Matthew 24| The Signs of the End – A Response to a Visitor #5

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In Matthew 24:3 the disciples of Jesus asked for signs of the end of the age, and his coming. We want to investigate the importance of those signs in response to a visitors objections to some of our recent writings on Zechariah 14. Be sure to read my previous articles, beginning here.

Without a doubt, the foundational objection offered by our Responder in regard to the Olivet Discourse is the claim that Matthew 24:29f are “explicitly” divorced from the “those days” references prior to v. 29f. He further argues that the “de meta” translation of “but after” demands that the parousia of v. 29f must be after the Tribulation, which he identifies as the actual destruction. So, the argument is that since the parousia of v. 29 is “immediately after” the Tribulation that this clearly delineates two events: the Tribulation and the parousia, and in the Objectors view, the parousia has not yet taken place.

As we have noted, this takes for granted, without proof, that the disciples asked about two separate events in v. 3. But, we have noted that it is essentially undeniable that in the mind of the disciples, the coming of the Lord and the end of the age were directly tied to the destruction of the Temple.

Matthew 24 – The End of What Age?

We ask again a question posed earlier: What age did that Temple represent? The disciples most assuredly thought the destruction of the Temple and Christ’s parousia at the end were connected. Unless our Responder can demonstrate that the Temple represented the Christian age, then it remains established that the age that was to end at the parousia was the age represented by the Temple, and that was the Mosaic Covenant age.

I noted that in regard to the question of the end of the age, in Matthew 13, Jesus told several parables about that consummation in Matthew 13. He tied his discussion to Daniel 12 and said that his coming at the end of the age would be in fulfillment of Daniel 12:3. Jesus then asked the disciples if they understood what he had taught (and remember that he was discussing the harvest at the end of the age), and they said “Yes.”

Our Responder seeks to deflect the force of this argument by claiming that the focus of the parables is life in the kingdom, and that this somehow negates the connection between Daniel and Matthew 13. No, the focus is on the end of the age. The focus is on the fulfillment of prophecy. It is on eschatology. This is particularly true of the parable of the Wheat and Tares.

Jesus said Daniel would be fulfilled at his coming at the end of the age. It is improper to negate the very issue that Jesus emphasizes– as fulfillment of prophecy– and claim that the real focus of his teaching, i.e. life in the kingdom, somehow mitigates what he said about the time of fulfillment.

I emphasize again that the text of Daniel is emphatic: “all of these things” which contextually demands the inclusion of the resurrection and the end of the age, were to be fulfilled, “when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered” (Daniel 12:7).

I would kindly suggest that attempts by our Responder friend to divorce v. 7 from the earlier verses are based solely on presuppositional theology. It dichotomizes the text in ways that the grammar and the context do not permit. The insertion of huge temporal gaps into the text of Daniel 12 simply has not textual merit.

Incidentally, I fail to see where our Responder has justified the idea that because eutheos in 1 John 3 could possibly allow for a very short “gap” between intent and fulfillment, that this somehow justifies the insertion of a 2000 year gap between eutheos in Matthew 24:29 and the parousia. A lapse of a very short time does not justify, suggest, or demand a gap of 2000 years!

And as I have noted repeatedly, the fact that a person can find an exception to a normal definition  of a word does not in any way negate the normal definition. And when the universal translation of eutheos in Matthew 24:29 is immediate, we should not allow preconceived ideas to insert incredible temporal gaps into a word that no where allows for such a definition.

But, now, we want to turn our attention back to the Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse and the claim that verses 29f must be delineated from the earlier discussion because of the reference to “that day” verses “those days, and because of the “after the Tribulation” reference.

I have noted that the  “that day” of v. 29f is the climax to “those days.” And Jesus emphatically says so in repeated fashion.

Notice the flow of the text. The disciples asked for signs of the parousia and the end of the age (v. 3). Jesus gave the signs in v. 14-22. For instance, the fulfillment of the World Mission was to be a sign of the end. When the Mission was completed “then comes the end” (v. 14). What end? Contextually, the only “end” they asked about was the end of the age at the parousia- which they tied to the destruction of the Temple.

Matthew 24 and the World Mission as a Sign of the End of the Age

In my book, Into All The World, Then Comes The End, I document that every word used by Jesus to predict or command the Mission into all the world, the earth, or all the nations, etc.. is used by Paul to say that the Mission had been fulfilled! See that book for a full discussion.

Into All The World Then Comes The End

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So, follow the argument:

The disciples asked for signs of the end of the age and Christ’s coming.

Jesus gave the fulfillment of the World Mission as a sign that the end would be near.

