Tag Archives: end times

‘This Generation’ or That?

Jesus said:

‘Assuredly I say to you, THIS generation will not pass away until all these things take place’.

Jesus spoke those unbelievable, riveting, unforgettable words directly to some of his disciples on the Mount of Olives, (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:30).

In these passages, the context demands that he was speaking to his disciples during the week before his death and resurrection. He was not speaking to us today. That is important.

So which generation did Jesus mean? Taking the plain meaning of the text, Jesus was referring to his own generation—the generation of those he was addressing right there on the Mount of Olives.

When we read in the gospels Jesus’ words, we are committed to accepting those words as true, right?

But some scholars teach that Jesus must have meant some future generation—surely he could not have been referring to his own generation!

Thus, irrationally and against all sound hermeneutical principles, they insist he meant an unknown, vague, future generation, and they change Jesus’ word from THIS to THAT!

Why this strange interpretation? This departure from standard grammatical understanding.

Why? Of course, they have to avoid the obvious meaning because they are dogmatically committed to a future return of Jesus. They cannot bear to believe he spoke of the relative closeness of his coming.

Jesus prophesied to those disciples on the Mount of Olives, several things would have to happen before His hearers’ generation had passed away. These events included the fall of the Jerusalem temple –an astounding event, impossible for Jews to accept—but also that He would return.

Yet many of the same scholars and teachers have no problem in accepting that Jesus spoke literally about the coming fall of the Jerusalem temple. They accept that as an historical fact. Seems like they feel they have the authority to change Jesus’ words to suit their doctrine!

Think about that for a minute.

If Jesus meant to say “that generation”, indicating a future generation, the writers would have used either the Greek word ekeinos or tote, and not the Greek hoytos. But they used the Greek word hoytos.

Let’s look at these words more closely.  

The Greek word ekeinos is overwhelmingly translated as that (99x) or those (40x) — i.e., a future generation. Also in the vast majority of cases the Greek tote is translated as then (149x) or that time (4x)— i.e., a future generation.

Thus at Mat 24:10 Jesus says “And at that time (Grk tote) many will fall away, and they will betray one . . . .” And at Mat 24:30, he said “And then (Grk tote)  the sign of the Son of Man will appear in . . .” future!

BUT the word hoytos is translated most texts by this (157x) or these (59x)—i.e., the present generation. For example, “This (hoytos) gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world . . . .” (Mat 24:14)

So then, there is no logical reason to exclude the plain fact that Jesus spoke of his soon coming.

Further, there is no doubt the disciples took Jesus’ words “this generation” to mean soon, at the door, at hand. They knew His coming was imminent, perhaps even in their lifetime. We see it in all their writings.

Their letters in the N.T. frequently reflect their expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

Now let’s look at some instances of Jesus’ phrase this generation in the gospels, paying close attention to the context of each. You will see they consistently refer to the people alive then as Jesus spoke: See Matthew 12:41-42, 12:45, 17:17, Mat 23:35-36, Mark 8:12, 31:30, Luke 17:25, 21:30. That’s just a few.

Mat 24:34f, Mk 13:30f, Lu 21:30f. NKJV. Assuredly, I say to you, this (Grk hoytos) generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

In all three synoptic gospels! And all three carry the word assuredly! (Grk amen) and the affirmation that though heaven and earth could pass away, his words stand forever!

So who would dare to change his plain words?

To do so makes Jesus a false prophet or a liar!

Conclusion

In the Olivet discourse of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the generation named by Jesus can only mean the generation of people Jesus was addressing and this is consistent with the other numerous references of his using the phrase this generation.

There is no logical or hermeneutical reason why we should not believe and accept that Jesus spoke literally about “all these things will come upon this generation.” (Mat 24:34).

The letters in the New Testament frequently reflect the expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

What does ‘This Generation’ mean?

Jesus said: Assuredly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Jesus prophesied these unforgettable words to four of his disciples on the Mount of Olives as recorded in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:30.

It is critical to understand which generation Jesus meant. Taking the plain meaning without any bias, Jesus was referring to his own generation—the generation of his listeners there on the Mount of Olives.

But some scholars say Jesus must have meant a future generation. 

Some others insist that Jesus meant the word “race”,  i.e., the Hebrew race. They reason that because the Hebrew race remains today, the coming of Jesus has not taken place, putting his coming far into the unknown future.

