Matthew 24:6

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars [throughout the Roman Empire]. See that you are not troubled, for these things must come to pass, but the end [of national Israel] is not yet.”

When Rome started her campaign against insurrectionist Jews, she marched down through Asia Minor with skirmishes here and there in order to eradicate from the Empire the “Jewish scourge.” There were also other wars throughout the Roman Empire that revealed the political instability of the time. These wars would not be the end of national Israel. They would only indicate the beginning of the end. But such wars would be a signal to the Christians who were living in Jerusalem to leave the city because the end was imminent.

We might suppose that the Roman army started minor skirmishes with the zealot Jews in order to hasten the radical Jews’ flight to Jerusalem. As a military strategy against the insurrectionist Jews, Rome wanted as many radical Jews as possible gathered in Palestine before the Roman army made their final assault against those Jews who wanted to restore a state of Israel as it was before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. What these loyalist Jews did not realize was that the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities centuries before meant the end of an independent state of Israel in Palestine as a God-ordained possession.

Since the return of the captives from the captivities, Palestine was continually occupied by foreign powers, even to the day of Jesus. So what the radical insurrectionist Jews of the 60s were trying to do was undo what God accomplished through the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.

There are those today who are doing the same. They are encouraging the same restoration of a God-ordained independent state of Israel. They needed to read their Old Testament history in order to understand that Israel’s independence in their own homeland came to an end when God drove them from the land. If they cannot discover this fact in Old Testament history, then it is easily discovered in the gospel that all who are in Christ are one body (See Gl 3:26-29). Christians are now the holy nation of God (1 Pt 2:5,9).

The deception of the effort to restore a state of Israel, however, is that the proponents cannot separate the right of the Jews as a culture of people to have their own homeland from the fact that such a homeland would not be a God-ordained plan in reference to the gospel of the Messiahship and sacrifice of the Son of God that took place two thousand years ago. The only reference that the modern-day state of Israel has in reference to God is that which was explained in Romans 13:1,2. Government of any nation is God-ordained as such, but God no longer ordains any specific government for a nation.

The deception that would come in the latter years of nation Israel in A.D. 70 would be that the false prophets of the nationalistic Jews were deceiving people. But in reference to some believers who were false prophets, they were deceiving the people into believing that God wanted to forsake His covenant with the existing holy nation of Christians in order to restore the state of national Israel. If this indeed were the plan of God, then none of the false prophets would not have been deceivers. They would have been speaking the truth if God did intend to establish again the state of Israel. But because God was finished with Israel proclaims the fact that any prophet is false if he or she would declare that God wants to again establish the state of Israel in Palestine.

The same is true today. Those who proclaim that God is establishing the Jews in Palestine as a God-ordained nation are deceived, and thus are false prophets who are deceiving others. The wars that surround Israel today have nothing to do with any efforts on the part of God to restore the nation of Israel within their own land.

When Jesus exhorted “that you are not trouble,” He indicated that this message was to those of the first century. Christians should not be troubled by any war, but in this historical context Jesus was specifically encouraging the Jewish Christians throughout the Roman Empire during the middle 60s not allow Rome’s wars throughout the Empire to disturb them. The only way that Jewish Christians could do this was that they had to understand that the end of national Israel was in the eternal plan of God. God wanted to usher in His gospel covenant relationship with all men through His only begotten Son. The day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 was the beginning. It was on that day that one had to obey the gospel in order to come into Christ. And when in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gl 3:28).

The Jewish Christians of the time needed to realize that their Jewish nationality was dissolved when they obeyed the gospel in order to come into Christ. They could remain Jews culturally, but their unique covenant relationship with God was terminated in Christ.

The promise of the new covenant has been fulfilled (See Jr 31:31-33). We need to remember that before creation God had planned that all those who obeyed the gospel would come into a covenant relationship with Him in Christ (Gl 3:26,27). This was in His plan when He established a national covenant relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai. But even at that time, He had in His eternal plan a new covenant that would be revealed by His Son.

The early Christians were not be troubled, therefore, when and how God would bring to a close the book on national Israel, though the book on the old Sinai covenant had been closed at the cross (Cl 2:14). Israel’s independent possession of the land of Palestine had been terminated with the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Israel will never again enjoy a national covenant relationship with God, and thus have a God-ordained right to possess the land of Palestine.

