Matthew 24-25| United or Divided #13
In previous installments I have shared the important issues about the Marriage motif in the Olivet Discourse. I am convinced that overlooking this critical motif is one of the reasons that most commentators believe in a divided Olivet Discourse. However, when we can see the entire discourse within the framework of God’s last days dealings with Israel / Judah, it becomes more than apparent that Jesus’ sermon:
1. Has nothing to do with the end of time,
2. Has everything to do with the consummation of God’s Old Covenant dealings with Israel / Judah, as he finally divorced the adulterous, harlot wife, Judah, and made a New Covenant with the “whole house of Israel” i.e. the righteous remnant, in the body of Christ.
3. Jesus never, therefore, changed subjects from the impending destruction (divorce) of Jerusalem / Judah, to discuss a totally unrelated Wedding of the church, at the so-called end of time, in an event having nothing to do with the fulfillment of His Old Covenant promises.
Briefly stated, here is the outline that I am presenting:
1. YHVH was married to Israel.
2. The ten northern tribes committed spiritual adultery, by worshiping other gods.
3. As a result, the Lord divorced the ten northern tribes (Hosea 2). That divorcement came via national judgment and destruction.
4. While He divorced the ten northern tribes, He could not (yet) divorce Judah because the Messiah, to come through Judah, had not yet come.
5. Adonai promised / threatened however, that in the last days, Judah would have her “harvest” of judgment, just like her older sister. She would be divorced just like the ten tribes (cf. Malachi 3:5-6).
6. In the midst of all that “bad news” God promised that the time would come when He would once again marry Israel, under a New Covenant, when Israel was restored under the Messiah.
7. I have suggested that in Jesus’ parabolic teaching (and in much of the epistolary teaching) of the Wedding, we find both elements found in Hosea.
A. We find the impending divorcement of Judah, who had now become, just like her older sister had long before, an adulterous, harlot bride.
B. That divorcement would be signified by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Jerusalem temple was the epitome symbol of the Covenant bond– the marriage bond, but, with its dissolution and destruction, this could only mean one thing: Judah had been divorced!
C. We find the promise of the Wedding, and invariably, this only comes after the anticipated destruction of Jerusalem / Judah.
Before I get to the book of Revelation and develop these motifs from that book, I want to take a look at another of the key OT prophecies that promised the Wedding (the re-marriage) of Israel, under Messiah, at his coming– Isaiah 62. What is so significant to see is that the Wedding is depicted as occurring at his coming in judgment– not his Incarnation. I will give the entirety of the prophecy so that its power and beauty can be more fully appreciated.
Matthew 24-25 and its Prophetic Background
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. 2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name. 3 You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God. 4 You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you. 6 I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, 7 And give Him no rest till He establishes And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. 8 The Lord has sworn by His right hand And by the arm of His strength: “Surely I will no longer give your grain As food for your enemies; And the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine, For which you have labored. 9 But those who have gathered it shall eat it, And praise the Lord; Those who have brought it together shall drink it in My holy courts.” 10 Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples! 11 Indeed the Lord has proclaimed To the end of the world: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.’” 12 And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.”
This is a marvelous text, and would take far too much space and time to fully develop. Nonetheless, I want to take note of a few “bullet points.”
1. The prophecy was given in the context of YHVH’s divorcement of the ten northern tribes, as we have noted in Hosea.
2. In spite of that divorcement, the time would come when YHVH would once again remarry Israel. But, He would do far more than that: He would call the nations to worship and serve Him (Cf. Isaiah 49:6f where the salvation of the twelve tribes would be “too small a thing” for the Messiah to do. He would also be a light of salvation to the nations).
3. The prophecy promised the “restoration” of Jerusalem / Zion (v. 7-10). The LXX uses the word “diorthosis.” This is the word used in Hebrews 9:10 where salvation would come at the time of the reformation.
Significantly, the time of reformation in Isaiah is the time of the remarriage, i.e. The New Covenant – while the diorthosis in Hebrews is the time of the fulfillment of the typological cultic world of Israel– when that Old Covenant would come to an end! In other words, the diorthosis in Hebrews is both the establishment of the New Covenant (the remarriage) as well as the termination of the Old Covenant– the divorcement of Judah / Jerusalem, the foci of the Old Covenant marriage covenant. See my discussion of the use of diorthosis and its synonym apokatastasis (in Acts 3:23f) in my book Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory.
4. The promised marriage / salvation would be at the coming of the Lord in judgment and reward: ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.’” (Note that this text is directly parallel to Isaiah 40:10f– the coming of the Lord for which John the Immerser, as the Voice in the wilderness, was to prepare Israel).
5. Take particular note that the Wedding and the redemption of Zion are inseparably connected. This is a beautiful picture, and extremely critical.
See Isaiah 52:1f, where Jerusalem / Zion was downtrodden, but, YHVH called on her to arise “out of the dust” (this is resurrection!) And put on her beautiful Wedding garments. The promised redemption would be in the days of the proclamation of the gospel, and Paul said it was being fulfilled in his generation and even in his ministry. This sets the historical context and time for the fulfillment therefore, of the Wedding.