These scholars avoid the obvious meaning in the context of the gospel, dogmatically committed to a future return of Jesus, instead of simply accepting that Jesus spoke of the relative closeness of His coming.

Jesus prophesied to those disciples on the Mount of Olives, that He would return before His hearers’ generation had passed away. Yet many of the same scholars and teachers have no problem in accepting that Jesus spoke literally about the coming fall of the Jerusalem temple.

So then there is no logical reason to exclude the plain fact that Jesus spoke of his soon coming.

Further, there is no doubt the disciples took Jesus’ words “this generation” to mean soon, at the door, at hand. They knew His coming was imminent, perhaps even in their lifetime. We see it in their writings.

Their letters in the N.T. frequently reflect their expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

They knew Jesus warned them to get the Kingdom proclaimed in the towns of Judea before His coming (Matthew 10:23).

Check these references out for yourself: Rom 13:11-13, 1 Cor 10:11, Phil 1:6,10, 1 Thes 1:10, 4:17; 2 Thes 1:7; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2, 9:28, 10:29; Jas 5:3; 1 Pet 1:5, 7-9, 13, 17, 20; 2 Pet 3:3; Jude 19).

Now let’s look at only a few instances of Jesus’ phrase this generation in the gospels, paying close attention to the context of each. You will see they consistently refer to the people alive then as Jesus spoke.

Mat 12:45. . . the last of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Mat 12:41-42. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented. . . The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment. . .

Mark 8:12. Why does this generation seek . . sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.

Mark 8:38 : “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels”.

Jesus warned people in that crowd that some of them, this generation, will be alive ‘when He comes in glory!  He said this generation not that generation.

Luke 17:25. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Mat 17:17. O faithless generation, how long shall I bear with you . .  

Here he referred to the crowd who had no faith to heal.

Mat 23:35-36. Assuredly, I say unto you, all these things will come upon this generation.

That phrase is repeated in Mat 24:34, Mark 31:30, and Luke 21:30.

Mat 24:34f, Mk 13:30f, Lu 21:30f. NKJV. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

In all three synoptic gospels! And all three carry the word assuredly! (Grk amen) and the affirmation that though heaven and earth could pass away, his words stand forever!

So who would dare to change his plain words?

In Mat 23 we read Jesus’ savage attacks on the Jewish ruling elites of that current generation: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  Then after the 7 woes, we read verses 31-36:

Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Further, this particular generation was condemned to such a great extent, that Jesus warned those weeping women as He was led to the cross saying: Weep not for me but for yourselves and your children . . . as he knew what terrible times they would face (Luke 23:28).

Conclusion

In the Olivet discourse of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the generation named by Jesus can only mean the generation of people Jesus was addressing.

We can see that this is consistent with the other numerous references of his using the phrase this generation.

There is no logical or hermeneutical reason why we should not believe and accept that Jesus spoke literally about “all these things will come upon this generation.” (Mat 24:34).

The letters in the New Testament frequently reflect the expectancy of a soon coming, though the hour and day were unknown. We read of their warnings, their urgency to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and their urgings for their readers to live righteously.

Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:31-39

Continuing our close look at the amazing account of Jesus answering the questions of His disciples.

 31. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

  • Angelic sending and gathering: there is no time reference given here and it does not have to follow that this gathering of the elect applies only at the time of the events described in v.30. Such angelic activity can continue as God gathers His elect from all places worldwide.
  • Trumpet: See Isa 24:12b-13: ‘you, O Israelites, will be gathered one by one. In that day the great trumpet will sound . . .’
  • Angels gather: a spiritual gathering; Jesus foretold a new ‘nation’ (Mat 21:43, 1 Pet 2:9)

reflected in the heavenly Jerusalem of Heb 12:22ff and Eph 1:20, 2:6 which continues today.

  • Alternatively, the Greek word ‘angelloi’ messengers, could instead mean the apostles and witnesses who spread the gospel everywhere, so gathering the elect—foretold in Isa 11:12.
  • Note John 11:48-52 where high priest Caiaphas prophesied four things: ‘that one man die for the people, that the whole nation not perish, that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and that ‘Jesus would gather together into one (nation) the children of God.’ Extraordinary!

32-33. “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, know that He is near, right at the door. 