In the context of Matthew 24, Jesus was giving pronouncements of prophecy that would be spoken among the disciples throughout the Roman Empire. Jewish Christians were to take heed to these prophetic utterances. If they did not, then they might continue to cling to the traditional Jewish Passover and Pentecost journey to Jerusalem. Some may succumb to the nationalistic Judaism of the day and eventually be trapped in Jerusalem when the Roman armies came for the final onslaught against the insurrectionists. We must keep in mind that many Jewish Christians still had family members living in Palestine.

One reason Jesus gave these warnings, therefore, was primarily for the sake of the early Jewish Christians. They must take heed to these warnings and stay away from Jerusalem when the hour approached. In view of what the historian Josephus wrote concerning the death toll in the final months of war against the city, Jesus’ warnings in this text were given to save lives. Some Jewish sons who had been deceived into believing the radical judaizers could be spared if they gave heed to these warnings and stayed away from Palestine.

[Next in series: July 17]

Matthew 24:4,5

Jesus answered and said to them, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”

In view of the many modern-day self-proclaimed prophets and seers that exist throughout the world, it is little wonder that Jesus here made the statement, “Take heed that no one deceives you.” He knew that at the time of the end of national Israel there would be many self-proclaimed “messiahs” who would lead rebellions against Roman domination and occupation of Palestine. Some false prophets who sought to restore the state of Israel had already come and subsequently been killed by the Roman authorities (See At 5:36). Such messiahs and their nationalistic movements against Rome were what eventually motivated Rome to enact a final solution to the “Jewish problem.” That solution came in A.D. 70.

We must also keep in mind that in the decade before the final destruction, there would be zealous Jews who would go throughout the Roman Empire in order to recruit followers who would capture the dream of a restored state of Israel. The letters of 2 Timothy, Titus, Jude and 2 Peter were written to Christians who lived in the middle 60s. From the nature of what was written by Paul to both Timothy and Titus, it seems that even among Jewish Christian households there were those young men who were encouraged to betray their faith and march off to Jerusalem in order to engage against Rome in order to restore the state of national Israel. Jude and Peter addressed their fellow Jews in order to warn them about the impending judgment that God was about to bring upon unbelieving Jews who had for forty years resisted the gospel reign of King Jesus (See 2 Pt 3). The decade of the 60s was a time of recruitment by patriotic Jews who sought to restore the state of Israel to her former glory.

The warning of Jesus in the context of His discourse was that His disciples not be deceived into believing that the coming events signalled the end of time. Therefore, His message was not just to those residents who lived in Palestine. This was a message that was to permeate the church of Jewish parents throughout the Roman Empire in order that Jewish parents not allow their children, especially their sons, to be deceived by the Jewish recruiters of the time. From our studies of the book of Hebrews that was written in the middle 60s, it seems that even some parents were being deceived into returning to Jewish nationalism in order to restore the heritage of an independent Jewish nation.

People today can better understand the sociological turmoil that arose out of the fanaticism that existed in the decade prior to the fall of national Israel. An effort to establish an Islamic state was the perfect example of what was happening among the Jews throughout the Roman Empire during the 60s. True Islam is theocratic, as was the covenant and law that God established with Israel. In the zeal to establish a true theocratic Islamic state in the Middle East, Muslim Jihadists throughout the world recruited Muslims around the world to join in the struggle to establish an Islamic state. As a result, young people betrayed their parents and ran off to Syria.

During the decade of the 60s, the same was happening among the Jewish families throughout the Roman Empire. We can only imagine the thousands of young men who died because of the failed effort to establish an Islamic state. The same was true in the first century in reference to the failed effort to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Hundreds of thousands of Jews died in the futile effort. We can only imagine how many of these were deceived Jewish Christians who were deceived into joining the futile effort to restore a national state of Israel.

Though the effort of the zealot Jews in the first century failed to materialize in their desire to establish a state of Israel in Palestine, those who survived the A.D. 70 ordeal did not give up their dream. Zionists continued to hope for a state of Israel that would be the homeland of the Jews. Two thousand years later at the conclusion of world hostilities between World War I and II, this dream finally came true in 1948 in the establishment of their present state of Israel in Palestine. But the establishment of this state of Israel had nothing to do with the eternal plan of God. If it had, then why did God wait two thousand years to fulfill a futile hope of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine?

