An Examination of the So-Called Contrasts in the Olivet Discourse
Desperate men make desperate arguments. This is not more evident than in the next proposed contrast between the so-called first section of the Olivet Discourse and the second (Matthew 24:36-chapter 25). One Amillennial writer, Roy Deaver, asserted that whereas the Bible says there would be a time of tribulation prior to the coming of the Lord in the fall of Jerusalem, in regard to the final coming of the Lord, “there is no scripture reference to tribulation in connection with this.” (Roy Deaver, Premillennialism: Matthew Chapters 24 and 25 Do Not Teach It!, (Memphis, Getwell Church of Christ 1977).
We might frame Deaver’s argument in logical form:
There are no Bible passages that correlate (link) tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.
Matthew 24 correlates (links) tribulation and the coming of Christ.
Therefore, Matthew 24 does not speak of the Second Coming of Christ.
Once again begging the question raises its ugly head! Deaver assumes and asserts his Major Premise with absolutely no proof offered in support! But let us turn this argument around and examine it in light of scripture.
There are no Bible passages that correlate tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ–Deaver.
But 2 Thessalonians 1 correlates tribulation and the Coming of Christ, 2 Thes. 1:4-10.
Therefore 2 Thessalonians does not speak of the Second Coming of Christ.
The Olivet Discourse, Tribulation and Thessalonians
Let there be no mistake: Deaver and company believe fervently that 2 Thessalonians 1 does apply to the Second Coming of Christ! Yet their desperation to destroy the unity of the Olivet Discourse has forced them to make arguments that turn and rend them. Note the text of Thessalonians.
No less than four times Paul uses the present participle, along with the present active indicative, to describe the tribulation being experienced by the Thessalonians (v. 4-7). Further, he promises them, “it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” (my emp. DKP).
Here we find a foundational eschatological text that correlates tribulation and the Coming of the Lord –the very thing Deaver says is never done! Paul unequivocally says the Thessalonians would endure tribulation until the Lord came! Look a little closer.
The Thessalonians were currently being “troubled”; troubled is from thlipsis and means pressure. But God would give them “rest”; rest is from anesis and means relief from pressure!
Anytime thlipsis and anesis are used together anesis is invariably relief from whatever pressure is being experienced! See my book, In Flaming Fire, for a full discussion of the linguistic evidence here.
In Thessalonians the pressure was tribulation; the relief from that pressure would come when the Lord was revealed from heaven. Our choices here are very limited.
If the Lord has not come as promised:
1. Either the Thessalonians are still alive and being pressured;
2. The Thessalonians are being pressured in Hades. What would that say of their faithfulness?!?;
3. Paul lied, Jesus failed, the Bible is not inspired!;
4. The Lord came and gave them the promised relief from tribulation!
Make no mistake, the Lord could not give the Thessalonians relief from that then on-going tribulation, if the Thessalonians — those first century Thessalonians!! — were not (or are not!!!) under persecution at the time of the parousia!
The facts are indisputable: Deaver, and most Amillennialists and Postmillennialists, claim there are no passages that relate the coming of Christ and tribulation. Yet one of the pivotal texts they would appeal to for proof of a yet future coming does precisely that! And Thessalonians is not the only text to do so! It is not an overstatement to say that the Parousia and Tribulation are inextricably linked in the entirety of the New Testament! We would offer the following for consideration:
No Bible passage that correlates tribulation with the coming of the Lord can be speaking of the Second Coming of the Lord – Deaver.
But 2 Thessalonians 1, 2 Timothy 3, Hebrews 10, James 5, 1 Peter 1, and Revelation all correlate tribulation with the coming of Christ.
Therefore 2 Thessalonians 1, 2 Timothy 3, Hebrews 10, James 5, 1 Peter 1, and Revelation cannot be speaking of the Second Coming of Christ.
The force of this is evident. Deaver, Curtis Cates and company apply each of the texts cited to the future! Not only that, take note of this:
Daniel 12: Tribulation and Resurrection
Daniel 12:1 foretold the coming of the Great Tribulation. This is almost universally admitted among Amillennialists and Postmillennialists to refer to the Great Tribulation of Matthew 24:21f– the first century Tribulation prior to the Lord’s coming in judgment of Israel in AD 70!! But, notice verse 2.
Daniel 12:2 is one of the foundational Old Testament prophecies of the resurrection of the dead! Few commentators apply Daniel 12 to anything but the resurrection of the dead. Amillennialist Wayne Jackson claims that Daniel must refer to a literal resurrection of human corpses out of the dirt (Wayne Jackson, The AD 70 Theory, (Stockton, Ca. Courier Publications, 1990)48-49).
I should note that there is a growing number of Postmillennialists who now apply Daniel 12:2 to AD 70 admitting that Daniel foretold a corporate, spiritual resurrection of Israel. Men such as Kenneth Gentry, Gary DeMar, Joel McDurmon, etc. have now adopted the true preterist view of Daniel 12. To say that this is a dramatic shift is an astounding understatement. See the documentation of this change in my We Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings.
Not only is this true, but, historically scholarship has recognized that there is a pervasive connection in the Bible, between the Great Tribulation and the eschatological consummation, i.e. the resurrection.
Brant Pitre takes note of Daniel and the connection between tribulation and resurrection: “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” (Pitre, Jesus, Tribulation and the end of Exile, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 1975)187).
Emile Schurer tells us that in Jewish apocalyptic thought, there was a direct, inseparable connection between the Great Tribulation, the resurrection and the coming of the Lord: “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).
So, from scripture and from scholarship, it is easy to demonstrate that the claim that the “Second Coming” is not connected to the Tribulation is a blatantly false doctrine. The exact opposite is true!
This entire argument (I.e. Tribulation versus no Tribulation) is based upon a very tenuous, but unspoken principle. This principle says that if Jesus said something in the first section of Matthew 24:4-34, and did not then specifically mention it again after verse 35 or 36 then these later verses must be speaking of a different subject! This is a truly absurd hermeneutic, yet, it is lamentably common among commentators. We will examine it later
Let’s summarize what we have seen:
1. The claim that tribulation and the coming of the Lord are never associated is false.
2. That claim being false then clearly one cannot divide Matthew 24 upon that basis.
3. If a person maintains that claim then he eliminates a host of passages from a futuristic interpretation, passages that are almost universally applied to the future!
4. Since Deaver, and most Amillennialists and Postmillennialists acknowledges that tribulation and the A.D. 70 coming are associated, then they (tacitly) admit that all passages that they would like to apply to the future in fact apply to A.D. 70, since those passages, as demonstrated above, link tribulation and the parousia.
We have seen that Deaver’s asservation that there would be tribulation associated with the A.D. 70 coming but not the “final coming of Christ” is false. This argument involves a logical contradiction, and essentially eliminates the rest of the New Testament corpus from a discussion of a yet future coming of Christ. Of course this is true, the rest of the New Testament does not discuss such a future coming! Yet Deaver and company do not seem to understand that their arguments demand this.
In this series we have seen that every contrast posited by futurists is based upon unproven assumptions and theological bias.
The arguments involve the commentators in logical contradictions.
The arguments logically demand that these scribes hold other positions that they emphatically reject.
The arguments contradict emphatic Bible statements.
In short, the suggested contrasts are not contrasts at all. They are the invention of minds attempting to divide what God never divided! The Olivet Discourse is a united discourse!