The Olivet DIscourse – Matthew 24:3 in the Cross Hair #2
In the first installment of this short series on Matthew 24:3, I shared how a foundational tenet of all futurist views is that when Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple and the City, the disciples wrongly conflated that destruction with Jesus’ coming and the end of the age. This was even the view of some of the ancient writers such as Chrysostom:
Then since He had said to the Jews, “Ye shall not see me, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord;” and the disciples supposed that together with the destruction would be the end also; to set right this secret thought of theirs, He said, “But the end is not yet.” For that they did suspect even as I said, you may learn from their question. For, what did they ask? When shall these things be? i.e. when shall Jerusalem be destroyed? And what is the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world? But He answered nothing directly to this question, but first speaks of those other things that are urgent, and which it was needful for them to learn first. For neither concerning Jerusalem straightway, nor of His own second coming, did He speak, but touching the ills that were to meet them at the doors. Wherefore also He makes them earnest in their exertions, by saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ.” (John Chrysostom. (1888). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. In P. Schaff (Ed.), G. Prevost & M. B. Riddle (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew (Vol. 10, p. 451). New York: Christian Literature Company).
It cannot be over-emphasized how important this claim of the apostolic confusion is to the futurist views. If the disciples were not wrong, if they were not confused, if they were not mistaken to conflate those events, then in reality all futurist views are falsified.
Now, the question of whether the disciples were confused to link the destruction of Jerusalem with the end of the age can actually be addressed by considering whether or not their prophetic Scriptures, read in the synagogues every Sabbath, and expounded on daily, predicted the destruction of the city and the temple at the time of the end of the age. If there were such OT prophecies, and if the apostles knew and understood those OT prophecies that posited the destruction of Judah at the time of the resurrection, then it is clearly specious and unwarranted to say that they were mistaken in Matthew 24:3.
Deuteronomy 32– In Israel’s Last Days, at the time of her last end (Deuteronomy 32:19f; 32:29f), the Lord would judge her:
v. 29- Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this,
That they would consider their latter end!… v. 32f – For their vine is of the vine of Sodom And of the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes are grapes of gall, Their clusters are bitter. 33 Their wine is the poison of serpents, And the cruel venom of cobras.34 ‘Is this not laid up in store with Me, Sealed up among My treasures? 35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.’36 “For the Lord will judge His people And have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their power is gone, And there is no one remaining, bond or free.
Now, again, this was a prophecy of Israel’s last days, her latter end. And the Lord had “treasured up” the coming judgment that would befall Israel in her last days. It should be noted that the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) is literally paradigmatic for Jesus and the NT writers. They clearly and undeniably saw and said that they were living in the days foretold by the Song. N. T. Wright says the NT writers refer to “the Song of Moses as “a vital chapter in this great story” N. T. Wright, Paul and the Righteousness of God, (Vol. 1, p. 77).
Josephus believed that the Song was being fulfilled in his day “Moses recited to Israel a poem of hexameter verse, which he has moreover bequeathed in a book preserved in the temple, containing a prediction of future events, in accordance with which all has come and is coming to pass, the seer having in no whit strayed from the truth.” (Antiquities, 4:303).
Of many other Old Covenant prophecies of the end times,(many of which draw directly from the Son, which linked the resurrection, the judgment and the coming of the Lord to the end of Jerusalem, take note of just a few:
Isaiah 24- 25:
Isaiah 24:1-5 posited the destruction of the people and the land / earth, because the people had “violated the everlasting covenant” (v. 5). That description is continued in v. 19f where the earth is dissolved, and then in the last three verses of the chapter the sun and moon are “ashamed” meaning they do not give their light.
That judgment would come on “the city” (v. 10f- the city of confusion which is identified in chapter 29 as Jerusalem), that sat in the midst of “the land” and was occupied by “the people.” Now, what Land, what City and what “the people” do you suppose that would be, in the context of that “the people” who had violated “the everlasting covenant”? This is clearly about Israel and the judgment on her.
What happens at the time of that judgment? Read 24:19-23
The earth is violently broken, The earth is split open, The earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, And shall totter like a hut; Its transgression shall be heavy upon it, And it will fall, and not rise again. It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will punish on high the host of exalted ones, And on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together, As prisoners are gathered in the pit, And will be shut up in the prison; After many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be disgraced And the sun ashamed; For the Lord of hosts will reign On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem And before His elders, gloriously.
We thus have the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem and the people- destruction, in fact, of “heaven and earth” but, at that time, the Kingdom of the Lord is established and His people rule gloriously with Him! Thus, the destruction of Jerusalem is inextricably tied to the coming of the judgment and the kingdom.
Likewise, Isaiah 25:1-9 continues that discussion:
O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. For You have made a city a ruin, A fortified city a ruin, A palace of foreigners to be a city no more; It will never be rebuilt. Therefore the strong people will glorify You; The city of the terrible nations will fear You. For You have been a strength to the poor, A strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, A shade from the heat; For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. You will reduce the noise of aliens, As heat in a dry place; As heat in the shadow of a cloud, The song of the terrible ones will be diminished. And in this mountain The Lord of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Here the prophet exults in the actions of YHVH in that He destroyed the sinful city– the city of chapter 24, undeniably Jerusalem, and even turned the temple into a palace of foreigners! This is stunning!