Nevertheless, there are many deceived religionists today who try to be loyal to the state of Israel today as a God-ordained state. At the same time they seek to maintain their commitment to the gospel of King Jesus. But they contradict themselves in reference to the reign of Jesus. They willingly sacrifice the present gospel reign of Jesus who has all authority over all things, and at the same time believe that in some way Jesus will give us His present galactic reign over all things in order to come in the future and reign on this literal earth in Jerusalem. Such hopes are totally contrary to the gospel of the ascension, coronation and final coming of Jesus. It is a reversal of the gospel journey of the incarnate Son of God to the destiny of where He now reigns (See Ph 2:5-11).

Jesus’ message to His immediate disciples, therefore, certainly has a secondary application to Christians of all time. Christians must be warned in every century that there are many who come “in the name of Christ,” but are teaching false hopes in order to lead people astray after traditional religion. In the historical context of Timothy’s situation, Paul warned Timothy,

“Now the Spirit clearly says that in the latter times [of national Israel] some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tm 4:1,2).

This was happening at the time Paul wrote to Timothy. Timothy was living in the “latter times.” There were deceivers moving among Jewish Christians in an effort to recruit “patriots” to join in the struggle to restore the state of Israel.

Throughout history there is the continual threat of those who seek to recruit a following through deceptive teaching. Such deceivers today move among misguided religionists in efforts to raise money to send to Israel. They do so in order to preserve the present state of Israel. These are deceivers who do not understand that God closed the door on Israel when Jesus ascended in order to sit and reign on David’s throne, just as David had prophesied (See At 2:24-36). In this case, it would be wise to heed the warning of Jeremiah to Israel: “Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you” (Jr 29:8).

In Matthew 24:24 Jesus said that in the religious environment prior to the end of national Israel “false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” John possibly wrote 1 John a few years before A.D. 70, near the consummation of national Israel. At least we see in 1 John a sense of finality, for John wrote,

“Little children, it is the last hour [of national Israel], and as you have heard [from Jesus and the evangelists] that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists [who deny that Jesus is the Christ] have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 Jn 2:18).

It was the “last hour” at the time John wrote the preceding words. Therefore, he could not have been referring to someone or something that would transpire over two thousand years later.

Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) is an antichrist. Such a person is against Christ, which is the meaning of the word “antichrist.” But to assume that there is a specific individual for whom we are to be looking in order to determine that the end of the world is near is being deceived.

Among the Jews at the time John wrote there were those who denied that Jesus was the Christ. John wrote an entire document to prove that the man Jesus was the Christ and Son of God (See Jn 20:30,31). In their hope of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, the Jews denied that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah). And because they denied that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), they were the antichrists.

For this reason John warned at that time that Christians “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God … every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God” (1 Jn 4:1-4). Simply because one claims to come “in the name of Christ” and cries out “Lord, Lord” does not mean that he is a Christian. Only those who do the will of the Father in heaven should wear the Christian name (Mt 7:21). Only those who are willing to submit to the gospel of Jesus by immersion into His death, burial and resurrection can live under the name of Christ. It is for this reason that those who obey the gospel of Christ compose the church (assembly) of Christ on earth (See Rm 16:16).

Obedience to the gospel is the condition for one’s salvation. This is the only condition for deliverance from a world of turmoil and sin. Salvation, therefore, is more than simply “believing on Jesus.” One’s faith must be manifested in obedience. We must not forget that James said we are justified by works, works that are in response to the gospel of God’s grace (Js 2:14-24; see 2 Co 4:15; Ep 2:10).

We would certainly add here that the deceiving false prophets who were performing “miracles” were not actually working that which was supernatural. If God had allowed the deceivers to work that which was supernatural, then they would not have been deceivers. What they were preaching would have been confirmed true by the miracles, if indeed the miracles were truly supernatural. The fact that Jesus forewarned His disciples not to be deceived proves that the signs and wonders were fake. The deceivers were faking miracles in order to recruit a following to fight against Rome for the establishment of the Jewish state.

[Next in series: July 15]

Matthew 24:3

As He sat on the Mount of Olives [which was east of the city of Jerusalem], the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming [presence] and of the end of the age?”

We can understand the astonishment of the disciples concerning the words of Jesus when He had just pronounced the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. They realized that He was talking about a dreadful event that was to befall national Israel. In view of the fact that they still believed that Jesus would possibly “restore the kingdom to Israel” (At 1:6), they were having a difficult time processing His statements here concerning the destruction of all that in which they had taken so much pride throughout their.

