All these Things (A Kingdom Teaching of Matthew 24)
Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
Daniel 7:18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’
Daniel 12:1 “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.”
Daniel 7:18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’
Matthew 24:34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
Signs of the End
"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Jesus, Matthew 24:24.)
This writing on “Kingdom Theology” will focus on the phrase, “all these things,” from Matthew 24:34.
Christ gave a number of predictions which He assured the disciples would transpire within the generation spoken of in Matthew 24:34. In a former writing I listed ten of these predictions. The first five of these are fairly generic and could, perhaps, be visible in all ages of history; but the last five listed have been set forth as evidence against a literal understanding of “generation.” It is argued that these five predictions were not fulfilled in the first century, and therefore, the literal generation constituting the contemporaries of Jesus was not intended.
Of course, if our view of “generation” (namely, the multitude of people living contemporaneously with Christ) is to prove correct, it must be shown that “ALL THESE THINGS” (especially the last five on the list) took place before A.D. 70—when God’s judgment came upon Israel is such a complete fashion.
A view of the list of the predictions in question will quickly reveal the challenge (for the complete list one should see “The Crux of the Matter (A Kingdom Teaching)”).
From the list of ten predictions the following are the last five (I will list them, starting the number at 6 because of their order in the list of 10):
- The Gospel of the Kingdom preached in all the world (verse 14).
- The appearing of the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet (verse 15).
- The event of a “Great Tribulation.” (Verse 21).
- The darkening of the sun and moon; the stars falling from heaven (verse 29).
- The appearing of the sign of the Son of Man in heaven (verse 38).
The allegation is that the generation made up of the contemporaries of Christ did not produce these events. Excuse the expression, but: I denied the allegation and challenge the alligator.
Since it is the last five predictions in the list, given in Matthew 24:14-38, that is in dispute, we will focus on those. Each one of these predictions were prerequisites to the coming of the Son of Man in the “clouds of glory.” Which, Christ said would take place before His generation had passed.
Therefore, the following five arguments will show that the forty years between A.D. 30 and A.D. 70 did, indeed, see the fulfillment of “ALL THESE THINGS.”
Prerequisite #6. The Gospel of the Kingdom preached in all the world. ∼ Notice that Jesus said, “This gospel.” Not some other that would come in some future messianic age. No. The gospel He was then teaching. The one He preached, and passed on to His disciples to teach all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). The argument is that the disciples could not have possibly preached the Gospel in “all the world” before A.D. 70. ～ However, Paul disagrees: Writing to the Romans (A.D. 57) Paul states that the “Word of God” had gone “unto the ends of the world” (see Romans 10:17). To the Colossians, the same apostle states, “the Gospel ... was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (see Colossians 1:23). One might well ask, How could Paul make such claims? The answer is found in the Greek word used here for “world:” i.e. “oikomene” (Strong’s #NT 3625) Literally: inhabited earth. This phrase is a New Testament era idiom that stands for the Roman empire. The actual “earth” (Greek - “ge”, pronounced: “ghay,” Strong’s #NT1093) is not intended by the word “oikomene.” To illustrate this truth see Luke 2:1, where, we are told that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, “That all the earth should be taxed.” Obviously, only the part of the world under Roman rule was intended. The word “oikomene” is employed ten times in the New Testament: nine times it references the Roman empire directly, and once (Hebrews 2:5) the kingdom of heaven is contrast to the earthly kingdom of Rome. This prerequisite for the “coming” of the end (of the Jewish age) is an echo of the words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 10:23, “ Ye will not have gone over the cities of Israel, til the Son of Man be come.”
Prerequisite #7. The appearing of the “abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (verse 15). ∼ Literally: “the abomination that makes desolate.” This is a reference to Daniel 9:26-27. Daniel tells us that “the people of the prince ... shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with the flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. ... for the overspreading of abominations he” (the prince, or Antichrist) “shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Jesus (who is teaching this in A.D. 30) places the fulfillment of Daniel's “abomination that makes desolate” into the future, albeit, within His generation (see Matthew 24:34). Certainly, the Roman pagan Titus (A.D. 70) standing, personally, in the holy of holies of the great Temple (and thereafter razing the temple itself, and replacing it with the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus would fit Daniel’s predictions exactly. I might add: This has been the understanding of the Lord’s church over the millennia!
