Those who reject Matthew 24-25 as a united discourse about the end of the Jewish Age offer a series of arguments to demonstrate a division in subject matter. One of the key arguments is that four times in three different verses, Matthew 24:19,22,29, Jesus refers to "those days." However, we are told, in verse 36 we have a direct contrast when Jesus says "But of that day and hour knoweth no man."
North says "verse 36 starts with the word ‘but’ suggesting a contrast with what has gone before. Before verse 34, moreover, Jesus uses the plural ‘days’ to refer to his major subject, while after verse 34 he speaks in the singular of ‘that day.’" Jackson also notes this so-called distinction. Roy Deaver, says "Whereas the Lord has been discussing "those days," he now makes the reference to ‘that day.’ The Greek says, ‘that day.’ Obviously, this is a transition text." Robert Taylor also believes "that day" is positive proof of a change in subject. The post-millennialist Kik also emphasized this distinction: "The expression ‘that day and hour’ gives immediate evidence of a change of subject matter. Among non-millennialists then, it is obvious the "those days-vs-that day" argument is vitally important in establishing a division in the Olivet Discourse.
This article will examine this argument to see if it is valid. The material presented here is part of a book on Matthew 24 currently being written by this scribe.
One of the reasons a distinction between those days and that day is seen by many commentators is because of a pre-conceived idea that the disciples had asked three questions about two subjects, the destruction of Jerusalem and end of time. With this foundational presupposition unquestioned the interpreter then sees Jesus changing the subject in verse 36.
A basic fallacy in this approach is the failure to observe context. In chapter 23 Jesus had predicted disaster for the city, vs. 35-39. He said that judgment was coming in that generation; he also called that event his coming, vs. 39.
The disciples had just heard their Lord predict his coming in that generation to judge the Temple and city. They immediately called his attention to the huge and beautiful stones of the Temple. His response was to repeat his words of doom for that incredible edifice. The disciples then asked him when those events would transpire and the sign of his coming to bring those events to reality.
Where is the contextual evidence the disciples had any other coming in mind than the coming just mentioned by Jesus — his coming to destroy Jerusalem in that generation? It is pure eisegesis to import another coming into this context.
Some claim the disciples could not imagine Jerusalem’s fall without thinking about the end of time. But how so? Did they not know Jerusalem was completely destroyed in 586 B.C.? Surely. The disciples well knew that Jerusalem had fallen before yet time had continued. Why could they not believe the same about the destruction at the coming of Jesus?
Were it not for a misguided preconceived idea that the disciples asked about a coming of Jesus to end time there would not be such strained efforts to divide the chapter into two subjects. The disciples did not ask about any such thing — unless therefore Jesus injected another subject into the discussion without warning we are fully justified in seeing the "that day" reference as directly related to "those days."
Carefully consider some evidence that demonstrates the "those days" vs "that day" argument is invalid.
Does not logic indicate that "those days" would have a climactic "that day"? Are those who maintain this distinction arguing that the stressful "those days" of the Abomination of Desolation, vs. 15-19 and Great Tribulation, vs. 22 did not have a final "that day"? Can they not see that "those days" led directly to "the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven" vs. 30?
Notice the contextual flow: in the days before the coming of the Son of Man there would be persecution, the Abomination of Desolation and the Great Tribulation. But "immediately after" the tribulation of "those days" they would see the "coming of the Son of Man" vs. 30.
Jesus did not say they would see the "comings" of the Son of Man; nor did he say the coming would happen over a period of "those days." He said "those days" would be just before that singular event.
Jesus said his coming, singular, would happen after "those days" — plural. The coming of the Son of man was the climactic "that day" to which "those days" had led.
We are confirmed in this understanding by looking earlier in the chapter. In verse 14 Jesus said "This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world for a witness to the nations, then cometh the end."
It should be noted that the amillennialists generally agree that the "end" spoken of here is the fall of Jerusalem. These same students also believe that verse 30, the coming of the Son of Man, refers to the fall of Jerusalem. Yet these same students insist "that day" of vs. 36 does not have reference to "the end" or "the coming of the Son of Man".
By implication the amillennialist is saying "those days" Never had a final "that day." This logically implies "those days" have not yet been climaxed by "that day." To divorce "that day" from "those days" is to say "those days" never had an end.
Reader, why admit that "the end" is the coming of the Son of Man; why admit "those days" refer to the events leading up to the coming of the Son of Man; why admit the coming of the Son of Man is the destruction of Jerusalem? Why then deny "the end" is what the disciples asked about, that the coming of the Son of man in vss. 29-31 is the coming they asked about; and deny that "that day" is "the end" of "those days"? It simply is not consistent to admit to the identity of "the end" and the coming of the Son of Man; to admit that "those days" definitely led up to that end, and then deny the association of "that day" and "those days"!