When we consider the parallel accounts of Mark (13:4) and Luke (21:7), the disciples seem to be asking two questions: (1) When will the things of Matthew 23:36 happen? (2) What will be the sign of Jesus’ “coming” (or “presence”) and the end of the age.

The disciples still remembered Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the Sower that the tares should be left with the wheat until the time of judgment (Mt 13:29). “Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age” (Mt 13:40). Jesus was talking about the age of His first century disciples, not some far off event that was beyond the life-span of the immediate disciples. He was certainly not speaking of events that would transpire over two thousand years later.

The Greek work aionios in Matthew 13:40 is correctly translated “age” as it is so translated in Matthew 28:20. This Greek word was unfortunately translated by the prejudicial King James translators with the word “world”—the translators believed that Jesus was speaking of the end of the world in Matthew 24. But in the context, Jesus was revealing judgment “in time.” The destruction of Jerusalem in time would be an illustration in some way of what would happen at the unique final coming of Jesus at the end of time. But in the historical context Jesus was preparing His Jewish disciples for the end of national Israel. The Jews would continue throughout history as a culture of people. However, their existence as a unique people in a covenant with God was terminated at the cross and demonstrated in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

In the context of Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus answered the preceding two questions. He used the word “coming” that is translated from the Greek word parousia. A better translation would be “presence.” In other words, the disciples were asking what the sign of His presence would be. Jesus subsequently revealed two “comings” or “presences” in His teaching concerning the end of Israel. First, there would be a coming (“presence”) in time in judgment upon the nation of Israel. He had earlier referred to this event in Matthew 16:27,28.

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels [messengers], and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming [presence] in His kingdom.”

Second, by the end of chapter 25, it is possible that Jesus included a coming in judgment at the end of time. This would be a final presence, or final judgment of all the world. We are of the opinion, however, that the entire context of Matthew 24 refers to the coming in time in judgment upon national Israel. Only in chapter 25 does Jesus possibly moved on in the discourse to final events.

All “comings in judgment” of God in time are symbolic or typical of His final presence at the end of time. However, we must keep in mind that the disciples before His ascension did not comprehend Jesus’ previous discussions concerning His death, resurrection and kingdom reign. It is not probable here, therefore, that they would be asking questions about a final coming and judgment of Jesus at the end of time. Jesus possibly included information on the end of time for our sakes only.

The immediate disciples did not understand the end of Israel, let alone ask questions about the final coming of Jesus and judgment at the end of the world. This does not mean, however, that Jesus did not speak concerning final things while He was with the disciples during His earthly ministry. He revealed to them many things they did not fully understand. Only when such things were brought to their remembrance with the revelation of all truth did they fully understand what Jesus had revealed to them during His earthly ministry (See Jn 14:26; 16:13).

It is best to understand Matthew 24 as a type, or illustration, of the unique destruction of the world at the end of time. An example of this application would be when Jude used Enoch’s prophecy of the judgment of the flood of Noah’s day to refer to the coming judgment upon Israel for “all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jd 15,16). In the context of Matthew 24, Jesus also used “judgment language” in order to prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem. Such language was also used in other texts in reference to the end of the world. We would not be wrong, therefore, to use the general teaching of God’s judgments in time to illustrate His judgment at the end of time.

We are discussing two “ends” in the context of chapters 24 and 25. First, there is the end of national Israel that would happen in the lifetime of the immediate disciples of Jesus (23:36; see Mk 9:1). Reference to these things center around Israel’s end by destruction (See 23:36; 24:2,8,33,34).

Second, there is the end of the world that is illustrated by the judgment and destruction of the flood in Noah’s day and the destruction of Jerusalem. In an illustrative way, therefore, the end of national Israel would demonstrate the end of the world. As the typical Jew could not comprehend the end of Israel, so men today cannot comprehend the end of the world. Unbelievers will speak all sorts of harsh things against Christians because they believe there is no finality to the things of this world.

[Next in series: July 13]

Matthew 24:1,2

Matthew 24:1: The Nationalistic Pride Of The Disciples

“Then Jesus went out [of the city of Jerusalem] and departed from the temple [courtyard]. And His disciples came to show Him the buildings of the temple [that were built by Herod the Great].”

Jesus had just pronounced judgment upon the city of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:38. He had also just stated, “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation (Mt 23:36). We feel that the disciples were surely stunned by what He had just said. In response to Jesus’ statements, Peter, James, John and Andrew later came to Jesus privately while He was on the Mount of Olives (Mt 24:3; Mk 13:3).

