Back to the Future, Again

Matthew 24:15-28

Jesus continues to answer the disciples’ questions of, when, and what were the signs of his coming and the end of the age? We have a lot of questions, two are important to consider as we read the context. One, to whom was this written? Second, and more importantly, to whom was Jesus speaking?

“Therefore when you [the disciples; in private] see ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand [first-century, Jewish audience]), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. “But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days! “But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. “And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. “Behold, I have told you in advance. “If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

My first question is, and it’s just the way my mind works, why would the disciples pray that the abomination of desolation wouldn’t happen on a Sabbath?

I am sorry, I am getting ahead of myself, as is my custom– my modus operandi, if you will. I often attempt to get the reader to see things from my point of view, to see where I am coming from. But this is the home of the CAGED method, where, Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens, and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Therefore, I should keep my questions concerning the context to myself and let the Scripture interpret Scripture and let the sublime string be seen. Problem; I have to demonstrate how important context is. From mega-church prosperity to pre-tribulation prophesies, there’s a world of false and misleading teaching out there​.

In my last missive, we discussed how some pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers teach that the pre-tribulational rapture is clearly seen in Matthew 24, and I had one particular radio program in mind. However, between then and now, as I listened to this particular program, it was stated, that Matthew 24 has nothing to do with the rapture​–and for a brief moment, all was right in my world. I thought to myself, see Russell P, even those that adamantly proclaim a pre-tribulation rapture, see that Matthew 24 is about the disciples and the end of the Old Covenant age. But in the twinkling of an eye, the radio host and her guest both proclaimed that Matthew 24 is about the second coming. I know this is confusing because you weren’t there listening with me, but if you have read my last missive, I hope you have seen the sublime string and the continuing context. Bear with me as I search myself before we search the Scriptures.

If Matthew 24 is about the second coming, why does Jesus answer the disciples’ questions by repeatedly saying, “you,” and not, “they?” Why has Jesus stated that these things will fall on “this generation” and not, “that generation?” Again, why would the disciples pray that the abomination of desolation wouldn’t happen on a Sabbath? Why would one flee Judea and the rooftop, leaving his possessions behind? Why would this time be so difficult for nursing mothers that they receive a woe from Jesus? If this is the second coming, why run, why flee from Judea?

For the briefest of moments, listening to this radio program, I had great hope that those of us in opposite eschatological corners, were in agreement over Matthew 24. I thought, finally, we as christians can agree on the New Covenant in Jesus blood becoming the everlasting covenant for all ages and build upon that. I thought about the eternal gospel which is waiting in every corner of the globe to be preached. I was wrong. In the radio program it was said that, “the blessed hope” is our only hope, “that hope is in the rapture” where God rescues his church from tribulation. My question to them would be, what about the hope of the Gospel, what about the hope that Jesus is proclaimed in all the nations? “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.” That’s in Matthew 24.

I don’t want to be dogmatic about my eschatological beliefs, because quite frankly, I don’t know all the answers. I bring up these radio programs because they have an agenda to push, this particular program has the agenda of a pre-tribulation rapture–it is what they preach and what they proclaim. Who am I to change their minds when their minds are set on one thing, the pre-tribulational rapture? Nevertheless, the two or three of you, I hope will be changed because of the context and not dogmatic radio show hosts.

Therefore we consider the context and the sublime string that are found in Matthew–let’s hit the highlights. Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham, as Jewish as one can be. Yet he is also the son of God. He was born in Bethlehem as Malachi foretold, but fled to Egypt, like Israel. “Out of Egypt did I call my son.” Jesus returned from Egypt, was baptized, and tempted in the wilderness, as Israel was; only Jesus passed the test that Israel couldn’t. He gave the law on the mountain and made a multitude of followers. He performed many miracles, cleansed the unclean, fed four and five thousand, walked on water, preached the kingdom in Galilee and the surrounding area and a thousand other things, fulfilling all that Israel couldn’t. And now, in Jerusalem, he has entered humble and triumphant, bested the Sadducees, scribes and Pharisees with his wisdom, prophesized about the destruction of the temple and is answering the disciples’questions with regards to his coming and the end of the age.

“Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand [first-century, Jewish audience]), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days! But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.”

We see by the one leaving his possessions behind and the one who is in the field not getting his cloak, the intent of Jesus–MAKE HASTE! Jesus is telling the disciples to run, to flee, to get out ASAP, when the abomination of desolation is set up in the temple.

I was taught that Jesus has two distinct peoples with two distinct plans. I was taught that God will rapture the church prior to the abomination of desolation. Problem; Jesus was warning his disciples, not me, to flee when the see the abomination. The metaphorical Master uses certain specific examples, that could be taken literally, to tell the disciples the importance of not being in Jerusalem at this time.

Why run if the Lord is coming to put an end to this current age and ushering in the golden age of the Millennial Kingdom? If Jerusalem, which is in Judea, is set to be the capital from which Jesus reigns, why would one flee from there? And if the tribulation is to come upon the whole Earth, to where does one flee? But my questions concerning the belief that Matthew 24 is about the second coming can’t compare to its own context.

