All posts by Dr. Dickson

2 Peter 3:1,2

Verse 1
The Second Letter

“This is now, beloved, the second letter I write to you in which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder …”

Peter stated one specific reason for writing. It was to remind his Jewish brethren of things they had already been taught. We would assume, therefore, that the content of this chapter had already been taught to Christians before it was written in this inspired letter. This leads us to believe that the early apostles and prophets did teach the subject of Matthew 24 when they went throughout the Roman Empire with the gospel messiahship of Jesus. The subject of Jesus’ prophecy had direct relevance to the lives of Jewish Christians. Therefore, we would correctly conclude that what Jesus had said was the subject of many midnight discussions among Jewish Christians.

In the first letter Peter had already mentioned the impending end of all things (1 Pt 4:7). He now goes into graphic detail. We conclude, therefore, that this subject was not new to the readers. They had already been taught the content of Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24. The earliest gospel record, Mark, had already been circulated among Christians with the record of Jesus’ prophecy (See Mk 13). It is even probable that Luke’s record had also been circulated among the churches (See Lk 21). Therefore, we can assume that the early Christians had already been taught the material of Matthew 24 concerning the end of national Israel. It was now time for Peter to say some final words on the matter at a time when the rumors of war were circulating throughout the Roman Empire. Since the time of the end was near, Peter wanted to reassure his Jewish brethren that it was always in the plan of God to bring Israel to a close after He had sent His Son into the world.

Verse 2
Remember The Warnings

“… so that you may be mindful of the words that were spoken before by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through us your apostles.”

The church was built upon the inspired foundation of the message of the gospel that was preached by the apostles and prophets (Ep 2:20). It was so founded upon the apostles and New Testament prophets because God, through them, “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” the mystery of the gospel (Ep 3:5). The church was not built on the messengers who delivered the message of the gospel, but upon the gospel itself. “For no other foundation can man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Co 3:11).

It could be argued that Peter here refers to the Old Testament prophets. However, in the chapter he gives credit to the Old Testament prophets for writing concerning the mystery of the gospel, but the gospel was revealed through Jesus, His apostles and prophets.

“… of this salvation they [Old Testament prophets] have inquired and searched diligently … searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating … to them it [the gospel] was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us (1 Pt 1:10-13).

The full revelation of the mystery came only through the New Testament apostles and prophets. It came to the Old Testament prophets through inspired prophecy, which prophecy they did not completely understand. For this reason, it is best to affirm that Peter in the context of 2 Peter 3:2 was referring to the inspired New Testament speakers and writers, not the Old Testament prophets who only prophesied of the mystery (See Ep 3:3-5).

One point is clear concerning the prophecies concerning the end of national Israel. Both the Old and New Testament prophets proclaimed the end. Both Isaiah (Is 10:20-23) and Daniel (Dn 9:24-27) spoke of the end of Israel after God had accomplished His purpose for calling the people unto a covenant relationship. In those end of the days of Israel, the New Testament prophets (evangelists) went forth calling Israel by faith to come out of national Israel, for the end was near.

[Next in series: Aug. 22]

2 Peter 3 (Introduction)

The first letter Peter wrote was addressed to Jewish Christians of “the Dispersion [of Jews] in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Pt 1:1). There were many Jewish residents who lived in these five Roman provinces. Many of them were very faithful to Jewish nationalism. They were loyal to the Jewish cause to establish an independent state of Israel in Palestine that was free from Roman domination.

In the middle of the rising tension between Rome and Jewish nationalism, Peter wrote to those Jewish Christians who might be considering the call of the recruiting agents of Jewish nationalism who compelled all Jews to be faithful to their Jewish heritage. From the letter, however, there were those faithful Jewish brethren who refused to be recruited. The believing Jews consequently suffered from the mocking of the nationalistic recruiters.

Peter wrote his first letter between A.D. 63 and 65. He wrote the second letter between A.D. 65 and 67, just before Rome decided to terminate the Jewish nationalists efforts to establish an independent state in Palestine. In both letters he wrote to “stir up your pure minds by way of reminder” (2 Pt 3:1).

In view of the fact that he was writing to Jews at the time when the Matthew 24 prophecy of Jesus was drawing near unto fulfillment, we would certainly be just to assume that Peter dwelt on this fulfillment, since the consummation of national Israel was near. The fact that Peter wrote to Jewish Christians near the end of national Israel compels us to consider the context of 2 Peter 3 in view of Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24. Peter wanted to stir the Jewish Christians’ minds to remember the things they had already been told concerning the end of Israel. This would certainly include the imminent coming of judgment that would occur in five or six years after the letter of 2 Peter was written.

We would assume that the metaphorical language of this chapter refers primarily to the destruction of national Israel in A.D. 70. Peter was writing to encourage both Jewish Christians and their unbelieving Jewish relatives and friends not to make their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover/Pentecost feast. The believing Jews could assume that they were in the last days of Israel, and thus conclude that the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 was near. Though the believing Jews could warn their Jewish unbelieving families, we assume that their warnings were met with a great deal of mocking and scoffing.

