A Study Of Matthew Twenty-Four
A study of Matthew twenty four is very interesting. This is one of the most perverted passages in all of the Bible. Jesus warned about being deceived. In verse four He said, "Take heed that no man deceive you". In verse 15 He said, "Whoso readeth let him understand". Therefore, we will examine this passage with caution.
Certain Keys Jesus Gave To Help Us Understand
Jesus said, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Mt. 24:34). It is obvious that you and I live in a different generation from the one our Lord Jesus Christ lived in. Therefore, it is not proper to take statements Jesus made in verses 1-34 and apply them to our generation. Jesus was not talking about "wars and rumors of wars" (Verse 6) in our generation, but "wars and rumors of wars" in His generation. This is also true of the "famines, and pestilences, and earth-quakes" (Verse 7). In just about every generation, when wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, or earth-quakes occur, some preachers use this passage to tell us the end of time is near. Jesus was not talking about what would happen in our generation, therefore Jesus was not giving signs to tell us the end of time is near. Jesus was giving signs to tell the generation he lived in that the destruction of the temple was near. The temple and city of Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 AD. This took place about thirty-seven years after Jesus gave the signs. The word generation is a translation of the Greek word genea. It is defined "a period ordinarily occupied by each successive generation, say, of thirty or forty years" (W E Vine Vol. 1, P. 42). Mr. Thayer says, "A space of from 30 to 33 years" (Th. P. 112). This would prove that everything Jesus taught up through verse 33 occurred within forty years, from the time He taught it.
Another important key to understanding this passage is the fact that Jesus did not know when He would return at the end of the world (Mt. 24:36). Jesus did not know, and the angels did not know when the destruction of this world would be. Only the Father knew when the world would end. Jesus did know when Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. Therefore, Jesus could give the disciples some signs which they could see. He said, "when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors" (Mt. 24:33). There will be no signs to tell us when the Lord will return. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet. 3:10). Since Jesus did not know when His second coming would be, he could not give us any signs to show us when it would be (Mt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32). In view of this we know that all the signs Jesus gave in Matthew 24, were to show when the temple would be destroyed, and not when the earth would be destroyed.
Questions The Disciples Asked
When the disciples showed Christ the buildings of the temple (Mt. 24:1), Jesus told them, "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Mt. 24:2). When Jesus sat on the mount of Olives the disciples came to him privately asking him some questions (Mt. 24:3). Mark tells us the names of the disciples. They were Peter, Andrew, James and John (Mk. 13:3). The questions were, "when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (Mt. 24:3)"? Jesus had told them there would not be left one stone upon another in the temple. They asked the question, "when shall these things be"? Jesus proceeded to tell them of some signs they could look for to know when these things would be. We know from history that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. This was when the temple was so completely destroyed that one stone was not left upon another. All of the signs Jesus gave them, and the destruction of the temple, occurred during that generation. The temple was destroyed about thirty-seven years later.
They asked Jesus, "What shall be the sign of thy coming"? We know the coming of Christ, in the Scriptures, is not always His second coming. We will cite some passages of Scripture to prove this. In fact we know that Jesus is not talking about His second coming in answer to this question, because Jesus did not know when His second coming would be, and thus it would be impossible to give them some signs to show when. The signs of His coming, which Jesus gave, had reference to His coming to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. When the Roman army came to destroy Jerusalem and the temple, Jesus came with them, and helped them in this destruction. Verse 27 says, "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be". Lightning suggesting the speed of such judgment. This would occur in that generation (V. 34) which proves this is not the second coming of Christ. Jesus explains what He is talking about in verse 28. He says, "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together" The dead carcase represents the children of Israel who are dead in sins. The eagles are the Roman army, under the leadership of Titus their General, and Jesus Christ. In Ezekiel 17 the king of Babylon is pictured as an eagle that came against Jerusalem when they were taken to Babylonian captivity. Jesus is pictured as coming numbers of times in the Scripture where it is not referring to His second coming. The following passages talk about His first coming (Jno. 1:27; Acts 7:52; Acts 13:24; John 12:13; and John 1:15). Jesus told the church at Ephesus that if they did not repent, He would come quickly and remove the candlestick (Rev. 2:5). Jesus told the church at Pergamos that if they did not repent He would come quickly and fight against them with the sword of His mouth (Rev. 2:16). Jesus pleaded with Jerusalem to repent. He said, "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zechariah son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the alter. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Mt. 23:34-39). Jesus came with Titus and the Roman army in 70 AD and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple so there was not left one stone upon another.