The World Mission was fulfilled in the first century (Colossians 1:5f; 23).

Therefore, Christ’s coming and the end of that age was in the first century.

To put this another way:

The disciples asked for signs of his coming– the coming found in v. 29f.

Jesus gave the completion of the World Mission as a sign of the imminence of the coming in v. 29f.

That sign was fulfilled in the first century.

Therefore, the coming of v. 29f– “sign-i-fied” by the fulfillment of the World Mission, was near in the first century. (Of course, this agrees perfectly with v. 34, but more on that later).

Now, this demands that unless the parousia of Christ in v. 29f was a different coming from that which the completion of the World Mission was to signify as near, then the parousia of v. 29f had to be near in the first century, when the World Mission was completed.

This is confirmed by the specific language of v.29-34. Our Objector has argued that Jesus’ referent to “that day” in v. 36 “explicitly” distinguished between “those days” and the parousia. This is nullified by several factors.

Note the language of Mark 13:24– the direct parallel with Matthew 24:29f– “But in those days after that tribulation…” Did you notice the reference to “those days”? We have here a continuation– although it is climactic– of Jesus’ reference to “those days” of the earlier verses!

In Mark 13:32f we find the reference to “that day and hour” but, the “that day and hour” hearkens directly back to v. 24f and “those days after the tribulation” when they would see the Son of Man coming! In other words, “that day” would be in “those days!” Thus, one cannot sharply delineate between “those days” and “that day” for Jesus posits “that day” in “those days”!

Notice now, even more closely, what Jesus said.

The disciples asked for signs of Christ’s end of the age parousia.

Jesus gave them signs.

In verse 32-33 Jesus said: “When you see all of these things”– i.e. the signs of the parousia and the end of the age, “ come to pass, then know that it (or he) is nigh, even at the doors” (v. 32-33).

So, the signs of v. 14-26 were the signs of the parousia and the end of the age. Jesus said, “when you see these things”– the signs– then know that the parousia and the end of v. 29f– “is near, even at the door”!

The completion of the World Mission and the Tribulation were signs of the imminent parousia and end of the age – Jesus.

But, the completion of the World Mission and the Tribulation were in the first century– prior to the fall of Jerusalem.

Therefore, the parousia and the end of the age– of Matthew 24:29f was near in the first century.

(Significantly, our Objector agrees that the Tribulation occurred then. So, if the Tribulation prophecy is fulfilled then most assuredly the World Mission prophecy was fulfilled)!

Matthew 24, the Signs of the End and James

Notice now James 5:7-9:
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”

Notice a few quick facts:

James is writing to those being persecuted, just as Jesus predicted as part of the “birth pangs” in Matthew 24:8f; Mark 13:9f.

He urged them to be patient, “until the coming of the Lord.” He uses the same word that he and the other disciples used in Matthew 24:3 when they asked about the signs of the parousia!

He unequivocally affirmed: “The coming has drawn near” (v. 8, literal rendering). Again, the word parousia, as in Matthew 24.

He then says: “The judge is standing right at the door” which is a direct echo of Matthew 24:32-33 where Jesus said:  “When you see all these things (the signs of the end) then know that it (or “he”) is near, even at the door.”

So, James, who was on Olivet with Jesus, heard his master say to watch for the signs of the end, and “when you see” them you will know that the end of the age and the parousia is near. He wrote later in that very generation, in the midst of the persecution of the end times, and said, “the parousia has drawn near” and, “the judge is standing right at the door.”

Jesus said when you see the signs, know that the end of the age parousia is at the doors.

James said the parousia had drawn near, and the judge was right at the door.

Language could hardly be clearer. James was affirming that Christ’s parousia was truly near when he wrote!  I would suggest that our Objector’s claim that:  “no one ever knew the timing of the second advent, whatsoever”; and “but of that day’s (v. 29f) day and hour is completely unknown” flies in the face of James’ inspired statement. It pits James against Jesus.  James certainly thought he knew something definite about the nearness of the parousia! So, was James wrong?

In our next installment, we will examine the fundamental argument concerning:  “But of that day and hour knows no man.” We will discover that James was right! I believe you will find it helpful and enlightening, so stay tuned!

One Reply to “Matthew 24| The Signs of the End – A Response to a Visitor #5”

  1. Perhaps, the general topic of discussion, as often happens, is becomming too vast. There are various discrepancies in representation of positions, but, the main argument does settle around ‘eutheos’, Mt24.29.