  • Fig tree parable: Just as tender branches and the appearance of leaves are two signs that summer is near, so you (these hearers) know (Greek ginoskete usually translates ‘know’), thus to ‘see’ with understanding. He has foretold of several things—all these things.
  • when you see: (Grk ideti) does not necessarily mean ‘see’ with eyesight but ‘know.’ You see?
  • all these things: some say there could be centuries between earlier events and his coming—but the text uses the phrase all these things (Greek, panta tauta) following one after another as we saw; the discourse is a unity as Jesus answers the disciples’ ‘when’ question.
  • Jesus explicitly told them ‘you too, when you will see all these things’. How can that be possible unless they or some of these hearers are still alive when he comes?
  • near, right at the door: The word near, Greek ‘eggus’ and the phrase ‘right at the doors’ strongly implies imminence. It is beyond absurdity to insist on a 2000 plus years gap. An event cannot be near for 2,000 years, nor it can it be near 2,000 years ago and “at hand” today. Let us put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes! It cannot be sincerely held that God’s avenging judgments on the Jews of that generation would be delayed for 2000 years. See Hebrews 8:13:  ‘When He said [Jeremiah 31], “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready [Grk eggus = near, imminent] to disappear’. So when does it totally disappear if when this was written it was still somewhat present? Did not our author think ‘very soon’?

34. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass awayuntil all these things take place.

  • Truly: Jesus again uses the word amen, assuredly, as if to say ‘you just won’t believe this’.
  • This generation: To attempt to put the parousia in the future some scholars say Jesus meant ‘that generation’, i.e., an unknown future generation which is meaningless. As we saw above (v.25), Jesus warned the disciples of his generation beforehand so they would be prepared.
  • all these things: There will be some still alive who will ‘see’ (know) what He described take place; this includes His coming and indicated how soon He would come.
  • This phrase all these things (panta tauta) is identical to that in the previous verse.  
  • Many commentators and writers have been unable to accept these words of Jesus and plead many different and fanciful explanations, e.g., “generation” means Jewish race, not contemporaries. This dishonours Jesus’ integrity and causes many to stumble and doubt the veracity of the scriptures. Many people from atheists to Moslems have claimed Jesus was a false prophet because they take his words literally, while many brainwashed Christian teachers today find ways around His plain speech because of set, preconceived doctrine. Some modern scholars, thought Jesus made a mistake. Even C S Lewis misunderstood Jesus’ words, assuming He spoke of the end of the world. See his book of essays, “The World’s Last Night”. Harvest Books; (Nov 4, 2002).  
  • What hermeneutical keys can be validly used to show Jesus’ meant a future “final state”?
  • What meaning naturally, logically, arises from our Lord’s prophetic statement? These disciples took His words literally; they knew he meant what he said and said what he meant.
  • Those who cannot take this literally, also stumble over Matthew 10:23b and Matthew 16:28.
  • Millions who can’t believe Jesus came unseen to the human eye, yet believe in the sure and current presence of the Lord Jesus in their spiritual lives—they ‘see’ his presence by faith!

35. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

  • This sovereign, emphatic declaration emphasises the importance, plainness and certainty of all His words including v.34, where the phrase “pass away” is used and repeated by Jesus here. One day heaven and earth as we know it will pass away but Jesus’ words remain forever and ever just as Psalm 119:160 says of God.
  • The Bible has an eternal perspective—past, present and future. And those who trust and follow Him will find themselves part of the future ages with the Lord forever, incorruptible, not a mere 1000 years on a corruptible, earthly, fleshly, Jewish world as taught by many.

36.But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son but the Father alone. 

  • That day and hour: Jesus could not give the disciples, who had asked ‘when?’ (v.3), the day or hour, but only its certainty. He did not use the plural ‘days’ as if it could be serialised, split up. Nor did he say ‘of that century and year’ as if it was far in the distant future.
  • This is the dramatic climax of ‘all these things’ Heinrich Meyer wrote in his 1832 critical commentary: “That the second advent itself is intended to be included is likewise evident from Mat 24:36, in which the subject of the day and hour of the advent is introduced”.