Since Peter was one of the four disciples to whom Jesus personally delivered the prophecy of Matthew 24 (Mk 13:3), we would assume that he recognized the signs of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. He, as well as all New Testament prophets, proclaimed the message of Matthew 24 throughout the Roman Empire. Friends and families of those who did not heed the warnings would be those Jews of the Empire who would join the resistance and make their way to Palestine. When they were slaughtered in the national calamity of A.D. 70, their friends and families back home would mourn their death (Mt 24:30).

As Jesus did in the prophecy of Matthew 24, in his first letter Peter alerted his readers of an impending end of “all things.” Peter wrote, “The end of all things is at hand (1 Pt 4:7). When Peter made this statement, it is certain that he had in mind the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of these things (Mt 24:1,2). James also wrote to Jewish Christians, but in general “to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad” (Js 1:1). James’ warning was the same as Peter’s: “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord [in judgment] is at hand (Js 5:8).

Both James and Peter were forewarning Jewish Christians that there was an imminent judgment of God in the air. The end was in sight. Since the letters of the two writers were specifically written to the Jews who were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire, we could also assume that they were writing to warn Jewish Christians to stay away from Palestine. He would also urge them to warn their unbelieving friends not to give in to the appeals of the nationalistic Jews.

The Holy Spirit was not deceiving these inspired writers. They were not, therefore, deceiving the Jewish Christians to whom they wrote. They did not deceive their readers into believing that the “coming” and the “end” that were at hand referred to the final coming of Jesus and the end of the world. In view of the dates the two letters were written, and the historical destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it is difficult not to apply their warnings to the imminent termination of national Israel. The destruction was only three to five years away from the time of their writing. The sound of Roman armies was already in the air. “Rumors of wars” had already begun. The end of national Israel was “at hand.”

Interpreters who do not fully appreciate the historical setting of the epistles of Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter and Jude often miss the theme of these books. It would not be reasonable to believe that these Jewish writers who wrote to Jewish audiences three to five years before the Jewish calamity of A.D. 70, would ignore the fulfillment of Jesus’ Matthew 24 prophecy. The fulfillment was near, and thus the Holy Spirit’s purpose was to prepare the Jewish recipients for God’s demonstration in time that He was finished with Israel. He finished His special Sinai covenant with the nation at the cross when the new covenant was implemented. He finished the animal blood sacrifices when His Son poured out His own blood on the cross. Now it was time to finish Israel’s physical heritage through the genocide of A.D. 70. Only when the old was finished would the true and new Israel of God shine forth in the kingdom of the Son.

It is not reasonable to believe that Peter, who personally sat at the feet of Jesus during the Matthew 24 discourse, bypassed the imminent fulfillment of Jesus’ profound prophecy in order to focus on something that would occur over two thousand years later. It is not reasonable to believe that James, Jude or Peter, who directed their letters primarily to Jewish readers, ignored the most traumatic national calamity that would happen in the history of Israel.

With the above thoughts in mind, there is little room for dogmatism in interpreting 2 Peter 3 with reference to the end of time. We are not without valid historical proof that the primary focus of Peter in 2 Peter 3 was on the end of Israel. We must, therefore, first consider this text in the historical context of the first recipients of the letter. There are certainly end-of-time illustrations in the metaphors that Peter used. But we must keep in mind that the recipients of this letter were in the midst of great social turmoil. Nationalistic Jews throughout the Roman empire were causing no little disturbance among the Jews, as well as the Roman government. Rome simply came to the decision that enough was enough.

Matthew 24:45-51

Verses 45-47
Faithful And Wise Servants

“Who then is a faithful and wise bondservant whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them food at the proper time? Blessed is that bondservant whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will make him ruler over all his goods.”

The faithful and wise servant understands the responsibility of his relationship to the master’s household. So it is with those disciples who remain faithful and thus wisely understand their duties to serve the Lord. They will not be diverted to the cares of this world, nor drawn away by the politics of the nationalistic Israelites. Their citizenship in heaven will be stronger than their connection to the physical “seed of Abraham.” Therefore, they took heed and watched for the coming judgment of the master of the household. They are always prepared for his coming in order that they not be caught unprepared.

Verses 48-51
The Evil Servant

“But if that evil bondservant will say in his heart, ‘My master delays,’ and begins to beat his fellow bondservants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that bondservant will come in a day when he is not looking for him and in an hour that he does not know. And he will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The evil servant will not be spiritually awakened by the imminent coming of the Lord in his lifetime. He puts this thought out of his mind and carries on with the ordinary things of life. In Jesus’ personal conversation here with His disciples, He was emphasizing the fact that this coming of the Lord would happen “in this generation.” He had said, “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation (Mt 23:36). “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom (Mt 16:28).

Jesus was not leading them to believe that the final coming and end of the world would be in their lifetime. The final coming of Jesus was not something about which they thought at the time.

