the Spirit to guide you into all truth. Ask questions and write them down. If you do that you will be in a better place to interact with where the Spirit has been guiding me.
Next week I will begin to open up Matthew 24 as it has been opened up to me and we will go from there.
By the way, step 3 in my Bible study method led me to a man named Harold Eberle who along with another man wrote a book called Victorious Eschatology. I was doing a search for positive end times scenarios and stumbled upon Harold’s teaching. I ordered the book and found it very helpful. But because I had already done my study and had already made some desicions about my personal convictions, Victorious Eschatolgy was confirmation and affirmation that I was on the right track. I hesitate to tell you about the book, not because you will not need to read what I write, but because I fear you will do what most people do and simply decide what you believe based on what someone else says, rather than doing your own study, but that is really not my problem. Follow this link to find the book. HERE
See you next week!
Several weeks ago I wrote in this post (HERE) these words:
If we believe what is going on is just a precursor to the End, how does that affect the way we think? If we are just going to duck and cover during these so called “last days” of grave uncertainty and shaking, will we miss the opportunity of a lifetime to actually bring Kingdom values to bear on the crisis? (BTW, we have no idea if these are the last days, and have no way of knowing, so Jesus said in Matthew 24:36. There is a lot in Matthew 24 we need to understand from a Kingdom perspective, rather than just (dispensational) an end times approach. Anyone want to work on that?)
No one jumped at the opportunity to write anything about Matthew 24 from a Kingdom perspective, didn’t expect anyone would, so I decided I was going to. So here comes a new series called 24 (A Kingdom view of the end times.)
No doubt this will take a while as I am going to write as I learn. I will warn you up front that what I write is a departure from my upbringing, my training and the church culture I was raised in. It will be a departure from what has become the popular American church view of the end times. It will be a departure from the pessimistic view of the end times made possible and popular with the 1909 publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. This reference Bible proposed in its footnotes very negative scenarios of the future that were largely taken from the work of John Nelson Darby, the father of a theological perspective called dispensationalism. Since the time of Dr. Scofield hundreds if not thousands of scary end-time books have come on the scene, none more popular than the Left Behind series, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Such books and related teachings have become so popular and accepted in the American church that a negative eschatology (study of last things) has become the most popular view in the western church.
It should be noted that this view of the future has been popular in the Christian culture for a very short period of time, less than 100 years. It probably peaked in “popularity” when we moved from the 20th century to the 21st, a few years back. Some of you will no doubt remember all the hustle and bustle surrounding Y2K and the “end of the world as we know it” ideas that were all over the place.
This series will be a departure from a pessimistic view of eschatology and will attempt to paint an optimistic view of the future from a Kingdom perspective. A Kingdom view is optimistic about the future because it understands King Jesus and His Family (the church) will take over this world, not Satan.
I fully recognize that the days in which I am writing these words are not very welcoming to an optimistic or victorious view of the future. Pessimistic end time scenarios are abundant and it does appear the door is wide open to an eschatology that sees nothing but a down hill slide until finally the Father has had enough and beams the church out of the mess, burns up the planet, defeats the anti-christ and calls an end to this hopeless and defiled planet.
Many Christians (some are my friends/family) actually are excited about the brokenness of our world and see every new crisis as one more rung on the ladder that gets us out of here. One person told me not long ago that these days of economic collapse didn’t worry him because they just mean we are closer to being raptured then ever before. In other words all the bad stuff going on all over the world (war, earthquake, famine, disasters of all kinds, swine flu pandemics, economic collapse and so on) are actually good things because they are signs that the end is near. I don’t blame anyone for seeing things this way, it is hard not to.
As difficult as it is, in these days, to argue for any kind of optimistic view of our world and the future, I am going to try and present a view of the future, rooted deeply in the Biblical text, that presents not only an optimistic view of last things but a victorious one as well. Jesus wins and He wins, not by giving up on the planet He died for, but by continuing to work the plan, until every knee bows and every tongue confesses.
I am certain what I write will create disagreement, probably in some cases vicious disagreement and I am probably not inclined to participate in arguments that are raised by what I write. Ask questions, question my view, whatever, but don’t waste a lot of time presenting the dispensational view, I think I have that one down. I might be all wrong, but its a blog not a textbook.
What I hope to do is present your Savior as the King He is. A victorious King with a victorious Bride. Not sitting around fearfully waiting for the end to get here but a King and His Bride that are quietly, steadily, faithfully, supernaturally, confidently, hopefully, extending His Kingdom into all corners of this planet, in order to present our King with a redeemed and renewed planet over which to rule.
Drop by and read a little, let me know what you think.