The recent neo-orthodox view held by pre-millennialist and pre-tribulationist (that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and animal sacrifice reinstated, and then interrupted by a future Antichrist who demands to be worshiped as God) is to be discounted out of hand, in light of the kingdom teaching of Jesus.
One need look no further than the Romans for Daniel's “abomination that makes desolate.” In fact Luke records the parallel passage to this verse from Matthew. Luke gives the words of Jesus: “and when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). Therefore, the “abomination that makes desolate” of Matthew 24:15 is identified with the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans that concluded in A.D. 70 with the razing of the temple.
Prerequisite #8. The Great Tribulation. ∼Today there is much teaching and preaching concerning the Great Tribulation. Many postulate a seven year period beginning at the rapture and concluding with the physical arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, and the beginning (at that time) of the thousand year reign. Others are teaching that the world has already entered into the first part of the tribulation and that the rapture will occur: either halfway through, or at the end. Most all Futurist see the Great Tribulation lasting seven years and identify it as the last week of the prophesied 70 weeks of Daniel (see Daniel 9:20-27). All this is interesting, since the only mention in Scripture of a Great Tribulation is in The Olivet Discourse given by Jesus in Matthew chapters 24 and 25; here, Jesus explicitly places this Great Tribulation within His generation. There are some particular characteristics of this “tribulation” that must be acknowledged:
- Daniel seems to speak of this Great Tribulation when he writes - “... and there should be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (see Daniel 12:1). Daniel assigns this “trouble” to the Jewish people;
- Jeremiah agrees, by identifying this same period as “Jacob’s trouble” (see Jeremiah 30:7);
- Jesus assigns this period of tribulation to His generation and names it “The Great Tribulation.”
So, three things are observed concerning the Great Tribulation
- It is a time of trouble like none other that ever was or ever will be.
- It comes upon the Jews - the Children of Jacob - thus, it is called: “Jacob’s Trouble.”
- It would occur during the lifetime of the multitude of people living as contemporaries with Jesus and the Apostles.
Some have objected to this third observation by supposing that the destruction visited upon the Jews, in the Jewish/Roman war,1 not to have been as horrible as the trouble inflicted by Hitler or Stalin2 in the twentieth century. ～ Those who make such claims could not possibly be familiar with the history of Flavius Josephus3 on the Jewish/Roman war of the first century. By the end of the second revote (A.D. 130) no son of Jacob was left in all the Holy Land; all had been either killed, sold into slavery, or deported to other parts of the Roman empire. No Jew was allowed in all of Judea, on pain of death. Hundreds of years later when a Jewish holy man moved to Jerusalem to live, several families were imported from Syria to provide the required number of ten males (called a “minyan”4) so prayers could be made.5 There was not ten Jewish males in all the city that was estimated to house 3 million people during the time of the Roman siege in A.D. 70. Neither Hitler nor Stalin brought such complete desolation to the land of Judaism or its people.
Prerequisite #9. Signs in the heavens. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken." (Matthew 24:29) ∼ Perhaps, it is this particular prophecy that has been the greatest stumbling block to the Futurist in applying a literal interpretation to Jesus’ use of the word “generation,” in verse 34 of Matthew chapter 24. The argument asserts that since these astral events have not yet occurred, Jesus could not have meant His generation (the multitude alive in His day) with the “generation” clause of verse 34. Here, again, doctrinal error is infused into the Lord’s Church by well—meaning teachers (so-called) who lack in biblical scholarship. When applying the E2 paradigm for interpreting this passage, one should be acutely aware of the importance of two particular laws of scriptural interpretation.
- First, is the Law of Context. When Jesus mentions the sun being darkened, the moon not giving light, and the stars of heaven falling He spoke prophetically in the context of judgment. We, therefore, must view this passage in the context of other “like” passages from the Bible.