The New Testament does not teach the imminent final return of Jesus. That is, the Holy Spirit did not inspire New Testament writers to write that the final coming of Jesus would happen in the lifetime of the first century disciples. However, Jesus and the inspired writers did teach and write about the imminent coming of Jesus in time in judgment upon Jerusalem. It was this return for which Christians in those times were to be looking. This was the return about which James wrote, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord…. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand(Js 5:7,8). Therefore, Jesus urged His immediate disciples to look for this coming. Those who did not heed the warnings of Matthew 24 would inevitably be deceived by the theology of the nationalistic recruiters, and consequently suffer in weeping and gnashing of teeth in the destruction of their prized city Jerusalem, the temple and nation.

[End of series]

Matthew 24:40-44

Verses 40,41
Wicked Taken – Righteous Left

“Then will two men be in the field, the one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and the other left.”

Here is another similarity between the times of Noah and the destruction of Jerusalem. When the flood came, righteous Noah and his family entered the ark. The flood then came and took away the wicked. Only the righteous were left safely in the ark. So it would be in the destruction of Jerusalem. The wicked would be taken and the righteous would be left. Those who use this arrangement to refer to the final coming seek to reverse order.

This is not, therefore, a context for “rapture theology” that is so prevalent among theologians today. Jesus said, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” Those who propagate rapture theology reverse the illustration of Jesus. In their attempt to force this passage to have some reference to the end of time, they twisted the order (See 2 Pt 3:15,16). We must keep in mind that Jesus’ use of the flood of Noah’s day to illustrate the events of the destruction of Jerusalem are to show that in the destruction “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). The wicked unbelieving Jews would be taken. The righteous would be left.

At the end of time when Jesus comes, He will take the righteous from the earth (1 Th 4:17). In the context of Matthew 24, however, it is the wicked who are taken. For this reason, we must affirm that Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24 and not the final coming of Jesus.

Verse 42
Watch!

“Therefore, watch, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming.”

The term “hour” is here used with a generic meaning. It is not a specific 60-minute hour, as “the day” of verse 36 was not a specific 24-hour solar day. Reference is to a time when all the events of Jesus’ discourse would take place. Emphasis is on the fact that there would be a specific time in history when all this would happen, though the time will occur over a period of weeks and months.

The point is that those who believe in what Jesus was saying must continually watch, lest they become caught up in the affairs of this world. These were not things for which one could prepare. They were things for which those who were living the gospel must be concerned lest they be caught up in the hysteria of the pleas of the nationalistic Jews.

The emphasis of Jesus on the encouragement to “watch” might be good advice for some today who seek to excite people into looking for the “signs of the times” in order to prepare for the final coming of the Lord. Since Jesus’ exhortation was to always be prepared, then the coming in judgment on national Israel would not be a surprise on the part of the disciples, but an expectation. Since He gave the warnings, then those who believed in Him would expect all His prophesied events would come to pass.

The saints did not need to know an exact hour when the carcass would be consumed. They just needed to know that it would happen when the vultures showed up in Palestine. Jesus gave them all the dots to connect. Once they started to connect all the prophetic dots in the few years before A.D. 70, then they knew that the time had come.

Verses 43,44
The Unexpected Presence

“But know this, that if the head of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

In this context Jesus has given “generic signs” from which they should deduct the end of national Israel and the fall of Jerusalem. No specific details were given. No names were stated. No calendars were distributed to the disciples. He gave just enough information to generate “watching” on the part of those who believed what He said. Those who believed would need no more information.

After the establishment of the church in A.D. 30, the apostles evidently stayed in Jerusalem for as long as ten years. The reason for this was obvious. Jerusalem was where devoted and nationalistic Jews came to offer sacrifices at the altar during the Passover/Pentecost feast. It was the prime opportunity to call through the gospel the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In A.D. 58 or 59 Paul made a last trip to Jerusalem in order to make a final plea to Jews who might obey the gospel (At 21). However, their vehement rejection of the gospel and attempted murder of Paul were evidence that at this time (A.D. 58,59) the radical nationalistic Jews were ready for the judgment of God. What Jesus had pronounced in Matthew 23:34-36 was ready to happen. The “righteous blood” of all innocent prophets of God was about to be brought on this generation of defiant Jews.

It was a time when the beloved Israel was coming to a close because the Jews failed to understand that the nation of Israel was only God’s means to an end, but not the end in itself. So Jesus mourned over the nation that had preserved a segment of world society until the Son of God was incarnate in the flesh of the Messiah. It was a time when Jesus was sorrowful for God’s people.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house [temple] is left to you desolate” (Mt 23:37,38).

In Jesus’ pronouncements of Matthew 24 He wanted to give the faithful adequate indications of when to stay away from Jerusalem and Judea. Jewish Christians must not become trapped in the “traditions of the fathers,” nor in the materialistic vanities of Jewish economics. It would be best that they sell “their possessions and goods” and divide them among all believers according to the needs of the people (At 2:45; see At 4:32-37). Residents of Jerusalem were going to lose their possessions anyway in the coming destruction. Why keep that which they would eventually lose? In some way, therefore, the resident Jewish Christians sensed that eventually they were going to lose all investments in national Israel. If not one stone would be left upon another in Jerusalem, then forty years before the event, it was best to sell it all and move on. “And they sold their possessions and goods and divided them to all, as everyone had need” (At 2:45). “Many as were owners of land or houses sold them” (At 4:34).