The end of the world is discussed in verses 36-51. There are no signs given in verses 36-51 to show when the end of the world would be, because Jesus did not know when His second coming would be. He knew the coming of the Son of man would be like it was in the days of Noah. They would be "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" (Mt. 24:37-38). They did not know when the flood was coming, and we do not know when the Lord is coming (Mt. 24:39). In fact, Jesus Himself did not know when He was coming (Mt. 24:36). Jesus, since He created all things (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16, 17), knew the earth was round; and therefore when He comes in some parts of the world men will be in the field, while in other parts of the world women will be grinding at the mill (Mt. 24:40, 41). Jesus knew that in some parts of the world it would be evening, in other parts of the world midnight, in other parts of the world the time for the cock to crow, while in another part of the world it would be morning (Mk. 13:35). Jesus knew all of these things, and yet He did not know when He was coming again (Mt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32).
A Verse By Verse Study
We will first look at verses 1-34, verses that contain signs to tell the disciples when Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the temple so destroyed that one stone would not be left upon another. The first sign is found in verse 5. Many would come in Christ's name claiming to be Christ, deceiving many. In verses 23 and 24 Jesus warns again of false Christs and false prophets, which would show great signs and wonders, "insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect". The true Christ did signs to prove His deity (John 20:30, 31). Now the false Christs are showing great signs and wonders to deceive the people. Of course, Simon used sorcery to bewitch the people of Samaria (Acts 8:9). The magicians and sorcerers of Egypt turned their rods into serpents as Moses and Aaron did, but the rod of Aaron swallowed up their rods (Exo. 7:10-12). Paul talked about "false apostles" (2 Cor. 11:13, 14). Both Jesus and Paul were talking about the same period of time, the period before the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A D. Jesus said, "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Mt. 24:6). The wars and rumors of wars were signs showing when the end would come. The end is not the end of time, but the end of the temple, and temple worship. This end occurred in that generation (Mt. 24:34). It took place in 70 A D. Jesus said, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earth-quakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Mt. 24:7, 8). Remember, Jesus said all these things would be fulfilled in that generation (Mt. 24:34). He was not talking about the second world war, though many preachers quoted this passage, during the second world war, to try to prove the end of the world was here. Jesus was talking about nations and kingdoms of His generation. He was talking about famines, pestilences, and earth-quakes of His generation. He was not talking about the earth-quake that hit Seattle a few days ago. He was not talking about any earth-quake of our generation, or any other except His generation. All of these were the "beginning of sorrows" of His generation. It has nothing to do with the sorrows of any other generation.
Jesus said, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Mt. 24:9). Remember, this happened in that generation (Mt. 24:34). Also remember to whom Jesus is talking. It was Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mk. 13:3). These disciples were "afflicted". James was killed (Acts 12:2). There have been other generations in which Christians have been afflicted and killed, but Jesus was talking about the generation of Peter, James, John and Andrew. There are people today that are offended and some are betrayed and hated, but Jesus was talking about His generation in verse 10. In our generation iniquity abounds and the love of many waxes cold. This is true of most generations, but Jesus was talking about His generation (Verse 12).
Jesus said, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Mt. 24:13). We cannot lift the word end from this context and make it the end of the world. The end, in this context, occurred in that generation (Mt. 24:34). It was the end of the temple and Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A D. In fact, in the next verse, Jesus said the end would come after the gospel of the kingdom was preached in all the world (Mt. 24:14). This occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Paul said the gospel had been preached in all the world in (Col. 1:6; 23) about 62 or 63 A D. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A D.