- Second, is the Law of First Mention. The law of first mention simply stated, is this: any biblical article should be identified with the meaning made clear when said article was first mentioned in Scripture. In that the entire Bible has but one author (namely, the Holy Spirit), what the Spirit intended by His use of the term, or phrase, at the beginning most likely carries throughout.
By applying these two “laws” (namely: Context, and First Mention) we are brought to Isaiah 13:10, “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give light: The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, And the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”
Here, the subject and the language are the same as in our text (Matthew 24:29). The subject is judgment. In Matthew 24:29; the judgment is pronounced upon Jerusalem while in Isaiah 13:10 the judgment is pronounced upon Babylon (see the complete chapter of Isaiah 13). In both cases the sun is said to be darkened, the moon will not shine and the stars shall fail. Matthew 24:29 says the stars fall, while Isaiah 13:10 says they shall not give their light—the intention in both passages is the same. What did the Holy Spirit mean by these cosmic references in Isaiah 13:10? When Babylon was judged did the sun, moon, and stars literally stop shining? Obviously not. This was prophetic symbolism in Isaiah 13:10 symbolizing a turning of an age with the overthrow of world powers and governments. ～ Therefore, the same language as is used in Matthew 24:29, in the same context of judgment on an earthly power (namely, Judaism), must be understood in the same way as the parallel passage in Isaiah 13:10. Thus, the language is prophetic poetry set in symbolic representations to illustrate the overthrow of earthly powers which had come into judgment before Almighty God.
Prerequisite #10. The sign of the Son of Man. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30) ∼ Jesus informs us that just before His coming in judgment the “sign of the Son of Man” would appear in heaven. Again, the Futurist point to this “sign” and say, It has not yet happened; therefore, the generation clause of verse 34 could not have been indicating the contemporaries of Jesus.
Not so fast.
Two interpretations of “heaven” have been suggested for the word “ouranos” (Strong’s #NT 3772):
- the sky;
- and the abode of God.
The word is used for both the sky and the abode (or throne) of God. If the latter is intended, i.e. the abode of God, then Daniel 7:13-14 would be the interpretation. Where a “son of man” represents the kingdom of God. This “son of man” symbol is seen receiving the kingdom from the Ancient of Days. In which case the “sign” is visible in the “heaven” of the abode of God.
If the former interpretation (i.e. the sky) is intended then the “sign” would appear in the sky and be visible for people on earth to see. If this is the sense, then the “sign” of the Son of Man would most likely be the star which led the Magi to Jesus at Bethlehem. This comet-like cosmic light appeared again over Jerusalem just before God’s judgment was visited upon the Jews (see Josephus: Wars 6. 5. 3).
In truth, neither of the above views cancels out the other. As this “sign” appeared in the sky (heaven) of the earth there is a profound indication of a “sign” also appearing in the Heaven (the abode of God) at the same time. In line with this reasoning, the following is offered: Notice that “Heaven” is juxtaposed to “Earth” in the verse: e.g. the “sign” in Heaven is paralleled with the “tribes” of earth. What is more important, this is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, where Daniel saw the sign of God’s kingdom as that of a man, whereas, the kingdoms of the world (of men) were portrayed as beasts (see verses 3-8). The “sign” was in heaven at the throne of the Ancient of Days. The “man” symbol stood for the “saints of the most high” (see Daniel 7:18). ～ What Daniel saw prophetically (i.e. the sign of the son of man), Jesus speaks of here. It is manifested in the heaven (sky) of the earth as the comet-star which Josephus reported seeing over the city of Jerusalem for a whole year before its judgment.
I am including here the quote from Josephus for your consideration: THE WARS OF THE JEWS, OR THE HISTORY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, (Flavius Josephus; Translated by: William WHISTON, A.M.) Wars of the Jews 6. 5. 3:
".... Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the 21st day of the month Artmisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it up so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding the cities. Moreover at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [ Court of the ] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt the quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove from hence.” ...