[Next in series: Aug.16]

Matthew 24:36-39

Verse 36
Time For Destruction


“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but My Father only.”

That day” is here a generic term as “the Sabbath” is in verse 20. In other words, this is the time of destruction. The indication is not in reference to a specific 24-hour day, but to the time when the destruction would occur. While on earth, and in His incarnate state, Jesus chose not know this time. Neither did the angels know.

At the time Jesus was making these pronouncements, it was not necessary that either He or angels be aware of the actual time of the destruction. If He had known the exact year, then we assume that His disciples would have pressed Him for a date. But He knew that when men have a specific date for finalities, they wait until the day before in order to get themselves right with God. For this reason, Jesus made the statement that only the Father knew when these things would transpire about which He spoke. He would later say why He made the statement. Those who believe must be ready at all times.

We must also keep in mind that if Jesus gave a specific date, then He would have nullified the power of the disciples’ prayers that they were to utter so that the coming calamity would not happen in the winter or on a Sabbath. If a specific date was given by Jesus, then any prayer to change the date would have been futile. Or, Jesus would have been a false prophet in reference to the established date if the Father chose to answer the disciples’ prayers, and thus change the date that Jesus had given during His earthly ministry.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ statement helps us to better understand the flow of the text in order to understand “that day” to refer to the context of the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke recorded,

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. 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. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore (Lk 21:33-36).

Those Jews who were consumed in the affairs of the world would certainly not believe in Jesus or His prophecy, let alone expect the coming judgment upon Jerusalem when many would lose all that they had. In fact, Peter stated that they would be mocking this belief of Christians.

Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pt 3:3,4).

Of course these scoffers had forgotten the flood of Noah’s day. They had forgotten Sodom and Gomorrah. Regardless of their forgetfulness, however, God would bring this judgment upon national Israel. About five years before A.D. 70, the Holy Spirit inspired an entire book to be written that would remind the rich Sadducean Jews that their riches were corrupted (Read James).

The key word here is watch. Mark records more information that Jesus gave at this point in the discourse.

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going on a journey, who left his house and gave authority to his bondservants and to each one his work. And he commanded the door keeper to watch. Therefore, you watch, for you do not know when the master of the house comes, in the evening, or at midnight, or at the cock crow, or in the morning—lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say to you I say to all, Watch!” (Mk 13:33-37).

Verses 37-39
Taking Of The Wicked

“But as the days of Noah were, so also will be the coming [presence] of the Son of Man. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until that day when Noah entered the ark. And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. So also will be the coming [presence] of the Son of Man.”

The “coming” that Jesus is talking about—the terminational of national Israel—will be as the days of Noah. Both the flood of Noah’s day and the destruction of Jerusalem were “comings” of the Lord in judgment in time. However, the final coming of Jesus in judgment at the end of time will be different. The flood and destruction of Jerusalem may be typical of the final coming. However, we must understand that nothing has ever happened in the history of man that will fully illustrate what will happen at the end of time. Therefore, all illustrations to the “end-of-time” judgment by “in-time” judgments must be metaphorical.

The New Testament writers took that which was literal, and had actually happened in history, to illustrate that which will happen at the end of time. We must keep in mind, therefore, that these historical events in time that are metaphorically used to illustrate final judgment do not fully explain what will happen when Jesus comes again.

Jerusalem’s destruction will be as it was in the days of Noah (See Gn 7:6-23). God sent the flood because of the wickedness of man. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gn 6:5). Such wickedness would be characteristic of the unbelieving Jews who crucified the Son of God. They were hardened to the message of the gospel of King Jesus, though they personally experienced the miraculous confirmation of God directly from heaven (See Jn 3:2). Men were more concerned about the material advantages of life than spiritual matters. The Pharisees consumed on their own lusts the financial help the children were to give to their parents (Mk 7:9-13). They loved money (Lk 16:14). The rich Sadducean Jews had “lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury” (See Js 5:1-6). They had cheated in the wages that were due to their laborers (Js 5:4). As it was in the days of Noah, so it was in the days of Israel before A.D. 70.

In verses 37-40 Jesus is saying that people will be living in their own normal wicked and materialistic manner prior to “that day” of destruction. It was this way in the days of Noah. It would be the same in the destruction of national Israel. And, it will be the same at the end of time. Those who reject the message of the gospel see only those things of this world. They refuse to submit to the “coming of the Lord” in judgment.

[Next in series: Aug. 14]

Matthew 24:32-35

Verses 32,33
Parable Of The Fig Tree

“Now learn the parable of the fig tree. When its branch is yet tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So likewise, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.”

When the Jewish nationalists began to prepare for their resistance against Rome, then Christians could see that tragedy was coming. They could interpret the rise of Jewish nationalism as a sign of the end.