At least these four disciples showed their nationalistic feelings by expressing their pride in the physical structures that Herod the Great had constructed. As loyalist Jews, they were surely thinking that these buildings, and especially the temple, could not be destroyed by the will of God. God would not bring an end to His covenanted people. Their nationalistic feelings were struggling against Jesus’ prophecy. Nevertheless, their loyalty to Judaism would not preserve that in which Israel had taken so much pride for centuries.

Matthew 24:2: The Imminent Destruction Of The City Of Jerusalem

“Jesus said to His disciples, “Do you not see all these things [of Jerusalem and the temple]? Truly I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Jesus had prepared the disciples for this final pronouncement of judgment upon Israel. The parables of 13:3-9,36-43; 21:33-46; 22:1-14, and the definitive proclamation of 23:29-39, prepared the disciples for what He was going to reveal in this context. Jesus had earlier prophesied that the end of the national Israel was at hand. The “ax was laid at the root” (3:10) and a destructive blow was about to come upon Israel in about forty years from the time Jesus made these pronouncements.All these things would come to an end.

This last prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24 is of the coming destruction of the temple and Jerusalem that was initiated by the Roman general Vespasian, who would later be declared Caesar of Rome. Titus, his son, would complete the job. The destruction would signal the termination of national Israel as a covenanted people of God. This would be the fulfillment of Moses’ prophetic curse upon a people who had rejected God (Dt 28:15-68). The destruction would be great and final.

Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived during the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and claimed to be amount the Roman army at the time of the siege of Jerusalem. He personally witnessed the war and final fall of the city. In his Wars of the Jews he estimated that over 1,100,000 Jews died in the destruction; the few 80,000 or so who were left were sold into captivity. Though it is believed that Josephus may have embellished his figures, at least whatever the true figures of death and captivity were when the annihilation was complete, was nothing short of genocide. The temple was burned and the city levelled to the ground. The prophecy of Jesus in Luke 19:43,44 was realized.

“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will cast a barricade around you, and encompass you and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you. And they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

The destruction of the temple would be God’s demonstrated revelation that He was finished with the Jews’ religion, as well as His special covenant relationship with national Israel. The purpose for which Israel was called into a covenant relationship with Him was fulfilled by the conclusion of Jesus’ time on earth. What Jesus said in the following statement at the beginning of His earthly ministry explains His mission: “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). Unless we conclude, as so many do, that He was not talking about doing away with the Sinai law and covenant with Israel, then we must read the context in which Jesus made the preceding statement:

“For verily I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law until all is fulfilled (Mt 5:18).

Some theologians just cannot connect the dots on this matter. They have a difficult time connecting the statement of Matthew 5:17,18 with what Jesus said in Luke 24:44 at the conclusion of this earthly ministry when He had fulfilled the law. After His resurrection, and before His ascension, He gathered the apostles together and said,

“These are the words that I spoke to you while was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled that were written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, concerning Me” (Lk 24:44).

When the preceding statement was made, the law had been fulfilled. When Jesus fulfilled all that was written in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Himself, then everything was fulfilled. The Sinai law and covenant could pass away as Jesus brought both Jews and Gentiles into a new relationship with God that was based on the gospel of grace.

The use of the pronoun “your” in Matthew 23:38 is significant. “See,” Jesus said, “your house is left to you desolate.” By the time of Jesus’ ministry, it was no longer God’s house. In the mind of God the Jewish religious leaders had already stolen the inheritance of the vineyard (See Mt 21:38,39). Jesus had said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mk 7:9; see Mt 15:1-9). Paul was certainly correct by calling Judaism the Jews’ religion (Gl 1:13). They no longer submitted to the word of God is the authority in matters of faith. By the time Jesus came into the world, the religious heritage of the Jews was their authority in matters of faith. Their religious traditions had supplanted the authority of the word of God. Once again in their history the curse for rejecting God and His word was coming upon them. On a similar occasion in their history before their destruction through captivity, Hosea wrote,

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hs 4:6).

Because Israel had rejected God and His visitation through His Son, judgment was coming upon her.