If the amillennialist ever admits "those days" prior to Jerusalem’s demise had a final and climactic "that day" their entire house of cards built on the "those days" vs "that day" distinction comes crumbling down!
Those days and Signs
Another inconsistency in the traditional view is seen when it is maintained that if verse 36 speaks of the coming of Christ at the end of the Jewish Age it would contradict Christ’s teaching "that none but the Father knew the time of His coming (Matthew 24:36)." North says "He had told the disciples…precisely when the destruction of Jerusalem would be: during their lifetime and they could read the sign of the approaching army so closely that they could escape it. But of His coming, no one knows when it will be — neither man, his angels, nor Jesus himself." Those who use this argument fail to consider some very basic contextual facts.
Jesus gave signs, vss. 6-15, whereby the disciples could know his coming was at hand, vs. 32-33; and he assured them it would be in that generation, vs. 34. He then cautioned them that although they could know the event was near, they could not know the "day or the hour".
Reader, did Jesus say "precisely" when the fall of Jerusalem would be? Precisely means exactly, minutely. Where does Jesus tell the disciples "precisely" when the fall would
be? He said they could know it was near; that it was going to be in that generation. But he did not tell them the day or hour. Had Jesus told them his coming in judgment on Israel was going to be let’s say September 7, AD 70 this would have been "precise". To say they could tell by signs when it was so near as to demand their flight was not to tell them "precisely" when it would be, and definitely would not contradict "that none but the Father knew the time of His coming". On the contrary, this is but a continuation of his warnings not to be deceived and sets the stage for his further exhortations to "Watch", vs. 42ff.
Jesus could not tell them the day or the hour; but they must be ever vigilant and watch for the signs. Incidentally, the very fact Jesus warned them repeatedly to "Watch" destroys forever the argument there would be no signs of the coming of the Lord. If it is the case there would be no signs of the coming of the Son of Man it must be true that there would be no need to watch, for there would be nothing for which to watch! But Jesus repeatedly warned them to watch, therefore there must have been something to watch for. Compare I Thessalonians 5; Hebrews 10:25.
Since Jesus’ warnings to watch are to be seen in the context of the signs it cannot be true that there is a contrast between "those days" and "that day". "Those days" were the days when the signs would appear; "that day" was the day the signs signaled was at hand!
Does the fact that verse 36 starts with "but" signal a contrast in subject matter? Those who divide the chapter believe it does. Brother Charles Geiser has written an excellent tract on the unity of Matthew 24 demonstrating that "but" is a conjunction and not a preposition. As a conjunction "but" is not a word of contrast but joins what has just been said with what is about to be said. The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament, Appendix, Part II, page 11 says the conjunctival usage of "de", "is by far the most frequent use of the particle ‘de’ in the New Testament".
If the use of "but" at the beginning of a verse introduces a break in subject or a contrast there are 24 subject changes in chapters 24 and 25. That is the number of times "de" is used in these two chapters. See Matthew 24:6,8,13,20,32,36,43,48. Look up the instances in chapter 25 on your own to confirm what I am saying.
Will those who insist that "but" introduces a contrast be consistent? Will they say Jesus introduces a new subject or is contrasting subject matter in all these verses? Can you imagine what a confusing mixture these chapters would become if we followed the traditional teaching about "but" consistently?
An examination of the verses before 24:36 and after reveals that the most common usage of "but" in Matthew 24-25 has nothing to do with changing subjects! More on Matthew 24:36 later.
"Days" and Luke 17
Those who place so much emphasis on the "those days" versus "that day" would do well to take a look at the problems their own argument presents them.
In Luke 17, a passage generally applied to the future by amillennialists, we find two significant texts. In verse 22 Jesus said "the days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man". (my emphasis) Jackson says this verse means "He was indicating that severe times were coming to test them, and they might wish that the end of the world had come". Obviously, Jackson applies this passage to the end of time.
Notice now verse 26 "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man". (emphasis mine)
Consider: first, our critics insist that when Jesus spoke of "those days" he was speaking of the days before the fall of Jerusalem; actually they implicitly include the actual fall within "those days". They insist that "that day" is an almost technical reference to the coming of Jesus to end time. These writers do not believe Jesus ever referred to his coming in a reference to "those days"; or at the very least do not believe "that day" can be a referent to the fall of Jerusalem climaxing "those days". Luke 17 disproves this thesis.
If it is the case Jesus never refers to his "second coming" (the end of time per our critics) in association with the plural term "days", then any passage that speaks of "days" cannot be referent to Jesus’ "second coming". But Luke 17:22,26 speaks of "days" in association with the coming of Jesus; therefore Luke 17:22ff cannot be a referent to the "second coming" of Jesus. This leaves our critics with two choices.