The meaning of the parable from the fig tree is the nearness of the destruction as indicated by Jesus’ statements of verses 5-29. The fig tree puts forth her tender branches and leaves in the spring. Such indicates that summer is coming. The occurrence of the events of verses 5-29 would indicate the nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem because the “maturity” of nationalism was strong throughout the Empire.

The disciples would understand that the “coming [presence] of the Lord in judgment in time was at hand” (Js 5:8). For this reason, Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rv 3:20). Through His messengers who went into all the Roman Empire, there was continual pleas through gospel to come out of the resistance of Jewish nationalism that would eventually end in war with Rome.

Verse 34
Generational Witness Of Doom

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled.”

Some of those of this generation, the generation to whom Jesus was speaking, would not die before all that He had just said had occurred. This verse is certainly parallel with what Jesus had said in Matthew 16:27,28. On that occasion Jesus said in the context of the Son of Man coming in the glory of His Father, “There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” They would witness the coronation of Jesus at His ascension. They would also witness His kingdom authority that was demonstrated in His judgment on national Israel.

When they went forth after the ascension of Jesus, the disciples went from city to city in Israel, preaching the gospel of the kingdom reign of King Jesus. This was their message of hope to be delivered from the intimidation of the Jewish nationalist who were campaigning throughout the Empire in order to recruit followers. While first preaching the gospel of Jesus’ atoning death, and His kingdom reign, the messengers continually had a message of doom for national Israel that was relayed on to all Jewish disciples.

In their preaching, the unbelieving Jews would persecute the early messengers from city to city because he message of the messengers meant the end of Israel. If Jesus was the only Lord and Messiah, then there was no messiah in the future to deliver national Israel from Rome. Jesus said to the disciples,

“But 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” (Mt 10:23).

Because of the Jews’ persecution of the messengers of Jesus, God would bring judgment upon national Israel. Before Jesus arrived at this context of His message to the disciples in Matthew 24, He had stated, “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Mt 23:36). “These things” referred to all things that led up to final consummation of Israel. These things would come upon the generation to whom He addressed this message of warning.

God would bring the punishment of judgment upon the generation to whom Jesus personally ministered because they had personally rejected Jesus. Jesus had said to the rejecting Jews,

“The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here(Mt 12:41,42).

Jesus’ generation of Jews would receive a more harsh judgment because they had personally experienced the presence of the incarnate Son of God. The destruction of Jerusalem, therefore, was not only God’s intended time to openly demonstrate His work through Israel, it was also His judgment upon a generation that personally rejected His Son.

Verse 35
The Enduring Word

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Jesus seems to comfort the disciples at this point in this most terrifying picture of the end. No matter what the national calamity might be, they must trust in the word of God that endures forever. Peter possibly reflected on the thought of this statement of Jesus when he wrote he following just a few years before Jerusalem’s destruction: “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever (1 Pt 1:24,25).

It is doubtful that Peter fully understood this when Jesus first made the pronouncements of Matthew 24 in his presence. Nevertheless, he, as well as the other disciples at hand, would soon realize that they could not put their faith in any nation, even though it had been ordained by God some 1,400 years before.

The only thing that would permeate the destruction of all things would be the word of God. Eventually, the present heaven and earth would pass away (2 Pt 3:10,11). But the word of the Lord endures forever. Therefore, Jesus assumed that they would wholeheartedly trust in His promises regardless of all the calamity that was coming upon those who sought to establish an independent Jewish nation within Palestine.

[Next in series: Aug. 12]

Matthew 24:30,31

Verse 30
Sign Of The Son

“And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then will all the tribes of the earth mourn. And they will see the Son of Man coming [present] in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

We must be sure to note that some translations use the English word “coming” to translate the Greek word parousia in this text. In this context this is an unfortunate translation since the coming of Jesus in person is out of context and not under consideration. His coming at the end of time will be personal (At 1:9-11; 1 Jn 3:2). But the presence of Him having all authority as King of kings would be revealed through the termination of national Israel, which termination He prophesied.

Jesus had earlier spoken to His disciples on the subject of His coming judgment. He had said that this coming (presence) would be “in the glory of His Father with His angels [messengers]” (Mt 16:27). Jesus had said in chapter 16 that some of His immediate disciples would experience this coming (presence). “Assuredly, 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 (Mt 16:28).

So the sign here in Matthew 24:30 refers to what Jesus had previously prophesied. When the Roman army eventually came, such would be God’s final signal to believe in King Jesus who foretold these things. The fulfillment would be God’s last proof of Jesus as the Messiah.

The word “see” could be translated “perceive” or “discern.” When all these things happen, people would perceive the judgment of Jesus on Jerusalem. “Coming in the clouds” is judgment language from the Old Testament (See Is 19:1; Jr 4:13; Ez 30:3). When Jesus brings down this judgment on national Israel through the Roman army, then people will perceive the judgment power of the Son and His gospel reign as King of kings.

The disciples would witness the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. They would understand that Daniel 7:13,14 was fulfilled. Daniel had prophesied,

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven. And He came to the Ancient of Days. And they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion and glory and sovereignty, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away. And His sovereignty will not be destroyed.”

