In my previous posts about Antichrist, I and II, I argued how I understand the scriptures in its context to not talk about a future Antichrist figure being a political leader, that is the common belief in the Futuristic view, see my post about the different views of eschatology.
In this post, I will try to outline a different view, but not new, how to understand Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13 (Olivet Discourse) especially in relation to how I understand Daniel 9, as Matthew 24 is referring back to Daniel 9.
Again, these scriptures are not easily understood reason why we all should hold a humble attitude to each others interpretations, for there are several.
For me this is something I have been working with for a couple of years now, so these posts are like a closing for me, putting words to my own understanding and belief.
The preteristic view refers to Matthew 24 as something already taken place in AD70 – Jerusalem´s destruction. The futuristic view on the other hand mostly means it to be about the future. Partial Preteristic view means it is both and, and that is also one of the most common understanding amongst scholars today, even though not all agree from what verse. E.g in most of the Swedish Bible translations, you would find in the notes, that it refers to AD70.
The keys to understand Matthew 24 is to:
I. put it into the context of chapter 21-23, what/who is Jesus adressing?
II. define what the disciples were asking, according to there understanding back then;
III. understand the meaning of the greek words used? some words have different meaning, but are translated the same in English bibles.
First of all in Matthew 21 to 23 you will see if you read them quickly through that Jesus is starting by cleaning the temple, cursing the fig three and then rebuking the pharisees with several woes, leading to the wrap up in Matthew 23.
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. …38 See, your house is left to you desolate.
Jesus was proclaiming judgement to come over the Pharisees, their generation and their house (meaning the temple as he was standing there when proclaiming these words), using the righteous blood of Abel to Zechariah, meaning first book to last book in their bible, back then.
John Chrysostom: “So now a punishment is appointed, one that brings exeeding dread and implies the overthrow of the entire city.”
(The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 74.3)
1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” – Matthew 24
Eusebius: “All this occured in this manner in the second year of Vespasian (AD70), according to the predictions of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Ecclesiastical History, III:7)
John Wesley: “This was most punctually fullfilled: for after the temple was burned, Titus the Roman general, ordered the very foundations of it to be dug up; after which the ground on which it stood was ploughed by Turnus Rufus…this generation of men now living shall not pass till all these things be done – The expression implies that a great part of the generation would be passed away, but not the whole. Just so it was; for the city and temple were destroyed thirthy-nine or forty years after.” (The works of John Wesley, 1985)
Keeping this in mind, when Jesus and the disciples sit down and look at the temple they are asking 3 questions:
- Tell us, when will these things happen? – Asking, when will the temple be destroyed as you Jesus is talking about? Jesus is describing the future with a scary exactness what happened in verse 4-28.
- What will be the sign of your coming? A question asked from their horizon, not for us 2000 years later.
- What about the end of the age (world) when will you Jesus come back in glory and execute the final judgment.
Charles Spurgeon: “The disciples enquired first about the time of the destruction of the temple…” (The Gospel of the Kingdom, 1974, p212)
As it would be too much go through verse by verse, let me just take a few famous verses below.
But did this happen? Many claiming to be Christ, wars of and rumors of war, famines, earthquakes, birth pangs, persecution, apostasy and false prophets, warnings of destructions, a great tribulation, false Christs appear? Yes, it all happened then and if you read more about the destruction of Jerusalem you will learn that more than 1 miljon Jews was murdered.
Charles Spurgeon: “The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God. Truly, the blood of the martyrs slain in Jerusalem was amply avenged when the whole city became a veritable Aceldama, or field of blood.” (Spurgeon’s Popular Exposition of Matthew, 1979, p211)
Abomination of desolation ”So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),” Matthew 24:15 So is this then the Antichrist? According to the epistles of John, we saw that it was a person coming from the church; not believing Jesus to be the son of God, come as a human. So what was this then? Well if we read Daniel 9 we see that the context is about Jesus the prince. Daniel is using this phrase “abomination of desolation” three times, but in Daniel 11 all scholars agree it to be the Greek ruler by the name of Antiochus Epiphanies that lived in 167 B.C. and that set up an altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. This event is known as the abomination of desolation. But what did Jesus then mean using same phrase, 200 years later? If we read Luke 21:20 ”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” What armies? The Roman armies that executed the destruction of Jerusalem.
John Chrysostom: “For this it seems to me that the abomination of desolation means the army by which the holy city of Jerusalem was made desolate.”