    The main lines of defense appear to be both the nature of the questions asked, and the temple representation. The second, “What age did the temple represent?” seems the lesser of the two. Clearly, the position presented here is countered by others who hold differing views, and, while I do not intend to expand this discussion to a full treatment of that, I take my definition of ‘age’ from Luke 18:30, “this age and the age to come, eternal life”. Also, Ted Noel’s discussion of ‘sunteleia’ is of interest. He argues that the term used here is specific. As such, I see that it is not the ‘temple’ that represents any ‘age’, but the Earth itself, so that, in the age to come, eternal life, a new Earth. While I’m sure there are arguments on both sides, I do not see it as a settled issue in its own right that the ‘temple’ represents any age at all, and I differ with the view here.

    For the other question, about whether the disciples understood, the commentator here seems, to me, to misrepresent things. While he very readily employs the ‘all these things’ of Daniel 12:7, he ignores the same in Matthew 13:51. The whole of Matthew 13 is seven main parables, only 2 of which refer to the end at all. The main parable in question, the wheat and the tares, does make reference to Daniel 12:3 for sure, but this is one verse out of fifty.

    Clearly, the ‘all these things’ of v51 does refer to v43, but the commentator is going well beyond what is written, in my perspective. The major thrust of the chapter is not primarily eschatalogical, or does not need to be interpreted as such, although it contains elements that pertain to the end. Furthemore, I would hold that even the main teaching point of the Tares parable is not the ‘end’, but ‘let them grow until the end’. And, finally, the ‘understand all these things’ is in reference to what is prior, yes, but only what is prior. That is, Jesus said the wise would shine. Yes, the disciples understood that. They might have also recognized that it was a reference to Daniel, sure. But, that in no wise means they understood all of Jesus’ eschatology related to a single verse of reference in a chapter of 50 prior verses. To say that, simply because Jesus referenced Daniel, and the disciples understood #1 that the wise would shine and that #2 it was a reference to Daniel, is no where near the same as saying they therefore understood the whole of His eschatology.

    Further proof is in the obvious. While they clearly did understand the body of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 13, they yet asked in Matthew 24 about the end. It doesn’t matter which end this was, for this point, because they asked. This means, bluntly, they didn’t understand that full eschatalogical bent, and this is why they asked. Matthew 13 does not prove that they understood Daniel, simply because Jesus made one passing reference in it, but Matthew 24 does prove that they didn’t understand the end, whatever that was, because that was why they were asking.

    It seems to me that your claim is that the focus of the whole of theMatthew 13 is “on the end of the age. The focus is on the fulfillment of prophecy. It is on eschatology”. I do not find this to be the case with 5 out of the seven parables. I see no eschatology in leaven, in the pearl, in the treasure, nor in the sower, or in the mustard seed. Further, I do not find a primary focus on the end in the tares. Certainly, if a case could be built for it being so, there is just as much of a case for building it in the other direction, and so I find that the defense is inadequate.

    I in no way wish to minimize the true eschatalogical elements in Matthew 13, but only the Tares and the Dragnet specific ally mention the end, and, in my opinion, only the Dragnet focuses on it. It is admitted that Daniel 12:3 is referenced, but, rememeber, understanding one out of fifty verses does not mean they therefore understand the full context and scope of Daniel, only that they understand that the saints will shine. Other than these two parables, the others can be seen to not be eschatalogical, and, in fact, I believe I can prove that treating them that way is not a viable alternative interpretation, but is antithetical to their intended purpose to treat them as such (purposefully left off of the discussion here).

    The “World Mission” argument is rolled up into the other argument, in my opinion. If there are two sets of events, the the ‘end’ of v14, which I agree was fulfilled via Col 1:23, refers to the end of that segment, the 70 AD destruction, and that this also corresponds to a fulfilled Great Tribulation, as noted by the commentator. Simple context would allow for this interpretation, once you have proved two sets of events, so, yes, I refer to the v14 ‘end’ as different than the v3 ‘end’ in the question, as a matter of course.

    Further, I do not base my argument of the separation of the two sets of events on the plurality/non-plurality of day/days in Matthew’s account, I only used it to illustrate it. In Mark, ‘that day’ refers to the Mark 13:26, ‘that day’. The language is Matthew is only useful for demonstrating it. The actual separation of the two comes in both Matthew 24:29 and Mark 13:24. “After the tribulation of those days…” That is the separation. In both accounts, by anyone’s interpretation, has some durable gap, which the language supports, and completely separates question #1 from question #2. The whole point of ‘after’ means that the tribulation completely concludes, and, whether a short or long gap is interposed, the parousia must come after the end of the tribulation, by both Matthew and Mark’s account, and cannot include it, as is highlighted by Matthew 24:29’s use of two sequence words to emphasize it (eutheos and ‘meta’).