Jesus said, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)" (Mt. 24:15). Jesus refers to what Daniel wrote (Dan. 9:23- 27). Daniel was writing about the destruction of Jerusalem. You might find it difficult to determine from the book of Daniel what he was referring to by "abomination of desolation". However, you can plainly see that Daniel is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the "sanctuary", the temple. What Jesus says in Luke's account of these things will clear up the matter. Jesus said, "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh" (Lk. 21:20). This would be the time for Judea to flee to the mountains (Mt. 24:16; Lk. 21:21).People who apply these things to the end of time need to explain to us what good it would do to flee to the mountains. It reminds me of years ago, when I was preaching in a school building at Camp Creek in Leslie County, Ky. I was using a public address system. A man across the mountain on Bad Creek heard me preaching. I said something about people going to hell. He ran in the house and told his family to get the guns and dogs and flee to the mountains, because the world was coming to an end. I don't know what good he thought guns and dogs would do, if the Lord was coming back. Jesus was not talking about people in Leslie County Kentucky fleeing to the mountains. He was talking about people in Judea fleeing to the mountains (Mt. 24:16). The world was not being destroyed, but Jerusalem and the temple. Jerusalem and the temple were located in Judea. This is why those in Judea were told to flee to the mountains (Mt. 24:16).
Dear reader, look at verses 17-22. How can any of those verses apply to the end of time? At the end of time, there will be nothing in your house that will help you, or that you need. However, if you are fleeing to the mountains, to escape being destroyed along with Jerusalem and the temple, there are numbers of things in your house you would need. Things like food, clothing, etc. It gets cold in the mountains at night, so you could use a coat. However, you cannot afford to go back to your house. You must flee to the mountains immediately for your safety. If you are in the field, you cannot afford to go back to your house for clothing to keep you warm. To save your life, you must flee to the mountains. If Jesus is talking about the end of time, it would not matter if you are expecting a new baby, or if you have a small nursing baby. How would fleeing to the mountain help you, if you have a nursing baby? But since Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, fleeing to the mountain may save you and your unborn child, or your small infant. However, it would be much easier to flee to the mountains if you are not expecting, or carrying a baby along with you. It would be much easier to hide in the mountain, if there is not an infant crying out. If Jesus is talking about the end of time, it wouldn't matter whether it was summer or winter. It would make no difference whether it was the Sabbath day or not. However, it makes a lot of difference since Jesus is talking about the Roman army coming to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. If it is in the winter time, with snow, ice, and cold, living conditions, in the mountains, would be much more difficult. You would miss that coat you couldn't afford to go back to your house to obtain much more in the winter time, than you would in the summer time. If you have to flee on the Sabbath day, you would find the gate of the city closed, making it much more difficult to get away into the mountains. None of this would matter if Jesus is talking about the end of time. In verse 21 Jesus said, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be". There is no way you can apply this to the end of time. It is true the tribulation of hell will be worse than anything that ever has been. However, there is nothing to follow the tribulation of hell that will be anything less than hell itself. The tribulation associated with the destruction of Jerusalem will fit. There was tribulation associated with the destruction of Jerusalem that was worse than any tribulation prior to that time, and also worse than any that has followed that time, and there never will be such tribulation on earth again. You have the word of Christ on that. To get an idea of how terrible this tribulation was, go to the library and get a copy of Josephus, the Jewish historian, and read about the tribulation associated with the destruction of Jerusalem. You will be impressed with the truth of what Jesus spoke here. Those days of tribulation were so great that no flesh could have been saved, even the elect, if those days had not been shortened (Mt. 24:22).