This prophecy speaks of the ascension of Jesus, for Jesus ascended unto the Ancient of Days who is the Father. However, before Jesus ascended to heaven, all authority in heaven and earth had been given unto Him (Mt 28:18; Jn 13:3; 17:2). Many would not realize this until the physical fulfillment of the prophecy that He made in Matthew 24.

When Jesus came in judgment on Jerusalem, then the Jews would realize that Jesus was “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ep 1:21; see Ph 2:9-11). Jesus was Lord of lords and King of kings before A.D. 70 (1 Tm 6:15). However, true Israel by faith did not “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43) until after national Israel was shaken in A.D. 70. When national Israel was taken away, the true Israel (the church), that could not be shaken, shined forth in the kingdom reign of Jesus. This was a marvel, “a sign,” that the disciples would experience in their lifetime.

If reference in Matthew 24:30 is not to the ascension of Jesus to the Father by the coming in the clouds, then the figure is to coming in judgment. This is a figure from the Old Testament that signified God’s coming in judgment upon the unrighteous (See Is 19:1; Jr 4:13; Ez 30:2). In the historical context, therefore, this is what Jesus is here signifying. He indicated this same thought during His trial when He stated to the high priest in Jerusalem, “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” (Mt 26:64).

The high priest would not literally see Jesus at the right hand of the Father with all authority. However, he would see this power manifested by proxy through the instrumentality of the Roman army. Those unbelieving Jews who experienced the destruction of Jerusalem certainly wondered why God was judging them. On the other hand, the disciples before A.D. 70 recognized the kingdom reign of Jesus. This kingdom reign would be demonstrated in A.D. 70 by the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple encouraged many disheartened Jews to turn to Jesus. This is the historical commentary on what Paul revealed in Romans 9-11,

“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part [before A.D. 70] has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved [through obedience to the gospel](Rm 11:25,26).

Israel would be saved in the same manner as the Gentiles, that is through obedience to the gospel. However, because of the stubborn nature of some Jews, these Jews, before they would believe, had to experience an open demonstration by God before they would understand that God was finished with national Israel.

Verse 31
Sending Of The Evangelists

“And He will send His messengers 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.”

The Greek word angelos, here translated “angels,” should be translated “messengers” in this text. It is so translated in Matthew 11:10: “Behold, I send My messenger [“angelos”] before Your face.” It is also translated such in Luke 7:24: “When the messengers [“angelos”] of John had departed.” Also, Jesus “sent messengers [“angelos”] before His face” to Jerusalem (Lk 9:52; see 2 Co 12:7; Js 2:25).

It seems that because some translators believed that Matthew 24 referred to the end of time, they translated the word angelos to refer to heavenly angels. But the context does not warrant this translation. Jesus is not historically jumping in the text from A.D. 70 to some time over two thousand years later.

Before the gospel of His ascension and coronation, Jesus did send His messengers forth into all the world. He said to His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Mt 28:19). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). “And they went out and preached everywhere” (Mk 16:20).

The disciples went forth from Jerusalem in Acts 8:4 in order to take the message of the gospel to all the world. Those who would believe were gathered together into the community of gospel-obedience subjects. Those who recognized that “all things were fulfilled” (Mt 5:18), came to Jesus. In their obedience to the gospel, they turned from Jewish nationalism to spiritual revivalism. They were taught the following:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gl 3:28,29).

The messengers (evangelists) went forth with the gospel sound of a trumpet call. The trumpet call finds its symbolism in the Old Testament. The trumpet was sounded as a warning of impending danger (See Nm 10:2; Is 27:13: Jl 2). The preaching of the gospel was Jesus’ call to all men to believe the gospel (2 Th 2:14). The disciples went forth not only with the message of the gospel, but also the message of Matthew 24. There was a call to King Jesus in response to His atoning sacrifice. The trumpet call of the gospel delivered obedient Jews from sin, as well as from death that would result from the physical destruction of national Israel in A.D. 70.

[Next in series: Aug. 10]

Matthew 24:26-29

Verses 26 & 27
Manifested Presence

“Therefore, if they say to you, ‘Behold, He [the Messiah] is in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Behold, He is in the secret chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines even to the west, so also will be the coming [presence] of the Son of Man.”

The very fact that Jesus made the prophecy of the end of Israel on the occasion of this discourse is evidence that His prophecy was meant to reveal that He was the Son of God who had all these things under the control. After His crucifixion and ascension, He assumed all control over all things when He was seated at the right hand of God, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is name, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come” (Ep 1:21). Simply because we do not see all things under His control does not mean that He is not in control (See Hb 2:8).

All things at the time He made the preceding statement were under His control. Immediately before the betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into His hands” (Jn 13:3). He knew He had been given all authority over all things before His ascension (Mt 28:18). When He ascended to reign, and this prophecy was fulfilled, many of the unbelieving Jews would come to realize that He was made King of kings and Lord of lords at the time of His coronation. The suppression of the nationalistic Jews in A.D. 70 would reaffirm His existing kingdom reign in the age that followed after A.D. 70. In the consummation of national Israel, the whole world had the opportunity to believe that Jesus was right, and that He would be who He said He was until the consummation of the world.

