MATTHEW 24-25 | THE OLIVET DISCOURSE AND THE PASSING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
Those who claim that the Olivet Discourse is divided often appeal to Matthew 24:36 as a dividing point is because in verse 35 Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass, but my word shall never pass.” Verse 36 is then taken to mean “of the day for the passing of literal heaven and earth at my coming no man knows.” But, this is a tacit admission that one of the fundamental arguments for a divided discourse is false!
If one takes the position that verse 36 refers to verse 35 he has implicitly abandoned verse 36 as the transitional “continental divide” and now placed it at verse 35! This says “that day and hour” is the day of verse 35. But remember, we are constantly told that verse 36 and its use of “but” (peri de) is the verse that contrasts what follows with the previous discussion. Verse 35 does not contain that cherished word “but” so emphasized by our critics; where then is the contrast?
It is interesting and significant that Deaver and Cates differ as to the dividing verse of the Olivet Discourse. Cates says of verse 35, “It is crystal clear that the subject-matter has changed after verse 34.”(Curtis Cates, The A.D. 70 Theology, Cates Publishing, Olive Branch, Ms.38654, 1995)28). Yet Deaver says the transition is at verse 36 with the word “but.” Deaver says verses, “4-35 relate to the Lord’s coming in judgment upon Jerusalem.” (Roy Deaver, “Studies in Refutation of Realized Eschatology,” Bellview Preacher Training School, Pensacola, Florida, 1977, Unit IV)10). It simply cannot be both ways! Either verse 35 begins the transition and the argument about “but” is false, or verse 36 is the transition and verse 35 speaks of the dissolution of Israel’s “heaven and earth.” Do you see the problem?
To insist that “but” in verse 36 changes the subject has serious implications. It means Jesus is changing the subject from the passing of heaven and earth because that is the subject of verse 35! Remember, verse 36 has the “but” that supposedly introduces, not continues, a contrast, we are told. If verse 36 changes subject, the passing of heaven and earth in verse 35 cannot be the subject of verse 36.
To say verse 36 says you cannot know the day or hour of verse 35 is to abandon the contrast idea based on the “but” of verse 36. This says that verse 35 actually introduces the idea of heaven and earth passing while verse 36 says you cannot know the day or hour. But this means that “but” has become a conjunction and not a word of contrast. In this view “but” loses its contrast significance!
If one takes verse 36 as the “continental divide” then verse 35 of necessity becomes associated with verses 29-34, i.e. the passing of the Old World of Israel. Not a few commentators realize that verses 29-31 speak of the passing of the “heaven and earth” of Israel. This demands then, a search for the identity of “that day” in verse 36. If verse 35 does not give the identity of “that day” in verse 36 where do we get it?
If verse 36 is transitional and speaks of the passing of literal heaven and earth it must be admitted that verse 35 is not literal (remember, verse 36 changed the subject from verse 35!). This means verse 36, (though it does not mention the passing of heaven and earth, and cannot be referent to verse 35), is speaking of some day, unmentioned in the context to this point, of unidentified nature and concerning which the modern reader must assume the subject is the literal passing of material heaven and earth!
MATTHEW 24:30-31 AND THE PASSING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
To admit verses 29-31 speak of Israel’s world is to immediately raise the question of how it is possible to insist on a spiritual interpretation of these verses and then demand a literal fulfillment of verse 35. Where is the hermeneutical key to unlock this mystery? It is far more contextual to acknowledge that in verse 35 Jesus is summarizing what he has just said of Israel’s demise and setting her passing in direct contrast to his new world that will never pass away. After all, verses 30-31 certainly describe a “cosmic” destruction, do they not? How could one take the language of verses 30-31 in any way other than a description of a “cosmic destruction”? And yet, while commentators agree that verses 30-31 was hyperbolic and figurative, they then turn around and demand that verse 35 had to refer to a literal passing of literal heaven and earth creation! Totally inconsistent.
When we realize the disciples never asked about the end of literal heaven and earth, and when we realize that verses 29-35 do not speak of such an event, we are forced to conclude that verse 36 is simply stating the uncertainty of the precise day and hour for the passing of the Old Heaven and Earth of Israel in 70 AD.
The passing of heaven and earth spoken of in Matthew 24:29-35 directly militates against the “those days” versus “that day” argument based on Matthew 24:36. The contextual flow demands that the heaven and earth be identified with the passing of the Old Heaven and Earth of Israel at the coming of Jesus in 70 AD. The traditional interpretation, erroneously based on an imagined contrast in verse 36, violates the context and is self-contradictory.
We have demonstrated that the argument, posed by the majority of Amillennialists and perhaps most Postmillennialists, about a supposed contrast in subject matter between “those days” and “that day” in Matthew 24 is untenable. We have demonstrated the true context of Matthew 24 and the inherent contradictions with the amillennialist’s own argument. There is even more evidence we could present but space forbids it. Hopefully, all of these various pieces of evidence will promote more objectivity and study on the part of all.
We have shown that in Matthew 24:36, when Jesus said “But of that day and hour knoweth no man,” that his reference was to “that day” that would climax “those days” leading up to the final dissolution of the Old Heaven and Earth of Israel at the return of Messiah in 70 AD. The Olivet Discourse is not divided.