    But again, intepretation aside, there were two questions asked in Matthew 24. The reason for the asking of the two is plain enough from scripture, since scripture often groups the two. While we could fan out into a minute dissemination of each side point, I find it not even necessary, for the most part.

    After looking at Matthew 24, I find that, even if you interpret it as a wholly first-century fulfillment, the same general structure and principles must apply. Again, this is independant of ‘age’, ‘world mission’, confusion of the disciples, or even the argument from James about imminency and the possibility of a temporal connection.

    First, there were two questions, regardless of how they are related.
    Second, the division between the two questions is represented in the ‘eutheos de meta’, it seems, as this logically divides what is seen contextually and historically as the destruction of Jerusalem.

    Third, both Matthew and Mark make explicit indications that the parousia, their second question, regardless of timing, must be ‘after’ the destruction events. The parousia, no matter when it is, is seen in the Matthew 24:29-31 events, again, regardless of the timing of fulfillment, and therefore is in answer to their first question. They are set apart from each other, specifically, by v29.

    Fourth, due to the nature of eutheos, and as compared to the Mark account, it is clear that at least ‘some’ durable gap is probably intended by both authors, and, certainly, ‘eutheos’ allows for some gap, even if it is not ‘required’. The plain reading of Matthew 24 says that the tribulation will happen, and then some time ‘eutheos’ but after, this other thing, the subject of the second question. Again, this is absolutely independant of the timing. The parousia, according to Matthew and Mark, cannot be part of the tribulation timing, by the plain reading of the text. And, it seems apparent that at least a short gap, perhaps days, weeks, months, is in focus. This is indicated by the use of ‘eutheos’ and after, or the writer could have simply continued with the chronology.

    Fifth, since the two questions can be thus divided, it raises the question of the v34&36 verses. Again, so far, this has been completely independant of nearly all the arguments raised. Whether the parousia was first century or yet-to-come does not matter at this point, this is straight from the Mt24 text. There were two questions, whether or not they were related or not, and whether or not you interpret it through any other paradigm or not. There were two answers as well, which are directly answer the primary question of “When?”. Notice Jesus’ answer describes the events, the real question is “When?”

    This is why Jesus begins with the ‘birth-pangs’, because they are the lead-in and the warning signs to watch for. Second, v29 ‘eutheos’ continues to answer the actual primary question, “When?”. It says, merely, that the first must happen, and then be followed by the second. One must happen, and the other will next/immediately/directly/etc, but that it is emphatically ‘de meta’, or ‘after’ the first. This is my understanding of 2 Thes 1-2, then, as well. As 2 Thes 1 talks of His Second Coming, Parousia, whenever that is, 2 Thes 2 says this cannot have happened at that time since the 70 AD events must come first. I treat the ‘man of lawlessness’ a rebel leader in the temple at the fall of Jerusalem. But, the construct is simple enough. The ‘Parousia’ hasn’t happened yet, because it must be ‘de meta’, or ‘after’, Jerusalem’s fall, which contained the apostasy/rebellion, etc.

    So, the point of ‘eutheos’ is to delineate between the two questions, clearly. ‘eutheos de meta’, then, likewise gives the first impression of ‘timing’ related to the two events. The timing is unknown, but the tribulation must come first (‘in fullfilment of all that has been written’, concerning the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jews), and the timing of the second is positively ‘after’ that.

    Again, take note, that this argument has completely bypassed the rest of the defenses. It should hold true, and, as I read it, be the sustainable case for the plain reading of the Olivet, regardless of other concerns.

    Finally, then, after describing the two events and relating their relative fulfillment (‘after’), Jesus brings the focus, again, onto the primary question. After the short parable of the fig tree, he answers their question of when these things will be, and, I agree with the commentator here, that ‘genea’ of v34 refers to the people then living. It seems evident, in conjunction with history and v1-3.

    However, again, eliminating the interpretation of ‘eutheos’ and the timing of the fulfillments, on the basis of the language alone, it leaves us looking at v36. If there are two questions, regardless of fulfillment, and if v29 delineates the fulfillment of question #1 and question #2, then it only seems logical that v36’s ‘that day’ specifically refers to ‘that day’, the day known only to the Lord, Zechariah 14:7. Further, the plain grammatical antecedent is the v29-31, so the two work together to support this claim.

    Even with a first-century fulfillment for all of this, the case should still be the same, simply based upon the grammatical structure of the text. There were two questions, the one was answered through v22, and v29-31 is clearly a reference to His parousia, or the second question. Putting these together, it hardly seems like a stretch to read as I have put it forward, “All these things will happen within this generation … but of that day and hour no one knows.” Which day and hour? The Zechariah 14:7 day and hour, the one known only to the Lord, also in concert with this conclusion.

