It’s The End of the World as THEY Know It

Matthew 24:3-14

And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. “And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. “And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. “And many false prophets will rise, and will mislead many. “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. “But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”

Something I find extremely interesting, is that the disciples, like us, wanted​ to know when these things would take place–be keeping this in mind. That is, the destruction of the temple, the sending, scourging and killing of the ones sent and the righteous blood from Abel to Zechariah falling on the Pharisees. It’s a simple, honest question, when? But they also ask another question, what will be the sings? Problem; Jesus answers them. Let me write that again; Jesus answers them. It cannot be stressed enough, Jesus answered them.

How is this a problem? It’s going to be a difficult road for the disciples. Problem; it’s going to be a difficult road for the disciples. Therefore, the disciples have a hard road ahead. Do we see it yet? It’s going to be tough–tribulation awaits the disciples. Consider the context once again and remember what Paul wrote; To write the same things to you is no trouble to me!” If you are reading my missives for the first time, you must be very confused. Like the book of Matthew, my missives build upon themselves because we are walking through the book of Matthew, considering the context, the aspiration of the author to his audience, the genre, exploring examples, and dividing rightly the word of truth. We call this the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics. We work to unlock the caged Scripture which has been caged by our culture and traditions, preconceived notions and presuppositions. Welcome and join us as we continue to consider the context of Matthew and see the sublime string.

“‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many. And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.'”

The disciples are curious concerning the toppling of the temple and Jesus gives them this: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” Once again, a problem; does the metaphorical Master say “you,” but mean “they?” I highly doubt it (understatement). Nothing in the entire world could be more clear (hyperbole); the context states that the disciples came to Jesus privately, and Jesus responded to the disciples using the accusative, second person, plural. That is, the disciples themselves are the direct object of the persecution and hate. In other words, Jesus is speaking to them, concerning their generation. Jesus speaks of birth pangs–birth of what, a New Covenant or a New Heaven and Earth, or a seven year tribulation? We consider the context not pretense. What about the Gospel being preached everywhere, how does that fit in to the context? We see the sublime string, not speculation.

Let’s walk through the context slowly, because the prodomenitly popular position of end-times, eschatological belief is that Jesus has two distinct peoples with two distinct plans, where Jesus raptures the church to make way for the nation Israel, after seven years of tribulation (see my missives on Revelation). Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers teach that this, the “Olivet discourse” is proof. Problem; “you” means you, “this generation” means this generation, Jesus is birthing a New Covenant by the gospel, and it is to go out to all the nations.

Dispensationalist, let not your heart be troubled. Though many of your pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, teach that “this generation” is referring to the generation that saw the return of Israel in 1948, some see this as it was written; Jesus speaking privately to the disciples, written to the first-century Jewish, audience by Matthew, passed down for us. This text in no way disproves dispensational discourse, but it is also not in any way supportive of the theory. Y’all means y’all. Notice again, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” Simply put, Jesus is prophesying about the near future not the far future.

We must remember the greater context of Jesus entering Jerusalem, the debates with the Sadducees, scribes and Pharisees, the talk about temple toppling and the promise of persecution. “And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'” Which is immediately following Jesus turning towards the temple and saying, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down,” Matthew then has this setting, which immediately follows that setting outside the temple, as the Mount of Olives, which fittingly, overlooked the temple. 

The disciples privately come to Jesus and ask the two, million dollar questions. When will the temple fall and what signs will proceed it? I apologize, I am getting way ahead of myself. Literally, the disciples ask, “when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” I cannot be dogmatic about the questions. Clearly they are two different questions. The first being, when will this happen? And the second being, what are the signs of the end of the age? I believe, based on the context, that these two questions are intrinsically interwoven. And not only based on the context, but by the conjunction, “and.” We know that they are two questions. The question about the questions is, how intrinsically interwoven are they? To the hyper, old-school, dispensationalist, I would say, you had better hope that they are only loosely related. The reason why is because as it pertains to the first question, Jesus clearly answers, “you” and, has previously stated, “this generation.” “You” doesn’t mean, “they,” and “this generation,” doesn’t mean, “that generation.”

“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many. And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.'”

I find it outstandingly odd that those who claim that we need to take the Bible as literal as possible, unless otherwise offered in the context, don’t take “you” or “this generation” literally. To be fair, some do but most Western pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, use the “Olivet Discourse” as proof-text for a pre-tribulation rapture. Problem; Jesus promised and prophesized tribulation to the disciples specifically; Peter, John, James, Andrew and the rest, in this passage. Another problem; the hyper-dispensationalists never, no never, ever, ever, ever, never begin with Matthew chapter one and work forward through the context; we have. They will usually start with their words and hypotheses, then read from 1 Thessolonians 4+5 and then quote from Matthew and from a letter written specifically to the church in Philadelphia; “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” Again, to the hyper-dispensationalists, an “hour” means 7 years but a “thousand years” means a thousand years.

