The claim has been made that the Olivet Discourse speaks of two different events: The fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and, the final coming of Christ at the end of this age. While I once held this position, I no longer believe that it is the proper view. It is based on certain presuppositions that are ungrounded.
I very much appreciate the demeanor of the Responder, and appreciate his thoughtful comments. As I have time, I will continue to offer some thoughts in response to his comments. While he has offered a lot of material, I want to focus on the foundational arguments being offered. There is a great deal being offered that I believe is not critical– and in reality is based on the presuppositions. So, if it can be shown that the foundational presuppositions are misguided, the rest of the “house” falls.
In my previous article, I noted that this position is based on a presupposition that the disciples asked about the end of the Christian age. This claim has no support other than preconceived ideas about the “end of the age.” The Responder has said it is necessary to approach the Olivet Discourse from the perspective that two events were at the heart of the disciples’ questions. But, this is the very thing that I challenge.
The Olivet Discourse and “Immediately After” the Tribulation
In his latest response, our visitor returns to the argument on eutheos, insisting again that “eutheos can certainly imply some form of an elapse.” Let me say again that the lexicons do not say that eutheso demands or implies a gap of time. Let me say again that our Responder is picking out a few “exceptional” uses of eutheos and building his case on exceptions.
I noted early on, that eutheos is the word used when Jesus healed individuals. This is the preponderant use of eutheos, and absolutely precludes the idea of a long temporal gap between Jesus’ declaration of healing and the actual healing. Our Responder has ignored this preponderant, normal use of eutheos, and, again, appealed to exceptional uses of the word to build his theological case. This is not proper exegesis.
Only the context can determine whether there is a “gap” included in the discussion where eutheos is used. And there is no indication in the context of Matthew 24:29f that there is a 2000 year gap between the Tribulation and the parousia. This is demonstrated, to repeat an earlier point, by the fact that the virtually universal translation of Matthew 24:29 is “immediately after the tribulation.”
As I noted in my previous article, it is improper, hermeneutically, to appeal to texts such as 3 John 14– which is not an eschatological text and has no bearing therefore on the context of Matthew 24– and to claim that because eutheos in that text demands a short interval, that therefore, this somehow justifies inserting a gap of 2000 years into Matthew 24:29. The same is true of the other texts appealed to. It is improper to appeal to texts that are unrelated thematically to prove a point on Matthew 24. This is, to restate, an illegitimate transfer of context, and is misguided. I suggest again that only a preconceived idea of the nature of the parousia makes that claim.
Let me illustrate by utilizing the Responder’s argument: When Jesus healed individuals, they were healed “immediately” (eutheos). According to John 6 and 3 John, eutheos implies (demands) a somewhat extended period of time between the promise and the “immediate” actions, (Per the Responder) therefore, this proves that there was a somewhat extended lapse of time between Jesus’ declaration of healing and the actual healing. Would this be an appropriate use of eutheos? Patently not. But, if this would not be proper hermeneutic in regard to Jesus’ healings, then why does it suddenly become proper when discussing the Tribulation and the Resurrection in the Olivet Discourse?
Finally on eutheos, I took note that while one can certainly acknowledge that in 3 John at least, there was a very brief “lapse” that this does not justify the insertion of a 2000 year gap into the eutheos of Matthew 24. What logic demands or suggests that a “gap” of a week or two, or even a month or two, implies or demands a gap of 2000 years? There is no logical connection or justification for such an extrapolation.
The Olivet Discourse – The Tribulation – “That Day”
Our Responder makes the claim that only Daniel 12 and Matthew 24:29f (ostensibly) make the temporal connection between the Tribulation and the parousia. Thus, the argument is, that if it is shown that there is a gap between Daniel 12:1 and v. 2, and a gap between Matthew 24:15f and v. 29f, that the temporal connection between the Tribulation and the Resurrection is broken– thus allowing for the proposed 2000 year gap. (Quick thought: notice the direct connection between the fulfillment of the Great Commission and “the end” in v. 14– the Tribulation and the parousia. Is “the end” of vs 14, not the “end” of which the disciples asked– the “end” of v. 29f? Jesus said that “end” would be when the World Mission was completed i.e. “then comes the end.” The Commission was complete in the first century (Colossians 1:5f, 23), therefore, the end was to be in the first century. See my book Into All the World, Then Comes The End, for an in-depth study of the first century completion of the Mission and how the NT writers not only affirmed its fulfillment, but the nearness of the end).