Notice then that in that Day when He would do this, He would establish the Messianic Wedding Banquet, and remove the Curse of Death: “He will swallow up death forever”– which serves as one of Paul’s key source texts for his doctrine of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56.
Thus, once again, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple is undeniably posited at the time of the great Wedding Banquet– the time of Israel’s “restoration” / transformation, and the resurrection!
Were the disciples aware of what Isaiah foretold? Did they not know anything of these prophecies?
When one then follows the “in that day” chain of reference, he is brought into chapter 26 and the promise of the resurrection, at the time when the martyrs of God would be vindicated, at the Day of the Lord (26:19f). But, that would be at the time of Israel being in great distress (26:16f). When did Jesus say that all the martyrs would be vindicated? Of this, there can be no doubt – in the judgment of first century Jerusalem (Matthew 23:29-39).
Then we come to Isaiah 27 which foretold the final defeat of Satan (v. 1-2) at the time of Israel’s salvation. That salvation (which is the time of the resurrection of 25:8 / 26:19) is incontrovertiby posited at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple:
Has He (YhVH-DKP) struck Israel as He struck those who struck him? Or has He been slain according to the slaughter of those who were slain by Him? In measure, by sending it away, You contended with it. He removes it by His rough wind In the day of the east wind. Therefore by this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered; And this is all the fruit of taking away his sin: When he makes all the stones of the altar Like chalkstones that are beaten to dust, Wooden images and incense altars shall not stand. Yet the fortified city will be desolate, The habitation forsaken and left like a wilderness; There the calf will feed, and there it will lie down And consume its branches. When its boughs are withered, they will be broken off; The women come and set them on fire. For it is a people of no understanding; Therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, And He who formed them will show them no favor. And it shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will thresh, From the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; And you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
There really is no escape from this text. Israel’s salvation, the resurrection, would be accomplished:
“Therefore by this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered; And this is all the fruit of taking away his sin: When he makes all the stones of the altar Like chalkstones that are beaten to dust”
Notice that “by this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered.” How, and when would the Lord save Israel? The answer is shocking and challenging: “When he makes all the stones of the altar Like chalkstones that are beaten to dust.” This is indisputable. Salvation would come when Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed. Verse 11 makes it even more crystal clear that it is the judgment on Israel: “For it is a people of no understanding; Therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, And He who formed them will show them no favor.”
Who was the people that YHVH created? Who was it that He accused of being without understanding? Just go back to Deuteronomy 32:28 where, once again, speaking of Israel’s last days, He spoke of the judgment on the people of no understanding.
So, Isaiah 27 unequivocally posits the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, the desolation of the Temple, with the eschatological consummation of the resurrection and judgment at the end of the age. The conflation is undeniable.
Let’s not forget Isaiah 65:
Thus says the Lord: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, ‘Do not destroy it, For a blessing is in it,’ So will I do for My servants’ sake, That I may not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, And from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, And My servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, For My people who have sought Me. “But you are those who forsake the Lord, Who forget My holy mountain, Who prepare a table for Gad, And who furnish a drink offering for Meni. Therefore I will number you for the sword, And you shall all bow down to the slaughter; Because, when I called, you did not answer; When I spoke, you did not hear, But did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight.” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord God will slay you, And call His servants by another name; So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes. The Glorious New Creation “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.
It is important to note that Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1-2 in Romans 10:20f to justify his ministry to the Gentiles. Thus, for Paul, Isaiah 65 was being fulfilled in the first century. Israel’s rebellion and unbelief was leading to her judgment, just as Isaiah 65 foretold.
And that rejection of the call of YHVH would lead to the destruction of the Old Creation, the Old Jerusalem! The words of the text are too clear, too emphatic, too undeniable. Israel’s judgment and destruction would lead directly to the New Creation: “The Lord God shall slay you…. For behold, I create a New Heavens and Earth.”
Would anyone doubt that the destruction of “creation” is the time of the end? Hardly. Would anyone doubt that the New Creation, is an end of the age reality? Surely not! And yet, that New Creation, including the New Jerusalem, would come as a direct result of the destruction of the Old Jerusalem! The “linkage” between the judgment of Israel and the New Creation is clear; it is undeniable; it is emphatic.
So, we have four major prophecies from Isaiah predicting the last days salvation of Israel, the resurrection, the coming of the Lord, the full establishment of the Kingdom, the New Creation and God’s remarriage with Israel (it would be a radical transformation).
Now, do any of these prophecies say precisely WHEN that destruction and judgment would be? No. Do any of these texts give a sign of the end of the age? No. What they do affirm, explicitly and emphatically, is that the eschatological consummation would be at the time of the judgment of Jerusalem and the Temple. Thus, when Jesus predicted the impending judgment on the city and temple, that disciples were clearly shocked. Not at the reality of the prophecy itself, but, at the fact that Jesus was telling them it would be in their lifetime!
