A recent visitor to our site wrote a note on the blog challenging my take on the Olivet Discourse. The argument was made that in Matthew 24:29, when Jesus said “immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened…” that the word “immediately” does not indicate that the parousia was to be, well, immediately. The argument was made that the word translated as immediately (eutheos) actually implies a gap of time. In my response, I took note that this is simply not supported by the lexicons.The “objector” has now responded and said that: “Clarification appears to be in order. Perhaps to say that (eutheos) ‘implies a gap’ is too strong.”
I truly appreciate the tenor of the objector. The objector then proceeds to offer some examples that he believes prove that eutheos will allow for a gap– of so far 2000 years– between the Tribulation and the parousia. I will take up those examples in later installments. I want to deal in this article with a basic presupposition that underlies most attempts to interpret the Olivet Discourse.
The Olivet Discourse – Two Events?
One of the most fundamental, and commonly held views about the Olivet Discourse is that it speaks of two events: The fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and then, the Second Coming, which is supposedly in our future at the end of the Christian age. This is the view I personally held for a good bit of my life, but, on closer examination, found it to be without merit, and based on faulty presuppositions.
One of the first presuppositions is that the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the world, but this is a false assumption. The problem is that the text does not allow this, without inserting that concept into the text (eisegesis).
There is no doubt– and this is almost universally admitted–that in their mind, the disciples linked the impending destruction of Jerusalem and Christ’s coming at the end of the age. Unfortunately, the vast majority of commentators claim that the disciples were confused, or, that they were simply wrong to make that connection. I suggest that it was not the disciples who were / are guilty of confusion! Scripturally, the end of the age and the judgment of Jerusalem are siamese twins that cannot be separated. See my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings, for a wealth of information documenting this connection.
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The Olivet Discourse: Were The Disciples Confused?
The fact is that, while it is clearly true that the disciples did not understand much of what Jesus said, when it came to the connection between the end of the age and the judgment of Jerusalem, they were not in fact, confused at all. And we have proof of that from their own lips, in response to a specific question from Jesus about that very connection!
In Matthew 13 Jesus spoke of his coming at the end of the age (39-40). He said that the end of the age would be when “the righteous shall shine forth in the kingdom” (v. 43). This is a direct citation of Daniel 12:3 which foretold the resurrection at the end of the age.
So, Jesus said his coming at the end of the age, would be in fulfillment of Daniel 12. But, Daniel 12:6-7 specifically said that those events– inclusive of the Tribulation- would be “when the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (v. 7).
Notice that Jesus then continued his discussion of the end of the age. Then, in v. 50, Jesus specifically asked his disciples “Do you understand?” And they said “Yes!” So, in Matthew 13 Jesus said that his coming at the end of the age would be in fulfillment of Daniel 12. Daniel 12 posited that end at the destruction of Old Covenant Israel– just like Jesus was predicting in the Olivet Discourse! Jesus asked the disciples if they understood what he was saying about his coming at the end of the age– when Israel would be destroyed, and they said “Yes!”
Now, there is not one word in Matthew 13– or the Olivet Discourse— to suggest that the disciples did not, after all, understand. So, since they said they did understand when Jesus tied the fulfillment of Daniel 12 to his coming at the end of the age, we have no right, no authority, no evidence to deny their affirmation! And this means that in Matthew 24, the disciples were not even asking about any so-called “end of time” or literal, bodily, physical coming of Jesus out of heaven, as a 5′ 5″ Jewish man, riding on a literal cloud! They knew– from the OT scriptures, that the coming of the Lord was when He used one nation to judge another, just as He had in the fall of Jerusalem in BC 586.
What all of this suggests is that attempts to divide topics in the Olivet Discourse are misguided, and based on false presupposition. The disciples did not ask about such a thing, and Jesus never discussed such a thing.
We will have much more in following articles, as we respond specifically to some of the points offered by the objector. So stay tuned!
I have much more on whether the disciples were confused in the Olivet Discourse, in this article.
2 Replies to “The Olivet Discourse – Fulfillment When?| A Response to A Poster- #2”
I cannot say whether the disciples were confused or not. I can say this… In Acts 1:6, they asked when the He would ‘restore again’, not ‘give’, the Kingdom… That’s G600, apokathistemi, “to restore to its former state”. The Kingdom David sat in seems then to be the same Kingdom Christ was bringing, as verses such as 1 Chr 29:23 suggest, but was taken away in Ez21:27. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit seems to sufficient for the ‘conferring’ of Kingdom spoken of in Luke 22:29, if not that expressly, then round-about. The question in Acts, then, was not when the Kingdom would be given, but when it would be nationally given, as per Ezekiel 39:29.