Problem for me; many older pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, who are old-school (which is not really old school at all) dispensationalist, claim that we are in the “period” of the church being like Laodicea, that is, the final, last and worst church. They claim that the seven churches in Revelation correspond to periods in church history and that we are now representetive of the final church, Laodicea. But if that’s true, why are we clinging to a promise made to one of the good churches, Philadelphia? And more importantly; wake up! China, Pakistan, Iran, Cuba, and all the other opressed churches that resemble Smyrna and certainly not Laodicea, are not deserving of your judgement based upon what’s happening in your backyard from your watered down,  eroded, dogmatic behavior–remove the log of expository erosion from your own eye before you judge the world-wide church from your own, Western perspective, which is distorted by what you have been taught and by what you think and proclaim you see, based upon your own backyard, which you see with a log filled eye. Could it be that we in the West are being replaced by those in the East? America’s demise doesn’t display the second coming. Not when the persecuted church is growing by leaps and bounds. When my backyard is overgrown with weeds, thistles and thorns, I have to assume that it’s my fault, not everyone else’s. You with the radio station shows, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, look in the mirror for what’s happening in your backyard.

I should probably explain my rant because it is not directed towards anyone ​except the handful of Western pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers that get on the radio and write books, dogmatically teaching that the new-nation of Israel is God’s future chosen people and if we don’t support that nation, God will not bless the West. Now, I am not here to prove, disprove or discourage dispensational discourse, I am here to encourage everyone to read their Bibles, considering the context. In doing that, I have to point out that unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Most of you either haven’t been taught eschatology or have been taught dispensationalism promoted by books and radio shows that make millions off of your fear about blood-moons and birth pangs, tribulations and trials, but do little to help us prepare for the return of Christ or to see his judgment against nations as he rules from his throne.

In many ways I believe in dispensations (different dealings in different days) in the Bible, but it would be better described as a progressive revelation of the New Covenant. That is, the dispensationalist sees the return of Israel as God’s people after the church age has been completed. I see Jesus as the true Israel and all that are his, past, present and future are heirs and therefore part of Israel. Could a majority of Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah? I certainly hope so, but it won’t be because of the old way, it’s coming to a close in the context of Matthew.

I was formerly a dispensationalist–there exists several chapters and verses that certainly suggest that God is not finished with Israel; Romans 9-12 comes to mind. Nevertheless, when I read the parables in Matthew, and let them stand on their context, I was forced to change my mind. After the Scripture changed my mind, the continuing context confirmed; I only knew what I had been taught. It’s precisely why I write, “come as you are, expecting to be changed.” I don’t write this in reference to my missives but to the approach of the throne of grace recorded in the words of God. When we are gathered in the “called out assembly,” and especially when reading the book the Lord has given us, clear your mind of cultural clutter and traditional teachings and allow the Spirit to change your mind. We in the West have been blessed with an abundance of Bibles, we must read the Bible for all of its worth.

I have lost count of the number of times that some form of the word, “Metanoeo,” (change your mind after being with) is mentioned in Matthew. Matthew is written to a first-century, pre-70 AD destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, Jewish audience and his aspiration to them is clear, change your mind. Jesus is the Messiah, consider the genre; gospel, promised throughout all the sacred Scripture–the Law and prophets and temple and feasts and sabbaths and new moons and festivals and the exodus and the parting of the sea and the wandering in wilderness and the river Jordan and the judges and kings and priests and everything else, all are but a small shadow to the substance of Christ, who fulfilled them all in his earthly dwelling.

To the dispensationalist who loves the Lord and is waiting patiently for the promise, consider; you didn’t come up with a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial return of Christ, that lasts for 7 years but is called, “the day of the Lord,” and then say, we need to take the Bible literally, based upon Matthew 24–you were taught this. Consider the context, as some very prominent dispensationalist have before, they are not dogmatic but carefully consider the context. They see clearly that Jesus and the disciples’ discourse concerned the end of the age of the temple and the Law and the ushering in of the New Covenant.

The disciples came to Jesus in private, Matthew made sure to write that, therefore the “you” used in the accusitive, 2nd person, plural, could only mean one thing, because no one else was around. Jesus speaking to his disciples was Jesus speaking to his disciples.

…And the context continues…

 

 

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