Eighteen; or, 18. 10+8. That is how many times the disciples, who are alone with Jesus, are mentioned, so far, in Matthew 24–in only 28 verses. The disciples are mentioned by Matthew, a disciple who was present, three times. The disciples were the focus of the discourse of Jesus and he pointed to them fifteen times, more often than not, they were the direct object. Whatever you believe about the second coming, try to picture me listening to a radio program that claims that Matthew 24 is all about the second coming of Christ, when I have spent the last 5 years studying the book of Matthew, almost to obsession I have to admit. Even while writing about Revelation, Matthew was more than on the back burner. The host and guest agreed, “Matthew 24 is not written for the church but for future Israel, the church is gone by this point.” Matthew 24 was written to past Israel handed down for the church. I hope you can see why I question and why I write. Someone has to counter this dogmatic approach to the pre-tribulational rapture. And apparently some do and they are flustered by it. Nevertheless, we consider the context and I wanted to scream through the radio and say, “consider the context.!” How can this be Israel of the future when Jesus is speaking to his present Jewish disciples directly, in the past and they are the direct object of most of the actions?

“And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Is it not apparent that Jesus is still speaking with his disciples about their future? I have more questions. If this doesn’t refer to the life of the disciples, even though Jesus is speaking to them, and them alone, literally, why doesn’t Jesus say, “Israel,” instead of the “elect?” How much easier would it have been on us if Jesus had said, “And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of [Israel] those days shall be cut short.”

The pre-millennial, pre-tribulational rapture is an after thought. That is that it’s one of the several end-times beliefs that are explained first, then Scripture is used to try to prove it. We should not even be discussing it because there is nothing, not one iota, in the context of Matthew 24 that lends its support to the pre-tribulational premise. Yet here we are because I listened to too much radio–that is what happens when you don’t have a TV.

The good news, because Jesus has prophesized about his disciples and their generation, we have history to help us. We’re going back to the future. Remember, the disciples came to Jesus privately​, after he looked back ​at the temple and said, “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.” 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?”

Let’s make a list of the signs, but first, let me explain something using an expository exegesis of examples. “Coming” doesn’t necessarily mean THE SECOND COMING. Notice; to Sardis Jesus says​, “I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.” And to Ephesus, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

A list of signs:

  • Many will come in the name of Jesus. Check
  • The disciples will hear of war and rumors of war. Check
  • Nations rising against nations. Check
  • Famines. Check
  • Earthquakes. Oh yeah
  • Disciples faced persecution. And how!
  • Disciples delivered to be killed. Double check
  • Disciples hated by all nations. To this day
  • Many fall away. Check
  • People hate one another. Yes
  • People deliver others up to authority. Check
  • False prophets. Check
  • Love grows cold. Check
  • The Gospel is preached. Amazingly, yes it was, thousands upon thousands came to Christ.

“Then the end shall come.”

  • The abomination of desolation. It should have been called the abomination of desolation, from using the temple as a fortress to swine’s blood to Roman statues, the Romans abused and perversed the temple so completely that the priests could only look on it and wail, according to historical accounts.

Now it is time to run. Why? Because just like he did with Assyria to Israel and Babylon to Judah, Jesus is sending Rome as a sign that the old way is over. And more than a sign, they destroyed the temple and left their house desolate with destruction that even we, who have seen bombed-out buildings, wouldn’t believe. Within a generation of Jesus saying these words to his disciples, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, decimated and left unrecognizable.

Sure the list sounds familiar, as it did in the 200’s, 300’s 400’s etc, on down to now. That is not the point. We don’t look out our window, read the newspaper and watch Fox news and then interpret the Bible.

In the book of Acts we see several victories for the disciples but we also see many struggles. We see the disciples in chains, prisons, scourged, one killed, false prophets and the like. We also see through secular history how hard a road the disciples had and the absolute desolation and destruction of the temple, which we don’t see in Scripture. Leaving me to believe that all of the New Testament was written prior to 70 AD. I believe that at least one of the New Testament writers would have included that little tidbit.

Flavius Josephus wrote in Wars of the Jews, “Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done), Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as they were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”

IMG_20190610_182857

Josephus also wrote, “Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught. Round the Altar the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom.” Josephus also wrote about the famine and starvation, how people acted like “mad dogs” over a simple scrap of sustenance. Killing each other and turning each other in to the Roman authorities. He even tells the tale of a mother eating her child, like we see in Old Testament foreshadowing. Josephus also wrote in great lengths, with regard to the abomination of desolation.

Here’s the context again; and ask yourself, is this about the destruction of, and judgement against Jerusalem and the temple, making way for the Holy Spirit and the end of the age of the Law, or is it about the far future Jews at the second coming?

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand [first-century, Jewish audience]), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. “But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days! “But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. “And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. “Behold, I have told you in advance. “If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

 

 

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