Notice that they did not say, “Not so, Lord! Surely this temple will not fall! Surely this house of the Lord will never be destroyed!” No, from prophecy, as demonstrated, they knew that the time was coming when that temple would be plowed under like a field (Micah 3:12). But, they were shocked to realize that it was coming in their lifetime. Thus, the question: “When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”
Finally, take note of Daniel 12 and how the text undeniably conflates the time of the end with the time of the judgment on Israel:
At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Then I, Daniel, looked; and there stood two others, one on this riverbank and the other on that riverbank. And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?” Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.
Could words be any clearer?
We have the Abomination of Desolation, that Jesus said would be in Judea (Matthew 24:15f) in fulfillment of Daniel.
We have the resurrection (v. 2).
We have the righteous shining in the kingdom– which is directly cited by Jesus in Matthew 13, as we shall see later.
We have the time of the end (v. 4) and in the LXX Daniel uses a form of the distinctive Greek term used in Matthew 24:3, when the disciples asked about the end of the age.
In verse 6 one angel asks another, “How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?”
Heaven’s answer to the question cannot be mistaken: “Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.”
I will not take the time or space to discuss this at length here. See my book, The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Fulfilled or Future? where I do go into great detail in discussing it.
The simple, clear and undeniable fact is that Daniel posits the end of the age, the resurrection and the kingdom, at the time when, “the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.”
Couple of quick observations:
The virtually universal consensus of ancient writers applied Daniel 12, not just verse 2, (and chapter 7) to the eschatological consummation, the time of the vindication of the martyrs. This includes the pseudepigraphic writings and the Essene community. They did not apply this to the Antiochan period. Stephanos Malalios does a fine job of documenting this (Stephanos Mahailios– The Danielic Eschatological Hour in the Johannine Literature, Library of New Testament Studies, 436, (New York; Bloomsbery, 2011). David Aune shows that this was the view in the works of Ezra and Baruch (Apocalypticism, Prophecy and Magic in Early Christianity, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic,2006), 18).
So, what we find in this brief examination of just a few of the OT prophecies of the eschatological consummation is that they invariably post that consummation – that end of the age – at the time of
the judgment and destruction of the Old Covenant people, the City and the Temple. All of which raises the questions:
Were the disciples aware of those prophecies when we arrive at the Olivet Discourse? Upon what basis would one claim that they were not aware of them, that thery were confused or were ignorant of what they foretold?
Very clearly, very undeniably, the Tanakh tied the judgment, the kingdom, salvation, the resurrection to the time, “When he makes all the stones of the altar kike chalkstones that are beaten to dust”; when, “He who made them will not have mercy on them, And He who formed them will show them no favor”; to the time when, “The Lord God will slay you.”
To suggest therefore, that when Jesus foretold the impending destruction of Jerusalem, the disciples were so shocked and confused that they wrongly conflated that coming destruction with the end of the age and eschatological consummation is completely misguided. If they had ANY knowledge of the Tanakh and prophecy, then they understood very well that the consummation was in fact tied inseparably to that coming desolation. They were clearly not as confused as the commentators claim. The more than understood the reality of that connection. They simply wanted to know: “When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when all these things shall come to pass?”
A final note, one of interest and importance. The reality of the destruction of Jerusalem at the end of the age was well known in ancient Israel. In fact, as William Lane points out:
“Jesus announces its destruction in close connection with the establishment of his sovereign dignity. The prophecy is distinctly eschatological in its significance. Malachi 3:1-6 had described the coming of the Lord to his temple in the context of the judgment for the refining and purifying of His people. In this context the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is to be understood as the judgment of God upon the rebelliousness of his people, and not simply the response of Imperial Rome to insurrection. Significant strands of Jewish literature also attributed the fall of Jerusalem to the sin of her people.” (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Mark, (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1974), 453).
In his footnote #30, Lane cites several pre-AD 70 ancient rabbis who predicted the AD 70 judgment. So, what this means is that the Jews understood that the temple was supposed to be destroyed at the end of the age. That was a well established fact, both in scriptures and among the ancient rabbis.
Thus, once again, to suggest, to insist, and to build an entire eschatological paradigm on the claim that the disciples simply had no idea that the temple was to be destroyed, and that there was no connection between that event and the end of the age is specious, false, Biblically unsound and historically inaccurate. That concept was fully established by prophecy, well known, taught and accepted by the rabbis.
Stay tuned for more, as I demonstrate from Jesus’ own teaching on the end of the age that the disciples affirmed that they understood what he was saying. Thus, the claim that the disciples were just horribly confused in the Olivet Discourse melts away, revealing that it is the Bible commentators who are confused, not the first century apostles of Jesus.
In the meantime, get a copy of my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings, in which I discuss in depth, the question of whether Jesus’ apostles were ignorant, confused, deluded and wrong, when the linked Jesus’ prediction of the end of the age and his coming to the destruction of the city and Temple.