May 9, 2009 at 9:02 am 5 comments

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?


Entry filed under: Authority, Belief, Bible, Christian, Church, Culture, End of the world, End times, Eschatology, Healing, Holy Spirit, How will the world end?, Jesus, King Jesus, Kingdom, Kingdom Gospel, Kingdom Life, Revelation, Supernatural, The Father, Theology, Thoughts, Uncategorized.

24.3 + a little Henri Nouwen Monday morning meanderings. Vol.78

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dennis  |  May 13, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    The disjointed pretrib rapture theology is assumed by many to be a commonly held belief. In the 70’s a survey I read said less that half of the body of Christ believed it. Since people get their theology form movies more than letting the Bible speak for itself, I wonder what that survey would find today. I never did buy it. The staunch futurists call your kingdom position a deception: “Triumphalism” Of course there are different versions of it which lead of in potentially heretical directions such as some of the dominion theology.
    Keep digging – I love it!

  • 2. Amanda  |  May 10, 2009 at 10:53 am

    i really like where you are going with this, i too have always wondered about verse 34. i just couldn’t wrap my head around it. the only thing i had a hard time with was this “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 think that if i was able to ask Jesus something, anything, the only thing i would expect from Him is loving honesty. maybe it would be 2000 years in the future, i do know that His time is not our time, but i agree that in this passage of Matthew 24 the “futurists”, i think are reaching.

  • 3. Jeff  |  May 9, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Good job, Greg. I hope I’m not stealing your thunder, but I agree that at the start of Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.

    It should be noted that the answer to the destruction of the Temple and what Jesus was telling His disciples concerning the abomiation that causes desolation is recorded in Luke’s Gospel.

    In Luke 21:20-23, Jesus said, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.”

    Luke, a Greek, writes his Gospel for Gentiles who wouldn’t necessarily understand that Gentile armies surrounding Jerusalem were “the abomination that causes desolation,” the language that Matthew uses in the 24th Chapter of his Gospel. Therefore, Luke warns them to watch out for the armies surrounding Jerusalem, then flee – flee from Jerusalem to the mountains. This is a fact of history, as this event already happened in 70 A.D.

    This prophesy of Jesus was so well-known by the early Church that history tells us that not one Christian in Jerusalem was killed when Rome sacked Jerusalem and burned the Temple! This, too, is a fact of history.

    Josephus, the Jewish historian from the first century, A.D., tells us that when the Roman armies briefly backed off of Jerusalem, the Christians all fled Jerusalem and safely headed toward Petra in modern-day Jordan. One million Jews were not as fortunate.

    I think that this is an excellent example from history of why it is important to know exactly what Jesus really taught, which may or may not line up with the popular culture of our day.

  • 4. David Cantrell  |  May 9, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Hey Greg,
    Being raised with a futurist view I have always struggled with v. 34. I couldn’t figure out how the whole “this generation will not pass away” thing could actually be the way I had been taught. It just didn’t work. Your blogs on 24 have really rang true to what my spirit had been telling me and bringing it all to light.

  • 5. diana burke  |  May 9, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    hua, interesting…
    i’ll have to think about that more later.
    i do love the truth that i don’t have to have all the answers. i don’t have to understand every thing to be redeemed nor to live in freedom. praise God!

    Hope you’re both having a great day where ever you are!

    Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow Linda!

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