First, they can abandon the "those days" versus "that day" argument; but to do so leaves them without their "continental divide" for Matthew 24, and they are thus forced to acknowledge it is a unified discourse about the fall of the Jewish World. If there is no division of Matthew 24 at verse 36, there is simply no division. Second, they can give up Luke 17 as a referent to the "end of time".
To abandon Luke 17 as a referent to the end of time has serious implications for the futurist. If Luke 17 is not speaking of our future then it applies to the fall of Jerusalem; but if Luke 17 speaks of the fall of the Theocracy, then all of Matthew 24 speaks of the fall of Jerusalem. Why is this so?
The amillennialist divides Matthew 24 into two segments; verses 4-35 are seen as speaking exclusively about Jerusalem’s demise. Verses 36-51 are seen as a discussion of the end of time. But the reader needs to know that in Luke 17:21-37 Jesus describes his coming with language drawn from both sections of Matthew 24.
In verses 23-24 he uses the language of 24:26-27, (first section). In verses 26-27 Luke records Jesus using the words of Matthew 24:37-39, (second section). In verse 31 he says the same as in Matthew 24:17-18, (first section). In verses 35-36 he uses the identical language of 24:40-41, (second section). In verse 37 he uses the language of 24:28, (first section).
If Jesus in Luke 17 was discussing only a final coming to end time, and if he was going to draw language from Matthew 24; if it is true that in Matthew 24 he discusses two subjects, the fall of Jerusalem and His "final coming," would it not behoove him, in order to avoid confusion, to utilize language from Matthew 24 that spoke ONLY of the same subject as in Luke 17? Would it not be terribly confusing, to say the least, for Jesus to utilize in Luke 17 language from his Olivet Discourse in which he was speaking exclusively about Jerusalem’s fall, and yet in Luke his discussion had nothing to do with the destruction of Jerusalem?
For instance, how could Jesus speak in Luke 17 of his disciples not coming down off their houses to get their possessions if he was speaking of an inescapable, catastrophic, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" event? How indeed when he had used this very image in Matthew 24:17f to urge them to escape the impending disaster?
Since what Jesus had to say in Luke 17 is speaking about the "days" associated with the coming of the Son of Man, if it is the case that no reference to "days" can be used in association with the final coming of Christ, then since Luke 17 does refer to the "days" of the Son of Man, Luke 17 cannot be speaking of a final, end of time coming of the Son of Man.
Now since Jesus, in Luke 17, uses the identical language of Matthew 24 (from both "sections") and makes no distinction in subject matter, we conclude that Luke 17 and the entirety of Matthew 24 speak of the same subject. Since Luke 17 cannot be speak
ing of a final, time ending coming of Jesus, and yet Luke 17 discusses the same subject as Matthew 24, (both "sections") it must be true that Matthew 24 cannot be referring to a final, time ending coming of Jesus. The so called contrast between "those days" and "that day" is therefore proven false.
The fallacy of this distinction is further demonstrated in Luke 17. Note verse 26 "as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man". Now notice verse 27: "until the day that Noe entered the ark". the days of Noah had a final climactic day. And Luke said the coming of the Son of Man would be like the days of Noah.
Now look at verse 28 "as it was in the days of Lot". In verse 29 it says "the same day that Lot went out it rained fire." In verse 30 he says "thus it shall be when the Son of Man is revealed." What you have is days leading up to a day; and the writer says the coming of the Son of Man would be like that!
Now watch, in verse 26 Luke says "as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man". In verse 30 he speaks of "the day when the Son of Man is revealed," and in verse 31 calls it "in that day".
At this juncture we observe that not only in Luke do we find "those days" leading to "that day" of the coming of the Son of Man being compared to the days of Noah, we find the identical comparison in Matthew 24. Notice that in Matthew 24:37 Jesus said "as in the days of Noe, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be." He proceeds to describe the activity of the unbelievers in Noah’s day who went about their normal activities oblivious to impending disaster. He then says "they knew not until the flood came and took them all away". Remember that Luke says this was "the day" Noah entered the ark. Jesus then says "so shall the coming of the Son of Man be" vs. 39.
Jesus was speaking of the days leading up to the day of the Son of Man. This is after the so-called "continental divide" of the chapter and is in direct contradiction to the claim that in Matthew 24 Jesus never referred to his final coming in association with "those days"! In the very section of Matthew 24 where there is supposed to be no mention of "those day", or days plural, we find "days" leading to "the day" of the coming of Christ. Just as in verses 4-28 Jesus spoke of the events of "those days" leading to "the day" of the coming of the Son of Man, vs. 30, he continues his "days" leading to the "day" discussion in verses 37ff! There simply is no contrast in subject matter.
In Luke 17 then you have three references to days and a final day. Noah’s days led to a final day; Lot’s days led to a final day; and the days of the Son of Man led to a final day. Yet it is more than obvious that the final day of the coming of the Son of Man cannot be an end of time coming; it was his coming in judgment on Jerusalem in 70 AD. The application to this study should be obvious.
