Category Archives: Matthew 24

Destruction of Jerusalem

The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70
After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in A.D. 30, the second greatest event that affected the disciples in the first century was the consummation of national Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. We must not underestimate the significance of this God-ordained historical event in reference to biblical interpretation and the evangelistic work of the early disciples. This is particularly true in reference to Jesus’ teachings in the parables, and specifically, in the context of Matthew 24 where Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

Abraham was called in order that his descendants become a monotheistic nation that would preserve a segment of society through which God could introduce His Son into the world (See Gn 12:1-3). It would be through this nation that God would send the Redeemer into the world, and His message of the gospel. We must understand, therefore, that through the seed of Abraham, the Messiah (the Christ) would come (Gl 3:16). Once the Seed came, then Israel was dissolved in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Gl 3:26-29). There was no longer a need for an earthly symbol of heavenly kingdom reign. Citizens of the new kingdom reign of the new King would be the people of all nations who would submit to the gospel of King Jesus.

Those Israelites who were sons of Abraham by faith were brought into Christ, wherein they enjoyed a special new covenant relationship with God (See Jr 31:31-33). However, with the consummation of all that God had accomplished through Israel, it was time in A.D. 70 for the visual removal of Israel as having a special national covenant relationship with God. The righteous of God, the church, would then shine forth under the kingdom reign of King Jesus had begun forty years before on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 (See Mt 13:36-43).

After the establishment of the new covenant with God through His Son, no special covenant needed to be maintained with national Israel (Hb 8:7-13). The church of Christ is now the new Israel of God, the members of which God has now established a new covenant relationship through Jesus. It was to this end that God used the vehicle of national Israel to first bring the Savior into the world, and then take the gospel of the Savior into all the world.

The early evangelists and writers of the epistles had in mind the prophecy of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem when they wrote to the disciples of Christ within two decades before A.D. 70 (See Mt 24). This is particularly true in reference to those epistles that were written in the middle and latter part of the 60s. When Jesus and the New Testament writers prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord in judgment on unbelieving Jews, they were warning Jewish Christians to stay away from Jerusalem and Judaism (See Jd 14,15). When the time came for the destruction to occur, the early disciples had been thoroughly warned and prepared to accept the end of national Israel. The destruction of national Israel, therefore, was the final sign to the world that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ was ordained as God’s people on earth (See Mt 13:36-43).

  1. Matthew 13:3-9,36-43: The harvest of the parable of the tares reveals the ministry of Jesus and the disciples that would take place before the end of the age of national Israel (Mt 13:39). Jesus first initiated the reaping during His earthly ministry, while His disciples continued to reap from the field of national Israel unto A.D. 70. When national Israel was terminated, then the righteous in Christ were revealed as the true people of God.
  2. Matthew 21:33-46: The manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth was taken from the Jews who crucified the Messiah, and given to those who believed in the Stone that was rejected by national Israel (See Dn 2:34,35).
  3. Matthew 22:1-14: Jesus announced to the Jews that they should come to His feast of the gospel. They refused by rejecting Him. They also rejected the disciples as they went forth preaching the gospel to the Jews after the ascension. King Jesus subsequently destroyed the murderers who crucified Him in their city.
  4. Matthew 23:29-39: All the rejection of the religious leaders throughout history would come upon those leaders of Jesus’ generation. It would come in the destruction of Jerusalem.
  5. Matthew 24: Judgment on the generation to whom Jesus delivered this final declaration of the termination of national Israel would come to pass in the lives of some of those who were in His immediate audience (Mk 9:1). The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was God’s final proof that He was the Son of God.

National Israel was terminated only when God had set in place a new covenant and law. All this took place forty years before the termination of national Israel in A.D. 70. God gave the Jews forty years to repent as the early disciples went forth from one synagogue to another in order to preach that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and thus the Savior of the world (At 9:20; 13:5,14,42; 14:1; 17:1,2,10,17; 18:4,19,26; 19:8).