Conclusion: From the above information, clearly, all the “signs” (including the five just reviewed), which Jesus said would be manifested before the end of His generation, did (in point of fact) occur during the forty year window between A.D. 30 and A.D. 70.
Therefore, the “generation” clause of Matthew 24:34 does not need to be explained away. Jesus may be believed. His prophecies are “Yea and Amen.”
☩ Jerry Hayes
1The defeat of the Jewish revolt altered the Jewish diaspora, as many of the Jewish rebels were scattered or sold into slavery. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, a sizeable portion of these were at Jewish hands and due to illnesses brought about by hunger. "A pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine, as destroyed them more suddenly."
2War under Hadrian:After the Jewish defeat, Hadrian tried to root out Judaism. The prisoners were sold at Hebron and Gaza, each one at the price of a horse. He forbade the conquered to teach Mosaic law and to own scrolls. The province Judaea was renamed Palestine; Jerusalem was called Aelia Capitolina. Pagan sanctuaries were erected right over places of Jewish worship: the temple to Jupiter was erected on the site of the Jewish Temple, Hadrian's equestrian statue being placed in the Holy of Holies; the goddess Aphrodite received a new home on the place where the sect of the Christians had venerated the tomb of Jesus, and before the southern gate of Aelia, the Romans erected a marble statue of a pig. The number killed in these Roman/Jewish wars rivaled the number killed by Hitler and Stalin, plus devastation to their identify as a people has been unrivaled in all of history.
Between Hitler and Stalin 6 to 8 millions Jews were killed.
3Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100), also called Joseph ben Matityahu was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian who was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. He initially fought against the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War as the head of Jewish forces in Galilee, until surrendering in 67 to Roman forces led by Vespasian after the six-week siege of Jotapata. Josephus claims the Jewish Messianic prophecies that initiated the First Roman-Jewish War made reference to Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome. In response Vespasian decided to keep Josephus as a hostage and interpreter. After Vespasian did become Emperor in 69, he granted Josephus his freedom, at which time Josephus assumed the emperor's family name of Flavius.
Flavius Josephus fully defected to the Roman side and was granted Roman citizenship. He became an advisor and friend of Vespasian's son Titus, serving as his translator when Titus led the Siege of Jerusalem, which resulted -- when the Jewish revolt did not surrender -- in the city's destruction and the looting and destruction of Herod's Temple (Second Temple).
4The source for the requirement of minyan is recorded in the Talmud. The word minyan itself comes from the Hebrew root maneh מנה meaning to count or to number. The Babylonian Talmud derives the requirement of a minyan of ten for Kiddush Hashem and Devarim she-Bikdusha, "matters of sanctity", by combining three scriptural verses using the rule of gezerah shavah: ... From this combination, the Talmud concludes that "sanctification" should occur in the "midst" of a "congregation" of ten.
5The following instances require a minyan: 1. Public worship, which consists of the additional readings of Kaddish, Barechu, Kedusha and the Repetition of the Amidah. 2. The priestly blessing. 3. Reading from the Torah and Prophets with the associated benedictions. 4.Seven benedictions recited at a wedding, or at any meal of the bridegroom and bride within a week from the wedding. 5. Using the formulation "Let us bless our God, from whose wealth we have eaten," in preparing for Grace after meals. 6. Ancient funeral ceremonies.
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A Book You Must Read
After spending over forty years in the dispensational doctrine, and having raise my children in that theological framework, I became a convinced adherent to a "kingdom" theology that recognizes the Church as the Israel of God, and that the first century actually saw the fulfillment of most of Matthew chapter 24. "Letters to My Children on Apostolic Kingdom Theology" is a compilation of twenty four letters written to my children explaining my journey, and showing how we were led astray from the apostolic teaching of Scripture to embrace a view recently come into the Lord's church, of which the apostles knew nothing. These "Letters" provide a systematic approach to Apostolic Eschatological study of Scripture. It is sure to interest all students of Scriptures.
☩ Jerry Hayes