    We see, then, that the first century can be the only fulfillment of v4-22, because it is in reference to the then visible buildings (v2). Second, we see that however we define the tribulation, which appears to conclude with the destruction of those buildings, that the parousia must be, categorically, after that conclusion. This, it seems, actually eliminates many historical attributions to these events, because they only include events that occur after the conclusion of the tribulation, and not during. Third, we understand that there is intended to be some kind of gap included, and it is expected, even if it is only a few days, hours, weeks, or whatever. Finally, the only questions remains as the length of the gap. Notice, again, I have completely side-stepped all of the arguments and defenses up to this point. So far, other than the futurist who denies the v1-3 context, there should be general agreement, it seems, with the development thus far. But, the only question is the duration of the gap. Is it hours? Days? Weeks? Could it be years? Could it be 2,000 years?

    For, that, our only indication is v36, which, as we claimed, seems to exclude v29-31, not on the interpretive claims, but only on the grammar and context of the passage. But, v36 says the day and hour are completely unknown. Now, perhaps here, your James section could be employed. Perhaps, perhaps not. Certainly people have their arguments here, either way. There is also the question of how technical of a term ‘parousia’ is. You would argue one way, others would argue the other. Certainly James is inspired, but whether it is necessary to always connect passages based upon a word such as ‘parousia’ is in debate. Could Christ have ‘come’ in one sense in judgment in 70 AD, without it being the ‘coming’ of His second coming, in the glory of God the Father and His angels, with His throne of Glory? We want everything to line up neatly like that, but, perhaps God has a different agenda in His book than satisfying the fleshly thoughts of man? Perhaps the inspiration of James to write as such was implying something different, and not that. Perhaps.

    With the exception of the application of the 2,000 years into the said gap, above, the explanation laid out above should follow through the Olivet, most notably, that any v29-31 fulfillment must be ‘after’ the tribulation, possibly with at least some gap. This seems most assured. While many things are debatable, it is clear, however, that Jesus said the sign of His coming would be ‘after’ the tribulation (after it was over).

    While I appreciate the depth of the commentator’s study, and research into many of these matters, I do not find the arguments conclusive. Further, I find several of the arguments either biased or mis-leading, such as the Matthew 13:51, “Have you understood?” There is no indication in the chapter that they understood anything more than what they were just told, namely, that Jesus, referring to Daniel, said they would shine like the stars. Anything more than that is purely added.

    But, the body of the Olivet argument is established, not on most of these peripheral opinions, but on the text of Matthew 24 itself. There were two questions, even if related in the mind of the askers, confused or not. The two questions are played out, clearly, and the answer of the primary question, “When?” is their main intent. It merely follows, therefore, that v29 divides the two, and v34&36 separate the answer of the fulfillment of the timing, and that, from v37ff, the primary focus is then only on the Parousia. The specific application of the 2,000 years, then, is secondary, and, perhaps, neither one of us are sufficient scholars to give a conclusive answer on the subject, but, for me, the case is made through the lexicon, the apparent reason for using ‘immediately after’ over the more bulky English of “Directly but after…”, and supported by clear evidence of durable gaps throughout the New Testament. The ‘preponderant’ proposed by the commentator is not seen as a hurdle, in my respects, but rather, that, perhaps, we do not always understand what the Bible means when it says they were healed ‘immediately’. Certainly, in context, it indicates a right away nature, but, it is certainly possible that some of his miracles took at least a few minutes to ‘manifest’, even as it is apparent in the discussion with the gaderene demoniac, that he actually had some discussion with the individual for some length of time before delivering the person. The ‘preponderant’ is actually in question, not in the operation of the power of God, but in that we have, most likely, over-applied a word that means ‘no middle ‘ (immediate), rather than “straightway” (meaning, a direct course from start to end, even if there is a middle). It is quite possible, and, in studying both the Biblical eutheos and modern healing ministers, that at least some of the healings of Jesus may have been the release of the power of faith into the individual, followed by a very short gap, resulting in their healing. Even a few seconds is still a “gap”, when it comes to ‘immediately’. It is not preceise enough for the context in the Greek, although, it is often the most convenient word in English, which is why the RV substitutes most of the instances, with a few exceptions, to ‘straightway’.
    So, the questions remain for the commentator… How long is your “gap” in Matthew 24:29, after the tribulation was over before the parousia? And, How long of a gap is too long, when the emphasis is merely on ‘a straight course from here to there’?

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