Hebrews 12 confirms that the appointed time for fulfillment had come, when the author proclaimed “you have come to Mt. Zion!” Nothing could have been more thrilling– and perhaps more challenging – than this declaration.
For the purposes of this series, if the redemption / Wedding of Zion was the message that Paul preached, and if / since Hebrews 12 says they had arrived at the time of that promised redemption, then this proves that Matthew 25 was about to be fulfilled! And if Matthew 25:1-13 (The parousia for the Wedding) was about to be fulfilled, then the Olivet Discourse cannot be divided.
So, whereas YHVH had “departed” from Israel when He divorced her, as in Hosea, He here promised that He would come to her again, and remarry her. And the time of that “remarriage” and restoration would be at the coming of the Lord with His reward. Notice now, Matthew 16:27-28:
Matthew 24-25 and Matthew 16:27-28
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Jesus here foretold his coming in judgment / reward and the kingdom, which is precisely what Isaiah 62 foretold! And, he said that it would occur before all of that audience that was standing there, 2000 years ago, died. (I cannot address the attempts to divide verse 27 from 28 or to see the Transfiguration, or Jesus’ resurrection as the fulfillment of these words. See my book Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, however, for a full discussion of these issues. Suffice it to say for the moment that the grammar of the text prohibits dividing verse 28 from verse 27). For the purposes of this study on the unity of the Olivet Discourse, let me present the following argument for consideration:
The Coming of the Lord for judgment / reward of Matthew 16:27-28 is the coming of the Lord of Isaiah 62.
The Coming of the Lord for judgment / reward of Isaiah 62 would be the coming of the Lord for the Wedding.
The Wedding would be at the coming of the Lord in Matthew 25:1-13.
Therefore, the coming of the Lord in Matthew 25 (for the Wedding) is the coming of the Lord of Isaiah 62 / Matthew 16:27-28.
Let me follow that with this:
The coming of the Lord in Matthew 25 (for the Wedding) is the coming of the Lord of Isaiah 62 / Matthew 16:27-28.
But, the coming of the Lord in Isaiah 62 and Matthew 16:27-28 was to be in the lifetime of Jesus’ first century audience.
Therefore, the coming of the Lord (for the Wedding) of Matthew 25 was to be in the generation of Jesus’ audience.
Based on this, please consider:
Since the coming of the Lord (for the Wedding) of Matthew 25 was to be in the lifetime of Jesus’ first century generation, and since the coming of the Lord of Matthew 24:29f was to be in the lifetime of Jesus’ first century audience (Matthew 25:29-34), then unless one can demonstrate that the coming of the Lord of Matthew 16: 27-28 and chapter 25 is totally unrelated to the coming of the Lord of Matthew 24:29f, then this serves as prima facie proof of the unity of the Olivet Discourse.
Are we to seriously believe that the Wedding of Isaiah 62 is not the Wedding of Matthew 25? Did Jesus predict that he would come twice, for two Weddings, to marry two different “bride” entities? Surely, this cannot be seriously considered as a Biblical doctrine.
When we realize that there is but one promise of the coming of the Lord, for one wedding, and when we see the chain of prophecy to fulfillment from Isaiah 62 —> Matthew 16:27-28— Matthew 24:29f—> Matthew 25, it becomes more than apparent that the Olivet Discourse speaks of that single parousia for the Wedding and that was to be in fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises concerning Israel’s last days. The adulterous, harlot bride would be divorced – as Hosea predicted – and the New Covenant marriage contract would be finalized.
As we shall see in our next installment, Jesus was emphatic in positing the Wedding at the time of the Divorcement of Judah, and this connection, once again, proves beyond doubt that the Olivet Discourse is not divided into two totally disparate subjects. It is about the impending divorcement of Judah, so that the Wedding could take place with the righteous remnant of “the whole house of Israel” transformed into the glorious body of Christ!
For more on the entire issue of the Wedding – and Matthew 24-25 – as the eschatological consummation, see my book We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings.
Smolarz – Metaphor, (2011, 238f) – “It is often overlooked that the statement in 18:20 concerning Babylon would better suit Jerusalem, in line with Christian witnesses concerning the place of prophetic martyrdom (e.g. Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:33-34; cf. 11:49-51). If John is allowed to be a Christian prophet, somebody who drew from Jesus’ tradition, this is demonstrated to be a plausible claim…. These considerations seem to imply that scholars have tended to assume much in their claims concerning ‘Babylon.’ … “There is, at least, a possibility that if John had OT prophetic development in mind, for a city to be called a ‘harlot’ would require her to have had an earlier covenant relationship with God. This would surely not be the case with Rome, but it certainly was the case with Jerusalem. In the OT, only two other cities are ever referred to as ‘harlot’; Tyre (Isaiah 23:15-17) and Nineveh (Nahum 3:4), and that most likely in the context of their previous covenant relationship with Yaheh.” Smolarz – Metaphor, (2011, 238f)
Steve Temple has developed this concept in an excellent new book: