The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:3 in the Cross Hairs- #4
Which Disciples Were (Or Are!) Confused? #4
Before proceeding with our analysis of Matthew 13, I want to share with the reader a bit more of the exchanges I have had with several former preterists on FaceBook. These detractors deny that the apostles of Jesus had any inkling whatsoever that the Jerusalem temple was to ever be destroyed, and thus, were stunned by Jesus’ prediction of that coming event. Be sure to read the previous article that refutes that claim. But, to buttress and confirm that, let me share a bit more additional information that comes from Jewish rabbis writing after AD 70. What was their response to that catastrophe? It is telling!
The post AD 70 rabbis lamented the destruction and pointed back to it as the time when Messiah and the Kingdom WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE COME! Where did they get the idea that Messiah was supposed to have come by AD 70– if there were no pre-AD 70 prophecies that indicated that?
Here is just a sliver of that evidence:
Rabbi Shmuel ben Nahmani declared in the name of Rabbi Jonathan ‘blasted be the bones of those who calculate the End, for they used to say, ‘since the time of his arrival has come and he has not come he will never come.’” (BT Sanhedrin 97b: 680 and n. 16). (Samuel ben Nahman (Hebrew: שמואל בן נחמן ) or Samuel [bar] Nahmani (Hebrew: שמואל [בר] נחמני ) was a rabbi of the Talmud, known as an amora, who lived in the Land of Israel from the beginning of the 3rd century until the beginning of the 4th century). (Andrea M. Berlin and J. Andrew Overman, The First Jewish Revolt, Archaeology, History and Ideology, (New York, Routledge, New York and London, 2002), 166f). This kind of citation could be multiplied. See for instance Lloyd Gaston’s tome, No Stone on Another, (Brill, Leiden).
In addition to this, we have the testimony of Josephus who said that there were numerous prophecies of the final fate of Jerusalem, including Deuteronomy 32 and Daniel 9.
As one writer expressed it:
//Thus Josephus encourages his readers to pick up the book of Daniel ‘to learn about the hidden things that are to come’ (Ant. 10.210), and later claims that Daniel predicted not only the events that occurred under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but also those of Josephus’s own day (Ant. 10.276). He also presents the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel as having foreseen the destruction of the temple in AD 70.//
When I presented this evidence, Sam Frost, leader of the “anti-preterist” pack on the FaceBook page “Full Preterism: A Thing of the Past,” the only “response” that Frost could offer was to claim that my sources are spurious! He gave no proof for his claim, because he couldn’t.
So, once again, if there were no pre-AD 70 predictions and understanding of the significance of the destruction of Jerusalem, why did the post AD 70 rabbis say that the time for Messiah had come and gone? Why did they then condemn any further calculations of the time of the end, since AD 70 was supposed to have been the time of fulfillment? Well, guess what? Those Jews had the same misguided expectation of a materialistic, earthly kingdom that Mr. Frost, Vincent, Cunningham, Conley, et. al do, the very kind of expectation that put Jesus on the cross!
And of course the point is that if those post AD 70 rabbis believed that the OT scriptures foretold the AD 70 destruction, are we to suppose that Jesus’ apostles were ignorant of those prophecies? That is a truly spurious idea.
And now, on to some preliminary thoughts on Matthew 13.
When Jesus spoke of the end of the age in Matthew 13, and cited Daniel 12:3, saying the end of the age would be when Daniel was fulfilled, the disciples knew – did they not – that verse 7 posited that end of the age at the time when the power of the holy people was to be completely shattered?
William Lane even suggests that the form of the question found in Mark 13: “Resembles Daniel 12:7. When Daniel asked how long it would be to the end the divine messenger replied: ‘when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things will be accomplished.’” (William Lane, The New International :Commentary on the New Testament, Mark, Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1974), 454). That connection is very important. If in fact the disciples had Daniel 12 in mind it posits their question squarely within the context of the end of Israel’s covenant existence.
Now, it is stunning to see the lengths to which the opponents of Covenant Eschatology will go to escape the force of the connections between Daniel and Jesus’ eschatological teaching. Here is what I mean.