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

“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

“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]

Matthew 24:21-23

Verse 21
Great Tribulation

“For then there will be great tribulation [because of the conflict], such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world to this time, nor ever will.”

Daniel prophesied that no nation from the beginning of time would have suffered as Israel was about to suffer at the hand of the Roman army. He wrote, “And there will be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation (Dn 12:1; see Dn 9:26). The siege occurred during Passover/Pentecost feast, the time when the most “faithful,” or at least fanatical Jews were in Jerusalem. These Jews were trapped in the city. Thousands perished. The rest were sold into slavery. It was a time that the Jewish nation suffered more in just a few months than any nation before them in such a short time. The genocide of the time was overwhelming.

The Romans wasted no time in the conquest of Jerusalem. It is believed that the actual battle against Jerusalem lasted only three to five months. During this time hundreds of thousands of nationalistic Jews were slaughtered. No city from the beginning of time suffered such a fate as Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Verse 22
For The Sake Of The Christians

“And except those days [of the conflict] were shortened, no life would be saved. But for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.”

God would shorten those days of the war for the sake of Christians. If the rate of killing the Jews continued that went on during the battle, the slaughter of all Jews throughout the Roman Empire would have resulted in their annihilation as a race of people. The killing would have spilled over into the community of Christian Jews. But for the sake of the Christian Jews, God would not allow the killing to continue past the genocide of Jerusalem and Masada. Therefore, the destruction was contained within Palestine.

Titus expedited the battle against Jerusalem in order to hurry back to Rome. However, the battle continued for about five months. Josephus records that the Roman army crucified about 30,000 Jews outside the city walls. Titus did such in order to discourage the Jews within the city, and thus, expedite their surrender. But the Jews persisted until he had to destroy the city, even the temple. In the genocide, hundreds of thousands of Jews died.

Verse 23
False Proclamations

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or ‘There,’ do not believe it.”

Jesus again emphasized the concept that the Jewish believers not be led astray by the deceptions of false messiahs. In times of national trauma, He knew that the people would seek for a national savior. There would be those nationalistic deliverers who would stand up and seek to lead the Jews of the Roman Empire in an effort to reestablish the nation of Israel. Jesus tells the disciples not to follow such futile calls for the national restitution of the state of Israel. He would say the same today who call for the restoration of a Jewish state within the confines of Palestine.

When the disciples later asked in Acts 1:6, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel,” Jesus knew that they still retained nationalistic hopes. In the context of Matthew 24, therefore, He gave them divine instructions upon which they could reflect when the countdown started toward A.D. 70. They could reflect on what Jesus said in the prophecy of Matthew 24 and know that His intention was not to establish a physical kingdom reign here on earth. This was never His intention. He clearly stated to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36). If His kingdom were of this world, then His disciples would have the right to take up arms against all those who persecute them (See Jn 18:36).

It will not be Jesus’ intention to establish an earthly kingdom when He comes again. If it is His intention to establish an earthly kingdom when He comes, then He would contradict what He said to Pilate. Jesus’ kingdom reign was always planned to be from heaven. Futile hopes that He will come again in order to use a military to establish an earthly kingdom is totally contrary to the gospel of His present reign as King of kings.

[Next in series: Aug. 4]

Matthew 24:15-18

Verses 15-18
The Abomination Of Desolation

“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation [the Gentile Roman army] that was spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place—whoever reads, let him understand—then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. Nor let him who is in the field go back to get his clothes.”

The abomination of desolation would be the pagan Roman army in Judea. The Gentile army would be there to desecrate the temple. The Gentiles presence would be an abomination to the Jews. However, all this would be the will of God, who was by the proxy of Rome, bringing judgment on Israel by the power of the Roman armies. Luke recorded, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near (Lk 21:20).

