In the study of eschatology there is a tendency to avoid passages that are hard and difficult; especially when they are hard to harmonize with one’s own views of eschatology. The honest student will readily admit the tendency to want to do this at times. Legion are the passages that are very difficult to sort through, and all who have spent long hours involved in the study of last things know that it can be tedious and painstaking. This is especially the case when dealing with the highly symbolic texts that can at times dominate the issues involved. Such is why this writer believes that a host of questions with some grave consequences toward some of the traditional positions held, have been avoided within the church on matters of eschatology.
A warning to the intrepid! Daring to rise up and question some of the issues of eschatology that have been so readily believed and taught, or more accurately, the "way" they have been believed and taught, can result in vilification and one being treated as a pariah. This is not an area of study for the easily frightened. For those with the fortitude to consider it their basic right to examine the scriptures for themselves, and to readily question the traditions of men, the issues of eschatology are begging for diligent students to open their Bibles and minds and begin digging.
One thing is sure, the correct view can never be truly represented until we have put in the time and harmonized the difficult passages with the easy. It is an elementary thing to be able to find some passage that will "appear" to substantiate what one is saying. It is quite another thing to be able to harmonize that "proof-text" with all that the Bible has to say about the issue(s) involved. In other words, error is its own worst enemy! If one is continually "meeting himself coming and going" in his approach to a position he holds, it is proof positive that he is in error. Dear reader, people contradict themselves, not the Bible.
In dealing with the many difficult passages involved in the discussion of eschatology, there is a very basic and beneficial rule of Bible study that is almost completely abandoned when it is needed most. That is, the axiomatic rule that the "obscure" passage must be understood in light of the "clear." While many within the amillennial camp give "lip service" to this rule, they really contradict it. While denouncing those of the premillennial mind-set for trying to force their "far-fetched" ideas from the Book of Revelation on the rest of the clearer portions of the New Testament, they have apparently unwittingly done the same thing to continue to espouse some of their cherished traditions.
This neglect is very clear, for example, in always quoting Mark 9:1 in relationship to Acts 1 & 2 to "theoretically" show that Christ was referring to Pentecost relative to the coming of the kingdom in power. The problem is they hardly ever even mention the companion to this in Matthew’s gospel (i.e. 16:27-28). The reason they do this is that in the Matthean context, the coming of the Kingdom is associated with the "coming of Christ in judgment." That won’t work for Pentecost. But in perfect harmony with Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 (especially verse 31), it will work in the destruction of Jerusalem and the full judgment and removal of the Old Covenant world in 70 A.D..
When confronted with the clear incongruity of these problems with their presuppositions, the dedicated traditionalist will answer: "I know that Matthew’s context must be referring to Pentecost because Mark’s does." Such, of course, is clearly "circular" reasoning. The clear problem here is that in relationship to time of fulfillment, Matthew’s comments are clearly more exact and delineating. Therefore, Matthew’s text should be used to shed light on the Markan text; not the other way around.
To this writer the most glaring example of this in the study of eschatology is not just the mis-treatment, but most often the lack of treatment that is given to the context of Luke the Seventeenth chapter, verses twenty through thirty-seven. This chapter is absolutely essential to understanding some of the more dominant eschatological contexts that are being hotly debated among amillennialists and preterists. Especially is this the case regarding Matthew, chapter twenty-four.
This chapter is a real hub chapter between what was prophesied in the Old Testament regarding eschatology and what we understand about the fulfillment of eschatology in the New Testament. To correctly understand this chapter will greatly assist the student of the Bible to grasp the Bible’s eschatological scheme. Needless to say, the opposite is also true; misunderstand this critical chapter, and one will miss the design and purpose of biblical eschatology in many important aspects.
This is not meant to sound self-righteous or hyper-critical. If anything it is meant to be an expose’ of this writer’s own journey as he has attempted to honestly deal with some passages that did not appear to support what he was raised with nor what he himself attempted to preach and defend for a number of years. Matthew 24 is one of those passages.
The debate, as most are well acquainted with concerns whether Christ dealt with two issues (i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem vs. 1-34 – some place the dividing line after verse 35 – and the end of the world vs. 35ff.), or just one, that being the destruction of Jerusalem and the final overthrow of the Jewish system. Let it be stated so that the reader is not deceived, that this is not just something that has arisen because of preterism. There are many in the amillennial camp that have devoutly stated their belief that the whole of Matthew 24 pertains to only the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D..
Why is this so critical? Because if the chapter is only dealing with a first century fulfillment, then the futurist is denied his most articulate denial of the preterist postulate, that the Parousia of Christ was a first century spiritual event in keeping with all the imminent time statements made concerning His coming (e.g. Matt.16:27-28; Lk.21:20-36; Jn.21:22-23; Rom.13:11-12; 1 Cor.1:4-8; Heb.8:13; 10:25,37; Jas.5:7-9; 1 Pet.4:5,7,17; 1 Jn.2:18; Jude 17-19; Rev.1:1-3,7; 22:6,7,10,20; just to name a few). Of course, as most are aware, the true preterist view is that the second coming of Christ was to finally judge and remove the last vestiges of the Old Covenant system and fully establish the kingdom and the New Covenant system by 70 A.D..