Augustine: “Luke, to show that the same 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 you know that the desolation thereof is at hand (xxi. 20). 23″
It is interesting to note that Jesus then gives practical advice to his followers how to survive: ”Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it.” It does not say those that live in Europe but Judea, clearly talking to them as this is a geographical description it can hardly be interpreted symbolic.
Within a generation “34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”Is this figuratively speaking or literally? Futurists claim this is all to happen +2000 years later, somewhere in the future, and many attempts have been made to connect it with “one generation” (40 years in the bible) to certain events happened to the Nation of Israel, reason why many believed Jesus to come back 1988, (a generation after the nations of Israel was born 1948) but when that did not come true, they changed their interpretation to be “Race” instead of generation, meaning the Jew as a race.
But I would argue in good company with many Church Fathers in the history, that Jesus predictions or prophecy really happend within a generation, AD 30 plus a generation (40 years) = AD70.
Origen of Alexandria “I challenge anyone to prove my statement untrue if I say that they entire Jewish nation was destroyed less than one whole generation later on account of these sufferings which they inflicted on Jesus.” (Origen Against Celcius, IV:XXII)
The Lesson of the Fig Tree – 32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.” This verse has been used by futurists to explain that when the nation of Israel was born, all things predicted by Jesus would soon happen within a generation, see above. But, Israel is never used figuratively as a Fig Three in the bible, instead always as an Olive three.
Preaching the gospel of the Kingdom to the whole world – 14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” When growing up, I was trained this verse meant that we need to preach the gospel to all nations and tribes and then the end will come. But when studying other views of the end-time, I came to understand this verse in a different light.First of all, it has to be read in the context of the other verses when Jesus is predicting what will happen AD70. Secondly, difficult verses has to be read in the light of other passages in the bible, e.g. Roman 1:8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” , Roman 10:18 “But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Roman 16:25 – 26 “… according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ… has been made known to all the nations.”
Another important remark is that different greek words for the “world” are used in these scriptures. Kosmos=whole physical world and Oikoumene=civilized world. Oikoumene is used in Matthew 24, meaning for the disciples their known world and not some unknown tribe in Africa, that we have been taught,
I am sorry, but we should preach the gospel not to get Jesus back, but to change the world by extending his Kingdom, that is the Kingdom understanding.
For the Jews the destruction of Jerusalem and their temple was such a catastroph, their identity, hope and heritage were all gone.
The writer of Hebrew put it like this: “When he said, “a new covenant”, He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” Hebrew 8:13
Back now to the questions of the disciples:
2. What will be the sign of your coming?
The meaning of the question for them vs us might be of very different ones, as the disciples were asking when Jesus would be presented to the world as the awaited Messiah, the King in Israel. Note that the disciples back then did not even understand that Jesus was about to leave them, so they did not ask of when Jesus might return. Futurists claim this verse is about Jesus return and full preterists means Jesus coming to judge Israel physically with the judge that came AD70. Partial preterists believe different, they believe it had to do with Jesus go public as Messiah into the world, according to what Jesus just told them in chapter 16 of Matthew.
28 “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Mark 9:1 “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
Jesus connects the disciples with his coming in power. For me it is after the resurection when all is fullfilled, and he now has handed the Kingdom over to us.
I do believe in a second coming of Jesus, (Acts 2:10) so do not missread me. However I do not believe in any rapture as I have written about in another post. Maybe I will write in the future a more detailed post about these verses , but I leave this for now.
Then the last remaining question of the disciples:
3. What about the end of the age (world)?
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
If you do not believe anything of what I have argued above, you should at least be troubled now? In verse 35, Jesus says all these things described will happen within a generation, (which they also did, as described), how come he now suddenly do not know?
The only reasonable understanding is that Jesus now is answering the disciples question nr 3 that is about the future. Until verse 35 it referred to the desctruction of Israel, AD 70. But from verse 36, Jesus is talking about his return, the final judgement, and that will come as a suprise, like a Thief in the night etc.
If you look at Mark 13 and Luke 21, you will see that this the third question is not asked by the disciples, only in Matthew 24. And it is also only in Matthew 25 Jesus is talking about his final coming, his return, which you do not find neither in Luke or Mark.
For me, this understanding in combination with the prophecies about the Kingdom that will fill the entire world from Daniel, Isaiah, Zecharaia, (see my other posts about the advancing Kingdom), has helped me look at the future in an optimistic victorious way.
My focus is not about a globalist agenda led by an Antichrist figure that will rule the earth during 3,5 years, and then 3,5 years of terror. My view is about a King extending his Kingdom through us until he comes back!
And believe me, he will come back and be met by a strong, beautiful spotless bride.