In Matthew 24 Jesus spoke of those days vss 19,22,29; but "those days" would be consummated by the "coming of the Son of Man" verse 30. Reader, how can we escape the conclusion that the coming of the Son of Man is "that day" of verse 36, and was the consummation of "those days"; especially when Luke 17, (as well as Matthew 24:37ff), says the coming of the Son of Man would have "those days" leading up to the "day" of his revealing?
Once again, the only way to avoid this dilemma is to acknowledge that Luke 17 is not a discussion of the end of time; yet to admit this demands that Matthew 24 also be relinquished as containing any such discussion. In debate terms this is called a "two-horned dilemma."
Heaven and Earth Shall Pass
One reason verse 36 is seen as a dividing point is because in verse 35 Jesus said "Heaven and earth shall pass, but my word shall never pass". Verse 36 is then taken to mean "of the day for the passing of literal heaven and earth at my coming no man knows."
If one takes this position he has implicitly abandoned verse 36 as the transitional verse and placed it at verse 35! But verse 35 does not contain that cherished word "but" so emphasized by our critics; where then is the contrast? If verse 35 becomes the break then "but" in verse 36 becomes conjunctive. Since verse 35 has no word of contrast then it must be associated with the passing of the heavens and earth in verses 29-31. To insist that "but" changes the subject has serious implications.
It implies that Jesus is changing the subject from the passing of heaven and earth because that is the subject of verse 35. Remember, verse 36 has the "but" that introduces, not continues, a contrast, we are told. If verse 36 changes subject, the passing of heaven and earth in verse 35 cannot be the subject of verse 36!
To say verse 36 says you cannot know the day or hour of verse 35 is to abandon the contrast idea of verse 36. This says that verse 35 actually introduces the idea of heaven and earth passing while verse 36 says you cannot know the day or hour. But by doing so this means that "but" has become a conjunction and not a word of contrast; in this view "but" loses its contrast significance.
If one takes verse 36 as the "continental divide" then verse 35 of necessity becomes associated with verses 29-34, i.e. the passing of the Old World of Israel. Not a few realize that verses 29-31 speak of the passing of the "heaven and earth" of Israel. But if verse 35 is not the transitional verse, it is, along with verses 29-31, also a statement about the passing of the heaven and earth of Israel in that generation! This demands then, a search for the identity of "that day" in verse 36. If verse 35 does not give the identity of "that day" in verse 36 where do we get it?
For verse 36 to be speaking of the passing of literal heaven and earth it must be acknowledged that verse 35 is not literal (remember, verse 36 changed the subject from verse 35). This means verse 36, (though it does not mention the passing of heaven and earth, and cannot be referent to verse 35), is speaking of some day, unmentioned in the context to this point, of unidentified nature and concerning which the modern reader must assume the subject is the literal passing of material heaven and earth.
Who would deny that vss. 29-31 do refer to Israel’s heaven and earth? The premillennialist does of course since he literalizes the verses; but he is then confronted with verse 34. To admit these verses do speak of Israel’s world is to immediately raise the question of how it is possible to insist on a spiritual interpretation of these verses and then demand a literal fulfillment of verse 35. Where is the hermeneutical key to unlock this mystery? Is it not far more contextual to acknowledge that in verse 35 Jesus is summarizing what he has just said of Israel’s demise and setting her passing in direct contrast to His new world that will never pass away?
When we realize the disciples never asked about the end of literal heaven and earth, as seen earlier, and when we realize that verses 29-35 do not speak of such an event, we are forced to conclude that verse 36 is simply stating the uncertainty of the precise day and hour for the passing of the Old Heaven and Earth of Israel in 70 AD.
The passing of heaven and earth spoken of in Matthew 24:29-35 directly militates against the "those days" versus "that day" argument based on Matthew 24:36. The contextual flow demands the heaven and earth be identified with the passing of the Old Heaven and Earth of Israel at the coming of Jesus in 70 AD. The traditional interpretation, erroneously based on an imagined contrast in v
erse 36, violates the context and is self-contradictory.
I have demonstrated that the argument, posed by the majority of amillennialists, about a supposed contrast in subject matter between "those days" and "that day" in Matthew 24 is untenable. We have done this by a variety of different evidence. I have demonstrated the true context of Matthew 24 and the inherent contradictions with the amillennialist’s own argument. There is even more evidence we could present but space forbids it. Hopefully, all of these various pieces of evidence will promote more objectivity and study on the part of all.
I believe I have shown that in Matthew 24:36, when Jesus said "But of that day and hour knoweth no man," that his reference was to "that day" that would climax "those days" leading up to the final dissolution of the Old Heaven and Earth of Israel at the return of Messiah in 70 AD.