[Next in series: July 11]

Judgments (Intro. 3)

For many years biblical interpreters have placed little emphasis on the consummation of national Israel that was demonstrated by God in A.D. 70. Judgment passages in the New Testament were commonly misinterpreted with emphasis on the end-of-time coming and the final judgment by Jesus rather than the end of national Israel by the coming of Jesus in judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

As a result of our overzealous emphasis on the final coming, we have traditionally approached texts as Matthew 24 with emphasis on the end of time. Rather than an historical interpretation that had direct relevance to the ones to whom Jesus first delivered His message that God’s covenant with Israel was coming to a close, we have obsessed over the end of time. Add to this the fact that there have been too many prophecy thieves who have stolen the warning that Jesus gave to the Jewish Christians of His day in order that they prepare themselves for the end of national Israel.

We must always keep in mind three very important points when interpreting Matthew’s account of Matthew 24:

A. Mission to the Jews:

Matthew, a Jew, focused on Jesus’ ministry to those of His immediate time, specifically the Jews. He came to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6). He came to choose the twelve apostles and then commission them to a worldwide task that would begin first with the Jews (Lk 6:13; Mt 28:20).

The immediate ministry of Jesus through the apostles was first to the Jews. His ministry then became worldwide and throughout all history when the apostles and other evangelists went into all the world. Until the end of time, Jesus will continue to accomplish His mission through the global ministry of His disciples. In order to accomplish His goal of populating heaven, this historical preaching of the gospel began. In order to accomplish this mission, He initially came to work with His immediate Jewish environment.

B. Jesus as the Messiah:

Secondly, Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience about Jesus as the Messiah. Matthew’s statements, therefore, have direct reference to the Jewish hope of a Redeemer. The Jews had to accept Jesus as the Messiah. They had to do so because God was about to physically close the book on national Israel. Those who would not accept Jesus’ messiahship would most likely be caught up in the destruction and close of national Israel in A.D. 70. Through His parables, and the direct statements of Matthew 24, Jesus’ prophecy of the end of Israel was meant to prepare Jewish Christians who lived during the decade before A.D. 70 that the end was coming.

C. The imminent coming:

The pronouncements of Jesus in Matthew 24 emphasize an imminent coming and “end.” This imminent coming would be in the lifetime of the disciples to whom Jesus made these statements (See Mt 16:27,28; 23:34-36).

The Holy Spirit inspired no New Testament writer to deceive the first century disciples into believing that Jesus would personally return in His final coming in their lifetime. Therefore, the context of Matthew 24 is talking about a “coming” within the lifetime of the immediate disciples.

But the “coming” in Matthew 24 cannot refer to the final coming of Jesus simply because Jesus did not deceive His disciples that He would personally come in their lifetime. Therefore, we must approach Matthew 24 from the viewpoint that Jesus was giving information to His immediate disciples concerning some traumatic event that was going to happen in the lifetime of the immediate Jews. He was going to come in judgment on all those Jews who did not accept Him as the Messiah and Savior of the world. God was going to bring judgment on those who did not recognized the time of His visitation to the house of Israel through His only begotten Son (See Lk 19:43,44).

Many scholarly books in recent years have correctly restored emphasis on the importance of the A.D. 70 consummation of national Israel that is taught throughout the New Testament. This has led to a more consistent interpretation of many passages that deal with God’s judgment that He brought on Israel in her final years as a covenanted people. For example, we feel that Jesus was primarily discussing in Matthew 24 a judgment “in time” upon Jerusalem. Therefore, we must question our thinking concerning some of the points Jesus mentioned in the context of Matthew 24 that refer to the personal lives of the disciples who would experience these events.

When studying the text of Matthew 24 one must consult the parallel accounts of Jesus’ words on this occasion that were recorded in Mark 13 and Luke 21. Both Mark and Luke record additional thoughts that Jesus gave in the discourse. However, neither Matthew, Mark or Luke give the complete discourse of all that Jesus said as it was initially stated on this particular occasion. Each inspired writer only gives that information which emphasizes the theme of his particular book. Matthew, however, gives the most complete information, and for this reason, we use Matthew as the guideline text for our interpretive comments that follow.

Also keep in mind the dates of writing for each book. Since the impending destruction was in the near future in relation to the dates of writing, we cannot but feel that the impending destruction that was coming in A.D. 70 was one reason that stimulated the writing of other New Testament books in the first century. At least certain portions of the New Testament letters concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were included in order to forewarn Christians of the coming calamity of Israel.