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I have demonstrated that grammatically, there is no hint of such a gap either in Daniel or the Olivet Discourse. Our Responder has sought to find a gap in Daniel by appealing to preconceived ideas. Not to linguistics, not to grammar, not to the immediate context, but by claiming that v. 1 speaks of temporal events, while v. 2 speaks of eternal events. Again, I find this to be an unwarranted and presuppositional claim.
Daniel 12:1 says: “At that time” and then proceeds to list what was to happen “at that time.” Verses 2f are what was to happen “at that time” i.e. at the time of the end.
The attempt to delineate between v. 1 and v. 2f assumes without proof that “at that time” events are to be divorced from one another because one is temporal, the other is eternal. But, does not the “eternal” occur at a given “at that time”? If not, just how exactly do we divorce the resurrection to eternal life from occurring at a given “at that time”? Was Christ’s passion not “at that time” and yet, it has eternal spiritual significance? The attempt to dichotomize between “at that time” and resurrection based on a temporal versus eternal is misguided.
Again, the unity of the text is proven by the question of one angel to the other: “When shall these things be, and when shall all of these things be fulfilled.” There is not a syllable that suggests that “all these things” is not inclusive of the “eternal” things of v. 2-4. There is not a hint that “all of these things” means “only some of these things.” I suggest, as kindly as possible, that theology is driving interpretation, instead of text and context.
There is a presupposition at work here that says the Tribulation and the Resurrection at the end of the age are not temporally connected, therefore, there must be a gap between v. 1 and v. 2f. Our Responder has made the claim that: “The very verse in question is the primary basis for the argument, and therefore, should not be used in its own defense.” There are several logical fallacies here.
First, there is a fallacy that no other texts connect the Tribulation with the Resurrection. I will show that this is false below.
Second, there is the fallacy that says one verse is insufficient to establish a theological case. Now, if a person appeals to one verse for his theology, and his view of that one verse clearly contradicts other verses, this would be a valid point. However, to claim that one verse, properly exegeted, is insufficient to establish a given truth is like saying that researchers discovered one living Bigfoot. However, since no other Bigfoot has ever been found, this one example cannot be used to prove the existence of Bigfoot. The fallacy here is obvious.
In truth, throughout scripture, not just in Daniel or Matthew 24– but in the very warp and woof of Biblical datum, the Tribulation and the Resurrection are invariably linked temporally!
Let me say first of all that in Rabbinic thought, it is indisputably true that the eschatological drama of the last days posited the Tribulation immediately before the appearance of Messiah in the kingdom and the resurrection. In other words, in Rabbinic thought, the temporal connection between the Tribulation and the Resurrection was undeniable and firm. Scholars have recognized this connection.
Emile Schurer says that in Jesus’ day, “Reference to the last things is almost always accompanied by the notion, recurring in various forms, that a period of special distress and affliction must precede the dawn of salvation…In Rabbinic teaching, the doctrine therefore developed of the birth pangs of Messiah which must precede His appearance (the expression is from Hosea 13:13; cf. Matthew 24:8).” (Emile Schurer, History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol. II, (London, T and T Clark, 1979)514).
“According to the OT, the resurrection itself would be preceded by a period of great tribulation”… Daniel 12, which is the most explicit prophecy of resurrection in the Hebrew books of the Old Testament. Strikingly, this description of the resurrection is preceded by the Great Tribulation” (Brand Pitre, Jesus, The Tribulation, And the End of Exile (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 1975)187).
Russell notes, “The time period of distress before God’s final triumph is ‘the travail of the Messiah.’” (D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, Westminster Press, 1964)272).
I could multiply these quotes many times over. More importantly of course is the testimony of scriptures. I will give here an edited excerpt from the book I am writing on Daniel 12. In that book, (Hopefully, it will be published this year) I have an extensive discussion and demonstration of the direct connection between the Tribulation and the Resurrection. I am omitting several of the scholarly quotes here to keep this somewhat brief. (In my book, I survey both the OT and the NT, documenting this connection).
Tribulation and Resurrection in Romans 8:18f
“I reckon that the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed…”
This text exemplifies the concept of end time sufferings before the resurrection. Paul spoke of “the suffering of the now time” (literal rendering). That was his first century “now time.” Paul even uses “Messianic Birth Pangs” terminology as he speaks of his “now time” in which he and his contemporaries were experiencing that suffering. Let me make a few brief observations.
1.) The “sufferings” (from pathemata) that Paul discusses are not the turmoils of the normal human condition. Paul is undoubtedly using the word as he normally does to speak of “the sufferings of Christ” that belong to the eschatological narrative, the end time drama. It is not a reference to cancer, heart problems, family distress, job pressure. The word that he uses is a powerful word to describe persecution of the cause of Christ. And he says they were, at that time, experiencing those sufferings, but, the redemption was imminent.
There is more in the text to confirm this but we will allow this to suffice.
2.) Paul said those sufferings were part of the birth pains that would lead to glory. He uses the word sunodinei, the very word Jesus used in Matthew 24:8 to speak of the birth pangs that would occur in that generation, and lead to the parousia.
So, unless Paul is using the terminology of the Birth Pangs of Messiah, and applying it in a way contrary to the normal eschatological pattern, his reference to the then present birth pangs that were leading to the “glory about to be revealed” should be seen as perfectly consistent with the pattern of Tribulation– parousia / judgment / resurrection.
3.) What should not be missed is that Paul is drawing directly from Isaiah 26:16f, where Israel is depicted as laboring in child labor to bring forth salvation and righteousness, and availing nothing but futility. And yet, the promise was that the resurrection would take place at the time YHVH vindicated the blood of the martyrs (26:20f). This would be in the Day that He destroyed Leviathan (27:1), and brought redemption. Here is the undeniable link between Tribulation and Resurrection.
So, in Romans, Paul is expressing the hope of Israel, found in Torah. The promised “glory” of redemption would be in fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel– this is Torah to Telos. God’s promises– found in the Law of Moses– to Israel would remain valid until the day that YHVH consummated His purposes with and for Israel. Torah would pass when “the glory about to be revealed” came into reality, and not before.
4.) Paul said the anticipated “glory” to come at the resurrection was “about to be revealed.” The word Paul uses is mello, and as the lexicons all show, indicates imminence.
Paul uses some other words that powerfully express his sense of the imminence of the coming resurrection.
He uses the word apokaradokeo. This word has the meaning of looking with neck outstretched. Of this word, Balz and Schneider say: “The majority of fathers understand apokaradokeo as an intensification of karadokia and thus, an especially strong expression of expectation.” …. “it remains most probable that with apokaradokia Paul intends to give expression to the element of earnest and eager longing. The preposition apo thereby strengthens the intensive character of the expression.” (Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. I, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1978)132). He says the word “expresses well the sense of eschatological tension– a straining forward for an eagerly (or anxiously) awaited event.”
Paul also uses the word apekdekomai, which means eager expectation, or eager, expectant looking. See Hawthorne’s comments on this word in his commentary on Philippians. (Gerald Hawthorne, Word Biblical :Commentary, (vol. 43), Philippians, (Waco, Word Publisher, 1983)171). Like apokaradokeo, this word conveys a sense of imminent expectation.
So, in Romans 8 we find the following: the presence of the Messianic Birth Pangs, the emphasis on the “now” time, which stands in stark contrast to the OT predictions of “the days are coming”; the incorporation of three powerful words of imminence and the glory that would come imminently.
It would be difficult to find a text that more graphically, or accurately, followed the standard apocalyptic narrative, or, that more powerfully expressed that the consummation of that pattern was near.
Many, many other examples of the direct connection between the Tribulation and the Resurrection are found throughout scripture. In fact, It is a pervasive concept! It is everywhere! So, for our Responder to claim that only Daniel and Matthew 24 make that connection is wrong.
And, since the connection between the birth pangs of Messiah and the resurrection are found everywhere else in scripture, it is clearly wrong to seek to break that connection in Daniel and the Olivet Discourse. (In fact, the connection between end times Tribulation and the Kingdom / Resurrection is found in all of Daniel’s other end time prophecies, but we will not develop that here. But, see my book Seventy Weeks Are Determined…For the Resurrection for an in-depth study of one of those key texts, Daniel 9.
In our next installment on the Olivet Discourse, we will examine the foundational argument of our responder, and that is that when Jesus said, “but of the day and hour knows no man” that this “explicitly” delineated v. 29ff from the earlier verses. His claim is: “No one ever knew the timing of the Second Advent, whatsoever!” It is this argument that drives our Responder, for he says: “The case for eutheos being used to imply what is now a 1900+ year gap is in the nature of the Matthew 24:34, 36 issue, which is also the root of whether the disciples were ‘confused’ or simply did not in possession (sic) of the knowledge which Jesus himself said He did not have.” As you can see, the Responder’s argument on eutheos is controlled by his understanding of Jesus saying “but of that day and hour, knows no man.” (This is theology driving definition).
We will examine that claim in our next article.
So, stay tuned!
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