As such, I don’t see much ‘eschatology’ in Matthew 13, as some do. Jesus seems to define the Kingdom in Mark 1:15 and Luke 13:18, as well as Matthew 13, as the realm and operation of activity of the Holy Spirit. I could develop this in more detail. Moreover, the details of Jesus’ Matthew 13 parables that touch on the end are scant at best, and certainly seem as if they could be construed generally, as framing or outlining the other prophecies, rather than the technical equating of the particular points as you are doing. The specific reference in Matthew 13 you listed does talk about the end of the age, but your specific Daniel 12 references are inconclusive. Particularly, as I’m sure you’re aware, the narrative of Daniel 11 concludes with Daniel 12:4. Daniel 12:7f is specifically referring to Daniel’s question and does not need to pertain to the same specific context as Daniel 12:1-3.
Again, I only remind you of what I’m sure you’re aware, but Daniel 12:2-3 do not need to follow directly on the heels of Daniel 12:1. As the body of the prophecy is in Daniel 11, the last few verses of it, Daniel 12:1-4, point to the very distant future for Daniel, and, ends with the sum total of all things at the very end, whenever that is. The need to connect that, then, with Daniel’s then later interest in Daniel 12:7 comes at the expense of the fact that this is exactly Daniel has been doing all along… He sees something, and then asks for more detail about something in the middle of the vision, not adding to the end (In Daniel 7:19, Daniel also goes back and asks about something in the middle of the vision.. The Kingdom ends the Daniel 7 vision, and his questioning is to fill in gaps about something in the middle, the fourth beast, of which he is curious). So, too, Daniel 12:7ff can simply be viewed as filling in more details, not equating the Daniel 12:2-3 end with the Daniel 12:7ff details. Although it is not Daniel specifically asking, it is performing the same role as this, and can be seen to be analogous.
As I see it, I see Daniel 11:40-43 most likely in the Battle of Actium in Sept of 31BC, which was the beginning of the Roman Empire with Caesar Augusutus (Octavian), also the fourth beast. This places Daniel 12:1 in the time of the First Century. Since Daniel 11 began with the 2nd beast, and ends with the fourth, Daniel 12:2-3 certainly can be viewed as summary of what will come as a result, and does not need to be tied chronologically with v1. Because this is the ultimate outworking of Messiah coming in the 70 weeks, and the life-cycle of the four beasts, this is most normal and logical to mention the end result of all these things. But, Daniel’s focus and priority remains His people… This is what is on his heart, and has been the focus for the entire book, so it is natural to finish and point, then, back to the ultimate shattering of the power of the Jews, which I concur was 70 AD.
As for your treatment of the ‘confusion’… I am not completely sure that it matters. I think, rather than confusion, I see it as ‘unknowing’.. If one approaches it from a point of view of two groups of events, then Jesus said in Mark 13:37, in relation to the yet-future second coming, that we should all “Watch!”. Mt24.36 said that the day and hour were unknown, so even the disciples wouldn’t have known when it was, any more than Jesus did, apparently. The difference is between them thinking it was the same, as opposed to them simply not knowing the timing of the second event, other than it being ‘after’.
I do not, however, interpret Matthew 13 as primarily eschatalogical. It touches on eschatological ideas in a few of the parables, but, it in itself is instruction on living by the Spirit (as per, Galatians 5:16). The parable of the leaven, in particular, stands in contrast to the ‘leaven’ of the Old Covenant. Whereas, through the invisible active agency of the demons Jesus was casting out, sin could infect and affect an entire community, and still does, the power of the Kingdom of God was likewise effected through a Spirit, the only clean spirit to ‘possess’ a person, the Holy Spirit. Thus, leaven was required in both Pentecost and Fellowship offering (the church). Thus, the question of whether they ‘understood’ in Matthew 13 is not whether they understood all of His eschatalogical teachings, but whether they understood, through the parables of Matthew 13, the operation of the Kingdom in the realms of faith, the anointing, and the perpetual state of the side-by-side nature of the true believers with the false, etc. Those who are fully instructed, Jesus said, would be just like their teacher.
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