Mark wrote around A.D. 50-52, Matthew around A.D. 60, and Luke around A.D. 61,62. All three writers give us a sense of social and political turmoil that existed during the era leading up to the consummation of national Israel. The writers of these epistles wanted the initial readers to know that something was up in reference to the massive rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. As A.D. 70 drew near, the prophetic elements of Jesus’ prophecy concerning national Israel were becoming clear. In order to expedite conversions from Judaism, and also encourage the converted not to return to the Sinai covenant that God had set aside at the cross, Matthew, Mark and Luke write both to inform and to warn. Their writings have an air of urgency. There is a sense of a final call to a generation that was seeking for hope in a political environment that was in social upheaval.

With this in mind, we launch into an exciting portion of God’s revelation. Matthew 24 is one of the most exciting portions of God’s word because it explains what will occur in the disciples’ lives concerning national Israel and their homeland of Palestine. The sense of forewarning that is characteristic of the New Testament scriptures in reference to the coming of the Lord on unbelieving Israel leaves us with the same sense of urgency in reference to the final coming of Jesus at the end of time.

[Next in series: July 9]

Judgments (Intro. 2)

B. Key Contexts:

In this study it has been our purpose to select key texts of Scripture to study in their historical context. We have done this in order to discover God’s revelation concerning “in time,” as well as “end of time” judgments. Everything that God brings to an end in time is a promise, or certainty, that He will do the same at the end of time.

In studying judgment subjects in the Bible, we have discovered that several things influenced the writers and readers in the historical setting in which God brought things to a conclusion. Understanding these historical settings has helped us to understand the inspired letters of the New Testament that were written to the first readers who experienced social chaos in history when God brought dispensations to a close. The following circumstances that greatly influenced both the writing and the fulfillment of prophecy helps us better understand that finalities are yet to come:

1. The Jewish persecution of the church continued until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This persecution not only influenced the evangelization of the first century world, but it also influenced the content of the letters that were written to the early disciples.

We must not underestimate the influence of this persecution that was unleashed on the early disciples as they went from city to city preaching the gospel of the messiahship of the Son of God. The persecution of the early disciples is illustrated by what Paul said of his own life before he responded to the gospel: “I persecuted this Way [the church] to the death, binding and delivering both men and women into prisons” (At 22:4). In Paul’s case, he, the persecutor, went from persecuting to being the persecuted.

Embedded in the thinking of the early persecuted Christians was the hope that God would always deliver the church as a whole, though some individual saints would succumb to death as a result of the persecution. Nevertheless, God gave the church as a whole encouragement to endure through hard times of persecution. For example, John encouraged the saints of the church of Smyrna who were bearing the persecution of the state of Rome:

“Do not fear those things that you will suffer. Behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison so that you may be tested. And you will have tribulations ten days. Be faith unto death and I will give you the crown of life” (Rv 2:10).

2. The imminent end of national Israel was prophesied by Jesus and fulfilled in the first century. As the early evangelists went forth, the imminent end of national Israel was on their minds and in their message. It was the fullness of time and all prophecies in reference to the purpose for which God establish a covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai were coming to fulfillment. After His resurrection, and immediately before His ascension and coronation, Jesus reminded His disciples the following:

“These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled that were written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, concerning Me” (Lk 24:44).

One of these prophecies concerning Jesus was His coronation and reign from the right hand of God as King of kings and Lord of lords. On the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30, Peter proclaimed that this prophecy was fulfilled, for Jesus was reigning as King on David’s throne at the time Peter and the apostles spoke on that day (See At 2:25-33). The fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Jesus’ kingdom reign meant the end of the kings of national Israel on earth. It thus meant the end of national Israel. The apostles took this same message into all the world of the Jews to whom they went to proclaim the gospel. They prepared their fellow Jews for the finality of national Israel. Though they did not know the time of the end, they knew and preached that the was coming.

The early evangelists also took the message of Jesus that was recorded in Matthew 24. Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 was an encouragement to those who suffered from the persecution of the Jews. The persecuted saints knew that God would eventually bring down judgment on national Israel because of Jews’ rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.

The end of Israel would also be a sign to the Jews that God had fulfilled His purpose for calling the nation into a special covenant relationship. The purpose for Israel was to preserve a segment of society through which the incarnate Son of God could be introduced into the world. But once the Son came, and completed the atoning sacrifice, then there was no more the need for a special nation of people as Israel. The social vehicle through whom the Savior was introduced into the world passed away.

The Jews only recourse when God completed His purpose through Israel, therefore, was to turn to Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. There was no salvation in Jewish nationalism. They had to accept Jesus as the incarnate Son of God who came into the world to establish a new covenant with everyone who would obey the gospel (See Hb 10:5-10).

