A Few Thoughts in Response to Robert L Kramer– #4
What About This Generation in Matthew 24:34?
Don K. Preston
This is the fourth in a series of what will be seven articles in response to Mr. Robert Kramer. Kramer produces the “Second Thoughts” journal (42 Evans Ave. Sinking Spring, Pa., 19608). Mr. Kramer and I have corresponded in the past, since he sometimes expresses his views against Covenant Eschatology. Kramer seems to be a genuinely good man who loves the Lord, and I have always appreciated his demeanor in our correspondence.
Just recently, a friend sent me some correspondence from Mr. Kramer in which he challenged several tenets of Covenant Eschatology. My friend asked if I would be willing to respond to some of the issues that Kramer raised , and I am happy to do so.
Mr. Kramer’s Fourth Objection: The references to “this generation’ (Matthew 24:34) pertains to ‘all these things’ that led up to the temple’s destruction– i.e. verses 4-28, not to the second coming of Christ.”
: Once again, Mr. Kramer’s objection is based on many false assumptions.
1.) He assumes that the disciples were wrong or confused to link the destruction of Jerusalem with the end of the age and Christ’s coming. This basic assumption lies at the root of 99% of all interpretations of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse.
2.) He assumes that the end of the age is the end of the current Christian age, and Christ’s coming is a literal, bodily, physical descent of Christ out of heaven. We will not address this here. We will not address these presuppositions here.
3.) As a result of these fundamental presuppositions, Mr. Kramer is forced then to mitigate Jesus’ time statements and apply them to something foreign to what the disciples asked about.
As to assumption #1, let me insert here an edited and abbreviated bit of material I have written for a book project. The question about whether the disciples were confused or wrong to link the end of the age with the fall of the Temple is critical to all attempts to interpret Matthew 24.
Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 13:39-43. He would send forth his angels to gather the elect and judge the wicked. When this was done, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). This is a direct echo of Daniel 12:3! (See John Nolland, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, Paternoster, 2005)561. Hagner,(1993,394). Frederick Dale Bruner, The ChurchBook, Matthew 13-28, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2004)45 for just a few of the scholars that see this connection). For brevity sake, let me express my argument like this:
The coming of the Lord at the harvest / resurrection at the end of the age in Matthew 13:39-43 is the end of the age resurrection foretold by Daniel 12:2-3.
But, the end of the age resurrection foretold by Daniel 12:2-3 would take place “When the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (Daniel 12:7).
Therefore, the coming of the Lord at the harvest / resurrection at the end of the age in Matthew 13:39-43 would take place, “When the power of the holy people is completely shattered.”
(It should be noted that the distinctive Greek term rendered “end of the age” sunteleia aionos in Matthew 13:40 is the same term the disciples used when they inquired of the end of the age in Matthew 24:3. See my Into All the World Then Comes The End for a full discussion of this distinctive term).
So, what we have is that Jesus told a parable about the kingdom, the judgment, the end of the age. His parable is based squarely on Daniel 12 which foretold the fulfillment of these things when Israel would be completely shattered.
Notice now, that Jesus continued to discuss the end of the age with the disciples. He then posed an important question to them, a question that is virtually ignored in the discussions of Matthew 24:3 and whether the disciples were confused in their questions. In Matthew 13:51 Jesus asked his disciples “Have you understood all of these things?” This is a critical question for it has a direct bearing on our understanding of the eschatology of Jesus and particularly Matthew 24.
Remember, Matthew 13 and Matthew 24 are about the end of the age. The identical distinctive Greek term is used in both texts. Both passages speak of the gathering (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 24:31). Both passages are dealing with God’s promises to Israel and the fate of Israel. Daniel 12 emphatically and irrefutably posits the kingdom, the gathering, the resurrection / harvest at the time of Israel’s destruction. Jesus directly alludes (some say he is loosely quoting Daniel 12:3, and in the normal custom of citations in the first century, this is true). Jesus then asked the disciples if they understood what he had said, and they affirmed that they did!
Now, did the disciples know that Daniel 12 foretold the end of the age? Who can deny that? Did they understand that Daniel foretold the resurrection? It can hardly be missed. Did they comprehend that there was, at least in some way, a direct connection between the end of the age, the kingdom, the resurrection and the destruction of Israel, as Daniel so clearly states? Well, they said they understood what Jesus was saying! And Jesus was citing Daniel’s prophecy of the end, the resurrection and the destruction of Israel.
If the end of the age in Matthew 13 is the end of the age in Daniel 12, then the end of the age in Matthew 13 would be when Israel was shattered.
If the end of the age in Matthew 13 is the end of the age in Matthew 24, then the end of the age of Matthew 24 would be when Israel was shattered.
The disciples said they understood what Jesus said about the end of the age in Matthew 13.
But Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 13 is drawn from Daniel 12 which predicted the end of the age when Israel was shattered.
Therefore, unless the disciples lied about understanding Jesus’ discourse about the end of the age in Matthew 13– and its undeniable connection to Daniel 12– then unless it can be definitively proven that they did in fact not understand what Jesus said in Matthew 13, it is prima facie evident that the disciples were not confused to connect the destruction of the Temple with the end of the age!
Did the disciples lie in Matthew 13 when they said they understood Jesus’ appeal to Daniel about the end of the age?
Did the disciples forget what Jesus said in Matthew 13 when they asked their questions in Matthew 24? Even if they had somehow forgotten it, that does not invalidate the actual connection between the end of the age and the destruction of Israel found in Daniel / Matthew 13!
Did the disciples misapply Jesus
’ application of Daniel, in Matthew 13? What is the proof of that? Furthermore, how could / did they misapply that discussion? Daniel and Matthew 13 are predictive of the end of Israel’s age at the time of her destruction. The end of that age at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple is what prompted the disciples’ questions in Matthew 24. So, where would the misapplication and misunderstanding be?
As you can see, the fundamental preconception upon which Mr. Kramer bases his entire argument against “this generation” is falsified by understanding that the disciples were not wrong to connect the end of the age with the destruction of Israel and Jerusalem! This means that Jesus’ prediction of his coming, at the end of the age, in Matthew 24:29f is his coming of v. 3. And, it means that Jesus’ statement in verse 34 that “all of these things” would be fulfilled in his generation refers to his second coming.
The fundamentally flawed concept about the disciple’s questions lies at the root of too much eschatological confusion to day. It is time to understand that it was not the first century disciples that were confused or wrong in their eschatology, it is the modern Bible student who refuses to see the connection between the demise of the temple and the Lord’s parousia that is confused and wrong.
A programming note: On February 22, on www.AD70.net, I will be discussing at length: Which Disciples Were (Or Are) Confused? This will be an indepth investigation into whether the disciples were confused or wrong to link Christ’s coming with the Temple’s demise. This program will challenge your thinking about the fundamental presuppositions that most commentators have about Matthew 24:3. The program will air at 4 PM central time. Tune in for this fascinating and important discussion!