But before the end of national Israel there were those false christs (messiahs) who led gullible Jews into the wilderness in hope of organizing an independent state of Israel in Palestine. Jesus was here warning the disciples not to accept anyone who would lead them into believing that the Christ would come in time in a manner that would be characteristic of His final coming. When Jesus comes at the end of time it will not be a happening that must be communicated by people to people. It will be an event that will happen at the sound of the last trumpet, with the voice of an archangel (1 Th 4:15,16). In other words, Jesus says that if others come to say that they are “the Christ,” then they should not believe them. The unbelieving Jews may not have been able to connect all the dots, but at least the Christians of the time would have had their message proven true in the fall of national Israel.

The next personal coming of Jesus will be worldwide and heavenly announced with the sound of a trumpet. As lightning is seen when it strikes, so there will be no need to go forth and proclaim that He had come. All the Jews throughout the world will realize that what Christians spoke on these matters in reference to Jesus being the Messiah, had come true.

Verse 28
Gathering Of The Vultures

“For wherever the carcass [of dead national Israel] is, there will the vultures be gathered together [to consume it].”

The carcass is the Israelite nation that died forty years before at the cross. When the Jewish religious leaders rejected and crucified the Messiah, they signed their own doom. Therefore, the nation was dead even before the arrival of the vultures (the Roman army). It was a dead carcass awaiting its own consummation.

When the new covenant was bought and paid for by the blood of the incarnate Son of God, the covenant of the blood of bulls and goats passed away (Hb 10:1-4). When this happened, Jesus wiped “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He took it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Cl 2:14). This revealing statement about this matter was understood in reference to all those who obeyed the gospel:

“Therefore, my brethren, you also became dead to the [Sinai] law through the body of Christ, so that you should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, so that we should bring forth fruit to God” (Rm 7:4).

The problem with the nationalistic Jews in the decade leading up to the consumption of the carcass in A.D. 70 was that they had missed the opportunity to be married to the Messiah. In their refusal to be married to Christ through obedience to the gospel, they shunned the King of kings who was in control of all those things that would befall them in A.D. 70.

The gathering “vultures” was the Roman army that came to consume the dead nation. Vultures come when they see death. National Israel, therefore, was dead before the vultures arrived on the scene. When the disciples started seeing the gathering of the Roman army into Palestine, they knew that it was mealtime for vultures.

The unfortunate part of this story is that many Jewish Christians were deceived into believing the recruiting Jewish nationalists, and thus they sent themselves to death in the end. Some Jewish Christians had evidently refused to terminate the Passover/ Pentecost journey to Jerusalem to visit family and friends. Jesus was giving everyone warning signs in order to keep themselves away from the area, but the vultures were going to consume the carcass of nationalistic Israel. The vultures showed up over the carcass on the Passover/Pentecost of A.D. 70.

Verse 29
Termination Of Nationalistic Aspirations

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun [of national Israel] will be darkened and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

The great tribulation of verse 21 would precede the final destruction of the city. Therefore, immediately after the tribulation of those days, the splendor of the Jewish nation would fall by the destruction of Israel’s pride, the city of Jerusalem and the temple.

Jesus used apocalyptic judgment language from the Old Testament to portray the final doom of Israel. Such language was commonly used by inspired writers in the Old Testament to symbolize the fall of nations (See Is 13:6-18; 14:12; 24:23; 34:4; Jr 4:23,24; Ez 32:7,8; Dn 8:10; Jl 2:30-32). The sun usually represented the king or monarch of the nation. The heavenly bodies represented the rest of the government leaders.

We must not allow ourselves to become inconsistent in understanding Jesus’ use of metaphorical language in this context to be a literal falling of the sun, moon and stars. We consistently interpret such language as it was used in the Old Testament. Such language referred to the fall of an earthly kingdom.

When God shakes the heavens, there is great change on earth among the nations. This is the meaning in Haggai 2:6 from which Jesus brought the figure, “shaking the powers of the heavens” into the context of the fall of national Israel. Haggai wrote, “For thus says the Lord of hosts; ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations’” (Hg 2:6,7).

God was going “to shake” heaven and earth again in order to sift out of national Israel those who could not be shaken because they had submitted to the kingdom reign of Jesus in their hearts. This is precisely what the Hebrew writer stated when he wrote a few years before A.D. 70:

He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things that cannot be shaken [the gospel] may remain (Hb 12:26,27).

National Israel would be physically removed in order to allow the “Israel by faith” to shine forth.  The catastrophic national event of terminating Israel would allow those who were righteous through their obedience to the gospel to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43).  The Hebrew writer continued, 

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hb 12:28).

At the time of the writing of Hebrews 12:28, the kingdom of Jesus was in the process of being established among the Jews throughout the world as Jews came to believe in Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), and then give witness of their faith through obedience to the gospel. The kingdom reign of King Jesus was being received.

