Matthew 24 - Part 1
Matthew Chapter 24
"This Generation" Matt. 24:34
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place": "pass away", "come to an end, disappear" (Arndt p. 626); "all these things"-everything spoken up to verse 34.
"this generation": "The sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time, generation,contemporaries " (Arndt p. 154). Those who need Matthew 24:3-34 to refer to events prior to the Second Coming so that their theories look credible, must somehow convince people that the phrase ‘this generation’ refers to something other than the generation living when Jesus spoke these words. 1. Some have tried to argue that the expression refers to the human race in general. But Bruce notes, "Plainly the idea of the human race cannot be entertained; every description of the Second Coming implies that human beings will be around to witness it, for otherwise it would have no context to give it any significance (1 Thess. 4:15)" (Hard Sayings Of Jesus, F.F. Bruce, p. 226). In addition, the lexicon definition is "a contemporary race, people living at the same time". 2. Others argue that "this generation" refers to the Jewish race in general. But when Jesus used this same expression in other contexts, He was referring to the generation then living, His contemporaries (Matt. 11:16 "But to what shall I compare this generation?"; 12:39 "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign.."; 12:41 "The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment and shall condemn it.."12:42). The men of Nineveh will not condemn the whole Jewish race, rather, they will condemn the generation that heard Jesus speak and yet failed to repent. See also Matthew 16:4;17. 3. Some try to argue, "this generation" does not mean the generation now living, "but the generation which will be alive at the time about which I am speaking, the generation alive on the earth when these things begin to take place." Hal Lindsey popularized this view when he wrote, "What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs—chief among them the rebirth of Israel (interesting enough, where is that sign in Matthew 24?). A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so" (The Late Great Planet Earth. Hal Lindsey, p. 54, 1970 Edition). With the passing of time Mr. Lindsey has tried to retreat from what said in 1970. In an Eternity Magazine article, dated January 1977, he said, "I don’t believe, for instance, you can say that the state of Israel was born May 14, 1948 and so exactly forty years from then, it’s going to happen. I’ve never done that and never would. That’s why I say it’s between 40 and 100 years. And nobody knows whether ‘this generation’ officially began with the rebirth of Israel or not" (Quoted in: Lion And The Lamb On Planet Earth. Rodney M. Miller, p. 296). 4. The Jehovah Witnesses have their own slant on "this generation". They believe that "this generation" began in 1914: "Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of ‘this generation’ nearly 70 years old today (as of 1968, making the youngest 101 in 1999. A side note: If this is true, then how many of "this generation" will be able to flee (24:16), and how many will be "with child"???) So the great majority of the generation to which Jesus was referring has already passed away in death. And remember; Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death. This, of itself, tells us that the years left before the foretold end comes cannot be many" (AWAKE, October 8, 1968).
Points To Note: 1. If this is the case, then what Jesus said here had no relevance to the people who heard Jesus. From the context, a great catastrophe was to happen to the present generation (23:35 "...that upon you may fall…."; 23:36 "Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation"; 23:38 "...your house is being left to you desolate"). 2. Bruce notes, "if the generation of the end-time had been intended, ‘that generation’ would have been a more natural way of referring to it than ‘this generation’" (pp. 226-227).The language is clear, it is ‘this generation’, and not a generation or generations in the distant future.
- To escape the definite time-limit imposed by 24:34, others have tried to argue that the expression "these things take place", means that with the destruction of Jerusalem the things in this chapter began to be fulfilled and will not fully take place until the Second Coming. The phrase "take place" cannot be interpreted to mean, "begin to take place". The phrase means "to come to pass, happen, take place." The same expression is found in 24:6 and 5:18. The verse doesn’t say, "some of these things", but rather, "all these things". The words of Jesus eliminate any kind of partial, beginning, or dual fulfillment theory concerning verses 4-33.
Local Events Are Under Consideration
Matthew 24:16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains": Is the Second Coming limited to Judea? Points to Note: 1. And why would Jesus tell His followers to flee from His coming? Are Christians to flee from Jesus when He comes again? (1 John 3:2-3). 2. Obviously, these verses are describing a physical judgment upon the city of Jerusalem, a judgment which would only be limited to a certain geographical region, and which life on this earth would go on after this judgment had fallen. In contrast, at the Second Coming the earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:9-10), and we will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17).