Because many Bible students have historically failed to understand the prophesied purpose and end of national Israel in the fulfillment of all prophecies concerning the incarnation of the Son of God, they have failed to do justice to the historical events that surround the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan of redemption in Jesus Christ.

Because of this, some Bible students would do well to be cautious about referring to those books that do not emphasize the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The destruction of Jerusalem and national Israel was a major historical event in the history of the world, and particularly in the lives of the Jews.

Those were times in which God intended to terminate forever the nation of Israel through the establishment of a new covenant of grace. Since most of the early Christians were Jews, we would expect that the New Testament would contain many references, both directly and indirectly, that refer to the finalization of Israel. These are the contexts that need further study, especially in these times when the religious world seems to be burdened with a host of prognosticators with their end-of-times prophecies.

3. State persecution by the Roman government would rise in the first century from the personal obsessions of Nero, Caesar of Rome. By the end of the first century, this persecution would become dominant through other Caesars of the Roman Empire. State persecution in the latter part of the first century would be a major force of evil against the preaching of the gospel throughout the Roman controlled world. In particular, the book of Revelation was written to give comfort to Christians who suffered from state persecution that began the latter part of the first century but extended into the second.

God would eventually bring judgment upon the Roman state for her persecution of the flock of God. The early Christians, therefore, were given comfort in the fact that state persecution would not continue against the church throughout the centuries to come.

[Next in series: July 7]

Judgments (Intro. 1)

A. Prognostications:

We live in a world of wild speculations in the minds of some who are obsessed with the “signs of the times.” Some are so obsessed that they search through every source of religious literature for some particle of truth made by some self-proclaimed sage by which they can predict the end of the world. It seems that there is no dearth of prognosticators who are willing to come forth with some prediction of the end of the world on a particular date.

Throughout the years, all sorts of prognosticators have come and gone. Nevertheless, we are often so naive in our ignorance of the word of God that we impetuously continue our search for another prophetic utterance of some supposed date when the world as it is comes to is final demise.

God created us to be religious beings. Therefore, we cannot help but harbor some speculations in our religious thinking concerning what will be. Because we have this seemingly unquenchable thirst to speculate concerning the future, we must be cautioned. We must be cautioned that if we give up a knowledge of our Creator and His revelation to us through the Bible, we will end up with some very twisted speculations concerning the end of time.

History has proved that there is no end to the ingenious religious inventions of men in reference to that which is yet to come. As a result, we live with a host of confused proclamations today that are broadcast abroad and bound on the consciences of men. All the diversity that exists among end-of-time theologians have confused people. Some religionists have become so obsessed with their speculations concerning a supposed rapture that such has become their “gospel” message that they proclaim to the lost.

There are those who seek to terrorize their innocent audiences through repeated proclamations of certain doom. When it comes to the confusion surrounding the subject of the end of the world, we cannot use enough superlatives to describe the religious excitement that is promoted by some end-of-time prognosticators. We must confess that our minds overflow with too many Hollywood productions of “end-of-the-world” scenarios. As a result, we look for too many “John Conner” preachers who will deliver us from an age of human annihilation.

In the western world there has been the resurrection in the last century of a vast assortment of mystic religions. The New Age Movement, and a host of other similar humanistically-oriented religious movements have become popular among those who are searching for something beyond this world. In a secular-oriented world that enslaves our minds to all that is of this world, mystics have simply concluded that enough is enough. There must be something that is greater than this world.

Some of these speculators with mystical inclinations have included the Bible as only one source in their library of religious sources. Since the Bible speaks of things to come, they search around in the pages of the Scriptures for some indication of the end of times. They search for something that might have been taught in the past concerning our present and future destiny. Unfortunately, too many too often look to their own imaginations or adventurous speculations in order to read into the Bible their own imaginations.

Everyone has some speculation concerning the future. For this reason, we all function in the field of eschatology, that is, a study of last things. We wonder about our future and the end of the world. These are serious considerations that pass through the minds of almost everyone, even the materialist who sometimes takes a brief moment to contemplate and wonder about what is next. It is simply natural to consider the future and what will become of all that which we now experience. As Christians, we conclude that there will be “global warming” that will be the end of all things. But the “global warming” that is coming will surpass “warming.” It will be the heat of fire.

[Next in series: July 5]