In the Olivet Discourse, in Matthew 24:15, Jesus said, “When you see the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, (let the one who reads understand), then let those in Judea flee.” Frost knows that if Jesus was saying that Daniel foretold what was to happen in his generation then his (Frost’s) current futurism melts and runs into the ground. So, he argues that what Jesus actually meant was that Daniel foretold that the Abomination of Desolation actually occurred in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. However, Frost believes that Jesus was telling his apostles that a similar atrocity was to happen in their lifetime. However, per Frost, Daniel did not actually see beyond the time of Antiochus. He did not predict the Abomination for Jesus’ day.
How does Frost escape the seeming clarity of the words? He argues that Matthew normally utilizes a formulaic way of speaking of the fulfillment of prophecy. That means that Matthew, when conveying the idea of OT prophecy being fulfilled, always said, “that it might be fulfilled.” But, Frost affirms, in Matthew 24:15 that formula does not appear. Therefore, Frost “reasons,” Matthew was not affirming the coming fulfillment of Daniel 9 or 12, he was simply saying that something similar to what happened under Antiochus was going to happen. Frost’s claims raise several questions:
1. Where is the hard fast journalistic and hermeneutical rule set forth that says that unless a writer says, “that it might be fulfilled” that he could not be affirming the fulfillment of prophecy? What is the authority for claiming that unless a writer, e.g. Matthew, said, “that it might be fulfilled” then he was not- that he could not be – speaking of the fulfillment of prophecy?
The truth is that Matthew himself sometimes indicated that prophecy was being fulfilled without using the formula that Frost demands, i.e. “that it might be fulfilled.” Here are just a few examples:
Matthew 2:5 – So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet.”
Matthew 11:10 – “For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.”
Matthew 26:24 – “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
Matthew 26:31 – [Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial ] – “Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
Now, clearly, in each of these passages Jesus (and Matthew) was saying that what was about to happen was in fulfillment of prophecy. Yet, not once did he use the formula, “that it might be fulfilled.” The only “formula” is that the OT prophets foretold those event, and the apostles and first century believers were about to see it, precisely as in, “When you see the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet.” Frost has literally invented a journalistic and hermeneutical rule that has no merit.
2. How could the apostles see what Daniel predicted, if Daniel did not predict what they were going to see? Jesus did say, “When you see the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel.” The words are very clear: “You will see what Daniel spoke of.” So, once again, how could they see what Daniel spoke of, if Daniel did not speak of what they were going to see? Jesus’ words: “When you see the Abomination spoken of by Daniel the prophet, let the reader understand, then let those in Judea flee”– are very clear. They were in fact to see what Daniel foretold.
Jesus told his apostles that when they saw what Daniel spoke of, they were to “understand.” What is the significance of this referent? Well, look at Daniel 12:9-10:
And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.
Keep in mind that when Daniel saw the vision of the Tribulation, the resurrection, the end of the age, the righteous shining forth, etc., that he said: “Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” So, Daniel did not understand the prophecy he was being given. He simply knew it involved the time of the end and the coming of the kingdom and the resurrection, at the time of the Great Tribulation.
But, not only did Daniel not understand the prophecy, the prophecy was sealed until the time of the end, when “the wise shall understand.” In the time of the end, the wise would understand Daniel’s prophecy.
So, Daniel’s prophecy was to be fulfilled in the time of the end– which was far off from his own days. And in the last days, in the time of the end, the righteous would understand. Well, Jesus appeared in the last days (Hebrews 1:1-2). He appeared in the end of the ages (Hebrews 9:26) – the very time Daniel foretold. Daniel foretold the time of the end (Greek kairou sunteleias– literally, the appointed time of the end). Jesus likewise foretold the time of the end- the end of the ages (Matthew 13:39-40). He not only appeared in the end of the age, but, he said that the time for the fulfillment of what the prophets had foretold had arrived (Matthew 13:17). He told the parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and the end of the age, so that the apostles would understand. And of course, he told his apostles that THEY would see what Daniel spoke of, and when they saw it, they were to understand. This understanding of Daniel by the apostles cannot be over-emphasized. Especially in the light of the understanding of the mystery of God spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 13.
Remember that Jesus said the wicked would not understand his teaching. And it is important to realize that he said that in instructing his apostles about the kingdom, and the fulfillment of Daniel 12:3, which he said was to be fulfilled at the end of the age (13:39-43).
Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 13:10-11. Jesus had told the parable of the sower and the wheat and tares, the harvest and the end of the age. The apostles came to Jesus and asked:
Why do You speak to them in parables?” In verse 11, Jesus answered, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
Do you see it? Jesus told a parable about the time of the end, the end of the age. He said that the understanding of the kingdom was not given to the crowds, the hostile crowds, (i.e. the wicked) but, it was given to his apostles. This is a direct commentary on Daniel 12, where Daniel was told that in the time of the end the wicked would not understand but the righteous would understand. And remember that he had just said in v. 17 that they were living in the time foretold by the prophets. Furthermore, in the parable, Jesus cited the prophecy of Daniel 12 (in v. 43). This means that Jesus told the parable of wheat and the tares, the parable predicting the end of the age in fulfillment of Daniel 12, and he told his disciples that he told the parable so that they would understand! This is in direct line with Matthew 24:15– “When you see the Abomination spoken of by Daniel,… let the reader understand.”
How much clearer could language be? Jesus clearly and unambiguously said that he was telling the parable about the end of the age, which directly echoed Daniel 12:3, so that the disciples would understand! What did Daniel 12 have to say about the time and context for the end of the age? To be sure, the language is clear: it would be, “when the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (v. 7).
So, here is what we have:
Daniel foretold the time of the end, the end of the age.
Daniel did not understand the details of what he foretold.
He was told that fulfillment was far off– not at hand.
He was told that no one would understand his vision until the time of the end, when the wicked would not understand but, the wise would understand.
While he did not understand all the details of his prophecy, Daniel was told that its fulfillment would be when the power of the holy people was completely shattered.
Then, we have this:
Jesus appeared in the last days, the very time that Daniel foretold.
Jesus told his disciples that they were living in the time anticipated by the prophets.
Jesus told a parable about the end of the age.
The apostles asked why he told such a parable.
Jesus said the wicked would not understand but, that he told the parable so that they, his apostles, would understand about the end of the age.
Jesus later cited Daniel about the Abomination of Desolation, and told his apostles that when they saw what Daniel spoke about, they were to understand.
We thus have from Jesus himself the affirmation that the time for the fulfillment of Daniel had arrived and that they were living in the time the prophets longed for. And he said that when they realized this, and when they actually saw, in Judea, the things spoken of by Daniel, that they were to understand.
As we shall see, there is more to be seen in regard to the apostle’s understanding of what Jesus said, but we will reserve that for the next installment. In the meantime, take note that in stark, direct opposition to what Jesus said, Sam Frost and his acolytes continue to insist that the disciples had no idea that Jerusalem and the temple was to ever be destroyed.
This is in spite of the fact that Frost recently did another “flip-flop” and has changed from denying that the apostles connected the destruction of the temple to the end of any age, to now saying: “it was perfectly natural for them to conflate the events.” Of course, per Frost, they were just sadly mistaken! But wait! If the apostles “naturally” conflated the destruction of the temple with the end of the age, as Frost now admits, then the idea of the temple being destroyed was not, after all, such a strange, unknown idea, was it? Thus, as is so commonly the case, Frost contradicts and entraps himself in his own words.
The reality is that it is Frost and so many commentators that are confused, badly confused. Frost simply sarcastically queried: “if they already had it all mapped out…why ask?” This question does not answer anything that we have said. It is pure evasion.
You must understand, the apostles were not asking “IF” or even WHY the temple was to be destroyed! They simply ask, “When shall these things be and What shall be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Now, if Frost and crew are correct, the apostles should have said “Lord, you are kidding! Surely this temple will never be destroyed! Where do you get such an idea?”
No, they did not ask a question about whether it was to be destroyed. No question about the relationship with that destruction of the Day of the Lord and the end of the age. No, their only questions were about when and a sign! The modern commentators shift the focus off of the real questions– “when and sign”– and say they disciples just could not believe the temple would ever be destroyed!
When the futurists change the focus of the apostles questions, they then impugn their knowledge and understanding of the end of the age, even though, as we have seen, and will see even more in the next installment, that Jesus had specifically, clearly, and unambiguously said that he told them the parable about the end of the age– which cited Daniel- so that they would understand! Sadly, according to most commentators, the disciples failed to get the memo, and to make matters worse, they evidently lied to Jesus! I will demonstrate this in the next installment, so stay tuned!
Be sure to get a copy of my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air: The Wedding of the King of kings, for a great study on the Olivet Discourse.