Daniel had prophesied of this event in Daniel 9 & 11. Jesus was saying, therefore, that we must understand that the A.D. 70 event was the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy (See Mk 13:14). This fulfillment was near, not over two thousand years in the future. Daniel prophesied,

“And the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it will be with a flood, and until the end of the war desolations are determined” (Dn 9:26).

Daniel continued by prophesying that forces “will defile the sanctuary fortress; then they will take away the daily sacrifices and place there the abomination of desolation (Dn 11:31; see Dn 12:7-11). “And there will be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Dn 12:1).

At the beginning of this time of destruction, the resident Jewish Christians of Judea must flee. They must take heed to Jesus’ warnings in order to understand that the nationalistic aspirations of the Jews was futile. It was in the final plan of God to openly demonstrate that He had finished with Israel when the unbelieving Jews crucified His Son on the cross.

The urgency by which Judea Christians must flee is here revealed. In the ancient cities one could actually go from house to house on the roof tops of the houses. The houses were joined together so that one could simply go from one roof to another. In order to accentuate the urgency of fleeing, Jesus said that they must not take the time to return to their houses for coveted possessions when they see the chance to escape. They must flee with what they have in hand.

Jesus also warned that no one was to go to Judea during these days (Lk 21:21). This warning was possibly to those who might travel to Judea and Jerusalem to visit friends and family, and then be caught in the war that was to rage throughout Judea. Jesus’ warning, therefore, was to save lives, the lives of those Jewish Christians who might still be tempted to travel to Jerusalem to visit family and friends during the annual Passover/Pentecost feast.

After Vespasian returned to Rome to be Caesar, the Roman army was placed under the control of Titus, his son. For some reason during the final stages of the assault on Jerusalem, Titus removed his encircling army from the city for a brief period of time. This gave all resident Christians of Jerusalem time to flee. This was possibly the time when Jesus said that they must not come down from their roof tops, but flee immediately. They must take this window of opportunity and flee the city. Only the radical insurrectionists Jews would stay in the city. This may have been the reason why Titus allowed an interlude in the assault against the city. We may assume that this was in the plan of God in order to deliver His people from the calamity.

In the prophecy of Matthew 24, Jesus issued every warning possible to keep the Jewish Christians out of Palestine. But then there were those Jewish Christians who lived in Judea and the city of Jerusalem who would probably be reluctant to leave their homes and flee. This would be particularly true of those Jewish Christians who had unbelieving family members who would not heed the warning of the One they believed was a self-proclaimed Messiah. For this reason, it was very difficult for some Jewish Christians to leave unbelieving family and friends. In His discourse of Matthew 24, Jesus gave some final signs in order that they might save their own lives. When they saw the Roman army outside the walls of the city, then they must conclude that it was all over. Jesus was the rightful Messiah, but the nationalistic Jews had deceived the people into believing that He was not.

Verses 19,20
Pray For An Easy Flight

“And woe to those who are with child and to those who are nursing infants in those days. But pray that your flight not be in the winter or on the Sabbath.”

It would be difficult for pregnant women to flee during a war. In fact, Paul wrote to those throughout Achaia that it would not be wise to even marry during times of distress (1 Co 7:26). He may have given this advice in view of the conflict that was either present or coming in reference to the Jews’ efforts to establish an independent state of Israel in Palestine.

Those with small nursing babies would also have difficulty in the flight from Judea. The prayers of the saints evidently were certainly a determining factor as to when this destruction would occur, for Jesus asked them to pray that such not happen in winter when the journey of flight would be more difficult. They must also pray that their flight not begin on the Sabbath, for fanatical nationalistic Jews would close the city gates on the Sabbath and hinder any from making any efforts to leave the city. Some fanatical Jews would possibly confront them in reference to violating the “Sabbath day journey” of Judaism (See Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26; 6:1-5).

The prayers of the saints would determine much concerning the deliverance of the Christians. Though we might not understand how God answered these prayers, the fact that Jesus asked them to pray for these things says that God can work in areas for which Jesus asked His disciples to pray.

[Next in series: Aug. 2]