The traditionalist, to overcome the weight of these time statements, takes refuge in his view of the meaning of the thirty-sixth verse of Matthew twenty-four which they claim to be a transition verse between the two separate events. The text says: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my father only." There are of course many aspects of this that need attention. Suffice it to say that Jesus is in no way asked two different questions about two different days. He had been talking about the rebellious Jews and destroying the temple, and the apostles were only concerned about that event. Many have based their "two question" interpretation upon the King James and American Standard rendering of the world "world" in verse three. The weight of almost all other translations, lexicographers and the realm of linguistic scholarship, agree that the term rendered "world" by these two older translations is more accurately translated "age" as is manifested in almost all later translations.
These men knew that if Christ tore down the temple and destroyed Jerusalem, He was talking about the end of Judaism, the end of the Jewish "AGE." A thorough look at Mark and Luke’s companion accounts will make it clear that Jesus was only asked about one thing and only answered concerning that one thing – the destruc
tion of the temple and Jerusalem. Many holding to their "two-answer" view seem plagued by their consciences and admit that from the text it would only appear that they asked Jesus one question, but He answered them about not only what they asked, but also about the end of the world.
The next thing they will throw is what they see as the inconsistency of Jesus giving a host of signs in the first part of the chapter, but then saying in verse 36: "But of that day and hour no one knows" "You see", they say, "one day has foretelling signs, the other not even Jesus Himself knows the time." One day has signs, the other doesn’t, therefore it can’t be the same day! Sounds good, doesn’t it? Dear reader, examine carefully all three synoptic accounts and see if in any of them Jesus ever told them that they would know "the Day" in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. You won’t find it anywhere. The signs He gave them was to tell them when it would be "NEAR" (Matt.24:32-33; MK.13:29; Lk.21:29-31). He never identified the day of Jerusalem’s demise.
It is granted that we could go round and round for some time and perhaps accomplish nothing just staying in Matthew 24. But to the honest student willing to let the Bible shed light on itself, there is a divine answer that absolutely ends all questions as to the scope of Matthew’s treatment of Christ’s words. That passage is Luke the seventeenth chapter. This is another one of those "much clearer" passages that should have been used to shed light on the more obscure account in Matthew. (This writer must say, however, that he believes that the only genuine reason Matthew’s is difficult is due to the massive presuppositional bias with which it is approached.) But rather than being used in the way God intended, it is virtually never even mentioned or examined.
Why? Let the reader study for Himself, and it will be immediately apparent why they don’t like to compare this context. Quite simply, it decimates their dualistic approach to Matthew 24. That it is a parallel account, no honest person can or would deny. To attempt to deny it would make the Bible unintelligible. Reader, immediately beware of any one who would deny the "undeniable" link between these two passages. Such a person has a "hidden agenda" for the purpose of defending his opinions. The lucid force of this passage must be dealt with.
First of all let it be noted that in this parallel account of Luke, all of these same signs and symbols are being applied to the question asked by the Pharisees as to "when the kingdom would come." If Jesus is using signs in Luke’s account to answer when the kingdom would fully come that in Matthew’s account are applied to the destruction of Jerusalem, it doesn’t take a "Solomon" to figure out that any attempt to apply the coming of the kingdom in its fulfillment on Pentecost A.D.30 is patently false.
Most traditional amillennialists boldly assert that the first part of Matthew (24:1-34) only can refer to Jerusalem at 70 A.D., while the second part (24:35 – 25:46) is completely different and only can be applied to the end of the world and the "real" second coming of Jesus. This is the case since His own previously mentioned second coming doesn’t count according to these teachers (see 23:39; 24:29-33). But this writer believes Jesus meant what He said. He came just as He foretold and there is no "third" coming mentioned anywhere.
Finally, a quick examination of Luke 17 will reveal that according to Luke’s arrangement of the signs and symbols he only understood Christ to be referring to one event, which, as we have already stated, pertained to the full coming of the kingdom. No distinction is possible when examining Luke’s context. He uses the signs from the first part of Matthew 24 and the second part also in an intermingled fashion. Notice the following comparison:
|Luke 17:||Matthew 24:|
|23) "..Look here or look there…"||23) "…Look here…or there…" (first part)|
|24) "For as the lightning flashes…"||27) "For as the lightning comes…" (first part)|
|25) "…this generation…"||34) "…this generation…" (first part)|
|26) "As it was in the days of Noah…"||37) "But as the days of Noah…" (second part)|
|27) "They ate…drank…married…"||38) "…eating…drinking…marrying…" (second part)|
|30) "…Son of man…revealed…"||39) "coming of the Son of Man…" (second part)|
|31) "…He who is on housetop…"||17) "…him…on housetop…" (first part)|
|34) "…two women grinding…"||41) "…two women grinding…" (second part)|
|36) "…two men…in field…"||40) "…two men…in field…" (second part)|
|37) "…body…eagles…"||28) "…carcass…eagles…" (first part)|
We are told in Mark’s gospel that the "common people heard Him gladly" (12:37). Such simply meant that Jesus’ words were easily understood. He didn’t use "double talk" to confuse those He was trying to save. With that in mind, this writer submits that if the two accounts above are not parallel and referring to the same singular thing, then the Bible, specifically the words of Jesus, are unintelligible. It requires no theological help or wizardry to understand that they refer to the same thing. But it requires absolute "theological gymnastics" to deny such. No one save the person trying to protect a pet theory would ever dream of tampering with such clear truth.
What do the detractors of this view say? Generally, absolutely nothing! Study what sources you have available from those holding the traditional view. Prepare to be disappointed. This writer has not found any willing to really deal with the consequences of this comparison.
The next preacher you hear putting out these same old tired arguments on Matthew 24 ask him, "But what will you do with Luke 17?"