- A major difficulty to the Premillennial position is that Premillennialist’s claim that all Christians will be raptured (removed from the earth by a secret and silent coming of Jesus), prior to the "great tribulation". Yet Matthew 24 contains instructions to Christians to flee in order to escape this tribulation. If they apply Matthew 24 to their theory of the Second Coming, they have Christians being told to flee, when according to their own theory, there are no Christians left to flee.
Matthew 24:19 "But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babies in those days!": This reference to pregnant and nursing mothers proves that this is not the Second Coming. What would be the disadvantage of being pregnant when Jesus comes again? But being pregnant or having small children would be a serious handicap in trying to escape during the destruction of Jerusalem.
Matthew 24:20 "pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath": The reference to the Sabbath Day proves that the "time" when these verses would be fulfilled would be when many would still be keeping the Sabbath Day, to such an extent that it would severely hinder travel on that day. This would only hinder flight in Palestine!
The Disciple’s Question
Temple constructed during the days of Herod made quite an impression on the disciples. Matthew 24:1 "...when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him". Mark 13:1 "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings".
Matthew 24:2 "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down". Jesus meant to impress it upon their minds that He was speaking about the temple which they were admiring. The verses that follow (24:3-33), must be connected with the destruction of the temple that stood when Jesus spoke these words. Thus we must reject any contention that these verses apply to the destruction of a temple yet to be built in the future. "Not one stone here shall be left upon another". This prophecy was literally fulfilled in A.D. 70. So thoroughly was this accomplished that Josephus, the historian commented, "There was left nothing to make those who had come thither to believe it had ever been inhabited."
- Here is another problem for the Premillennialist, to apply these verses to events prior to the Second Coming would demand the construction of another temple, and yet this would not be the temple that the disciples were admiring.
Matthew 24:3 "...Tell us, when will these things be", that is, the things Jesus had just mentioned. "And what will be the sign of Your coming". "And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" (Luke 21:7). Another problem arises for the Premillennialist: The word "coming" here is "Parousia", the word that they claim refers to the "rapture" (a secret and silent coming of Jesus for Christians only). To be consistent, they would have to believe that all these events would happen prior to the rapture, but premillennialism has Christians removed from the earth before the great tribulation and has the rapture happening during a time of peace. These verses have Christians fleeing from tribulation, and all these things happening during very perilous times. "And of the end of the age?". "End", completion, consummation, close, "the end of the present age" (Arndt p. 792). "Age", a major problem with having the disciples ask a question about the "Second Coming" is that they did not even comprehend the fact that Jesus was leaving! (Matthew 16:21-22; Luke 18:31-34; 19:11; John 14:5; 16:17-18; 20:9; Mark 16:14). The word "age" (also interpreted "world"), can simply mean a segment of time. To these disciples, the destruction of the Temple in their mind would be the end the Jewish age or Jewish world as they knew it.
What Are Not the Signs
It is noteworthy that people are being told today that the end is near due to the following "signs". And yet, Jesus specifically said—these are not the signs! 1. False Messiahs (24:4-5): Josephus records that the governor of Judea (Felix: A.D. 53-60), put to death many Messianic impostors. "And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs" (Ant,. Of The Jews, Book 20,8, pp. 5-6). 2. Wars and rumors of wars(24:6): During the lifetime of Jesus peace had prevailed in the Empire, but shortly after His death, Palestine and the Empire experienced strife and many insurrections. In Rome, four emperors came to violent deaths in a period of 18 months. Jewish insurrections took place in the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) and Nero (A.D. 55-68). During these years the Parthians were a continual source of trouble to Rome. 24:6 "but that is not the end". But how often are people today told that such things are proof that the end is near? 3. Famines and earthquakes (24:7): Famines (Acts 11:28). Four famines are recorded as taking place between the years A.D. 41-54 and many earthquakes are mentioned as happening prior to A.D. 70. Earthquakes struck Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae, Rome and Judea. "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs".
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/ (503)644-9017