Those who take the position that Jesus is talking about the end of time think they have conclusive proof in verses 29-31. Before we examine those verses, let me remind you again that Jesus said all these things would be fulfilled in that generation (Mt. 24:34). Also, let me remind you that Jesus told Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mk. 13:3) that when they saw these signs they would know the time was near for the destruction of the temple (Mt. 24:32, 33). Now, let's examine these verses. Jesus said, "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" (Mt. 24:29). Some would say this has to refer to the end of time. However, such is not the case. In Isaiah 13 God predicts the fall of Babylon (V. 1). In verse 6 Isaiah said, "Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand". In verse 9 Isaiah said, "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it". Notice the word desolate used both about the destruction of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem. In verse 10 Isaiah said, "For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine". In verse 13 Isaiah said, "Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger". The words of Isaiah sound very much like the words of Jesus Christ. Neither Isaiah nor Christ is talking about the end of time. Isaiah is talking about the destruction of Babylon, and Jesus Christ is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem. In the book of Joel, the prophet warns the city of Zion (Joel 2:1). Zion would be destroyed. The prophet said, "The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it" (Joel 2:10, 11)? The prophet is not describing the end of time, but the destruction of the city of Zion by an army of locust. Very similar language is found in Joel chapter 2, a passage which Peter quotes on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21) and applies to events associated with the crucifixion of Christ. The great and notable day of the Lord that both Joel and Peter talked about is not the end of time, but the day of Pentecost where men for the first time called on the name of the Lord and were saved.
Jesus said, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and 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. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Mt. 24:30, 31). The argument is made that this has to be talking about the end of time. I suggest to you that all Scriptures are to be understood in their context. Verse 30 says, "then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven". But remember Jesus did not give any signs about the end of the world. All the signs had to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple. Also, verse 34 said all those things would be fulfilled in His generation (Mt. 24:34). His generation ended almost 2000 years ago. Therefore, "the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory", would refer to His coming to destroy Jerusalem, which happened in that generation, and not His coming to destroy the world, which may not come for yet many more generations. We have already shown that Jesus came many times, but He will come only one time to destroy the world. He came to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in His generation. He will come again to destroy the world, but Jesus did not know when that would be (Mt. 24:36). Jesus and God have sent the angels many times to gather chosen ones for various purposes. The Greek word angelos is sometimes translated messenger. God's messengers are not always those who live in heaven. In verse 31 the messengers gather the elect (chosen ones) from all over the world to destroy the temple and the city of Jerusalem. All of this happened in His generation (Mt. 24:34).
A Verse By Verse Study Of The End Of Time
Jesus knew when the temple would be destroyed, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Mt. 24:36). Jesus could give the disciples some signs to tell them when Jerusalem would be destroyed, but He could give no signs to show when He would return, because He did not know when He would return. Jesus did not know when He would return, but He knew it would be "as the days of Noah were" (Mt. 24:37). Jesus knew that His coming would be as it was before the flood. "They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away" (Mt. 24:38). It will be the same way when the Lord returns at the end of the world. People will be eating, drinking, and getting married, and the Lord will come as a thief in the night, unexpectedly, and the wicked will be cast into hell. There will be no signs that people can see to help them prepare. Jesus said, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come"(Mt. 24:42). If the "goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up" (Mt. 24:43). "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Mt. 24:44). Jesus did not know when He would return, but he knew in one part of the world "two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (Mt. 24:40). He knew that in another part of the world it would be at the time when women grind at the mill (Mt. 24:41). He knew some would be taken, i.e. saved, and others left, i.e. lost. Jesus knew that we should be "a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season" (Mt. 24:45). He knew that the faithful and wise servant will be serving the Lord faithfully when the Lord cometh (Mt. 24:46). This faithful and wise servant will be made "ruler over all his goods" (Mt. 24:47). Jesus also knew that the evil servant would think the Lord delayeth His coming and will thus mistreat his fellow servants and eat and drink with the drunken, and the Lord will come when he is not expecting Him, "And shall cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt. 24:48-51).
By Windell Wiser
16334 Evans Rd.
Athens, Al. 35611
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