[Next in series: Aug. 8]

Matthew 24:24,25

Verses 24
False Messiahs

“For there will arise false christs [messiahs] and false prophets. And they will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

False christs and prophets would arise in the time of calamity in order to call people after futile aspirations to establish a Jewish state. They would show great signs and wonders. These deceiving tricks would be so good that even Christians might by chance believe them to be real.

These “signs and wonders” could not be real supernatural events simply because Jesus says here that the elect might be deceived into believing them to be real. The point is that they would not be deceived if the supposed miracles were true. One is not deceived when he believes that which is true and real.

This context is similar to Paul’s warning in 2 Thessalonians 2:9: “The presence of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan with all deceiving power and signs and wonders.” In the 2 Thessalonians text the word “lying” would modify power, signs and wonders. All supposed miracles of Satan are false. Those who suppose to control the supernatural today to prove themselves and their message to be true are the instruments of Satan. Paul warns that “such are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Co 11:13). They are not instruments of Satan because they work real miracles. They are instruments of Satan because they claim that what they do is the miraculous work of either God or Satan. Jesus warned, “Be not deceived.”

Some ask how one can determine if the supposed supernatural work of an individual is true. The answer is simple. If one is not preaching the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, coronation and final consummation of all things, then he is a false prophet and his signs are fake. If one does not teach that one must obey the gospel of the incarnate Son of God through baptism for remission of sins, then he is a false prophet and his signs are fake. Upon such masquerading apostles, King Jesus will come with the following judgment:

“… rest with us when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Th 1:7,8).

Verse 25
Forewarning

“Behold, I have told you in advance.”

Jesus told the disciples these things beforehand in order to prepare them to believe in Him when it all happened. He made a similar statement in John 13:18 after quoting Psalm 41:9 in reference to the betrayal of Judas: Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He” (Jn 13:19).

The false prophets about whom Jesus spoke existed in the times preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. We do not doubt that they have existed throughout history unto this day. Christians, therefore, would be wise to take heed to Jesus’ warning concerning such things. In the same historical context of the decade that led up to the conflict between Rome and the nationalistic Jews, Peter warned,

“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words that were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pt 3:1-4).

Peter personally remembered the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24. He stirred his audience to remembrance by reminding them that they were in the last days about which Jesus spoke. He wrote the letter of 2 Peter between A.D. 65 and 67. This was only a short time before the destruction was to begin.

Peter wrote that Jesus “was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pt 1:20). God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hb 1:2). This was the “fullness of the time” (Gl 4:4) and the “end of the age” of God’s special covenant with national Israel (Ep 1:10). It was in these last times of national Israel that God sent forth His Son. The last days did not refer to a dispensation, but to a time of ending, the end of national Israel with the revelation of the gospel through the Word who became flesh (See Jn 1:1,2,14).

It was the “last times,” the last times of God’s Sinai covenant He had specifically with Israel. Jude and James also wrote just a few years before the fall of Jerusalem. Both writers inferred the finality of Israel as a covenanted nation with God. Jude stated,

“Beloved, remember the words that were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts” (Jd 17,18).

Jude’s Christian readers were experiencing these mockers in their own lives at the very time he wrote. Therefore, Jude’s argument is that his Jewish Christian readers were in the last time of national Israel. These were not the beginning of the last times, but the last time.

The last times were the years between Pentecost in A.D. 30 to A.D. 70. These were the last days of national Israel. God was bringing judgment upon the wicked vine dressers (the Jewish religious leadership) who attempted to steal the fruit and inheritance of the vineyard by maintaining the religion of Judaism (See Mt 21:33-45). National Israel had rejected God, and thus, God was in the process of rejecting national Israel. National Israel’s persecution of the “Israel by faith” was coming to an end when national Israel came to an end.

James wrote to suffering Jewish Christians of the Roman Empire around A.D. 62 or 63. He comforted the persecuted “Israel by faith” (the church) by saying, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord…. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (Js 5:7,8). James was not talking about a “coming of the Lord” more than two thousand years later. Discussion concerning a coming at the end of time would not have been an encouragement to his immediate readers who were suffering under nationalistic Jewish mockers. The “coming” in the context of Matthew 24 is about judgment in time upon the nation of Israel.

Nationalistic Jewish mockers were the primary persecutors of Christians before A.D. 70. Jesus’ “coming in judgment” upon these mockers was at hand, that is, it was near unto happening. In Matthew 24 Jesus was “telling beforehand” of this deliverance that was coming in only a few years.

Those “end of time” proponents today who would reach into this historical contact and twist the Scriptures for their own fantasies have done a disservice to the early Christians. They are prophecy thieves who steal away the encouragement of these prophecies that were meant to encourage the initial readers to whom they were addressed. They seek to apply the prophecies to themselves and those they have deceived into following them. Prophecy thieves seek to generate an audience for themselves by stealing in-time prophecies in order to apply the same prophecies to end-of-time events.

[Next in series: Aug. 6]