37-39. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 

  • They did not understand until it was too late and they were the ones taken away in the Noah account—those not believing and watching were taken while just eight were saved.
  • The coming: Greek is ‘parousia’: a better translation is ‘presence’ or ‘visitation’, a period, not an action (verb). This parousia will be a devastating judgment on fleshly Israel and importantly, the confirmation of the New Covenant, a new creation.
  • Jesus likens what is coming on the unbelieving Jews with the enormous wrath upon people of Noah’s day: Heb 10:28-30 makes it clear that for anyone to regard as unclean the blood of the new covenant has insulted the Spirit of grace will bring ‘much severe punishment’ about to come on this evil and unbelieving generation who rejected and killed their Messiah.
  • His coming will be just like the Noah visitation—there was no visible physical presence of God then, nor at any of the other judgment events recorded in the Old Testament.

Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24:20-30

Continuing our close look at the amazing account of Jesus answering the questions of His disciples.

20-21. But pray that your flight will 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 will.  

  • The warning is for the people of the generation he is addressing—it is ‘your flight’. Jesus was not warning people two millennia hence, but to people who observe the Sabbath, Jews.
  • To imagine that Jesus was referring to an event in the distant future is to question the truth of his prophecy which forsaw “yourflight” and observers of the Jewish Sabbath.
  • Jesus does not know the timing of this (see v.36) so he warns these disciples accordingly. The warning applied only to his disciples of his own generation.
  • There will be utter devastation and terrible suffering then. The eyewitness historian Josephus confirmed the terrible depth of horror of the incomparable events of 68-70 AD, having no restraint describing the chaotic, dreadful events in his famous ‘Wars of the Jews’.
  • Jesus’ term nor ever will shows this will not be the end of the world—again, no fleeing then!
  • Luke 23:27-31 shows us that Jesus, on the way to the cross, said to the weeping crowds and women “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.For behold, days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are those who cannot bear, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have not nursed.” They must be very concerned for terrible events would happen in their own generation.

22.  Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.  

  • Those days are days of great trouble; they are limited, cut short, and the elect, the obedient believers, who are still living, will escape it in their flight.
  • Again, human life will continue after the days are cut short—it’s not the world’s end!
  • History records several temporary cessations of the assaults by the Roman army when the elect, those who follow Jesus, would have had the opportunity to escape from Judea.
  • Jesus was not prophesying about some event far in the future but much sooner events.
  • This escape has little to do with a ‘rapture’ of 1 Thes 4:17 where Paul there gives absolutely no hint of anyone fleeing anything, but being united with Jesus forever.

23-25.  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 it were possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you in advance.

  • You: Jesus warns these disciples about misreading the timing and nature of His coming. He warns them, his generation, to have such an expectation—not future millions of believers.
  • False prophets’ signs will be so powerful misleading many, but as Albert Barnes commented (1870) “His real friends would be too firmly established in the belief that he was the Christ.”
  • Many rabbis then practised sorcery, e.g., flames seemed to come out of Barcochab’s mouth (John Gill’s Commentary). We read of Simon Magus & Elymas in Acts 8:9-11,13:6. Magic arts practice was widespread.

26. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.

  • He continues to warn them to ignore reported sightings of him; such places like ‘wilderness’ and ‘the inner rooms’ can’t possibly fit any description of a future end of the entire world.
  • His coming will not be observable. Jesus had told the Pharisees, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed . . .  “(Luke 17:20) which reminds us that His coming will not be seen by physical eyes though it will be experienced and understood.

27. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

  • There is no break in Jesus’ warning—when he comes in judgment it will be understood by all and swift like lightning, and be ‘seen’ as widespread (‘from the east to the west’)—not in any inner room or special place. Lightning is sudden, unpredictable, lasts only for milliseconds.
  •  It is limited geographically to a region—as the region of Judea—not the entire planet. The Roman historian Tacitus reported, “sudden lightning from the clouds lit up the Temple.” Histories ch. 5 sect. 13 AD 109 and “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.”
  • Lightning often shows God’s power in the OT, e.g. Job 37:3 ‘He sends it (his voice) out under the whole sky, and his lightning to the ends of the earth.’ Also Job 26:13, Pss 97:4, 77:18.
  • Coming: The Greek word here is parousia, a noun meaning visitation.
  • Son of Man: When Jesus answered the disciples’ questions he kept referring to himself in the 3rd person and not the 1st, as “the Son of Man” (Mat 24:30, 36, 39; cf. Mat 16:27-28).

28. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 

  • The corpse: the carcass of the Jewish nation, especially Jerusalem.
  • vultures: Josephus described multitudes of corpses piled up in Jerusalem during the Roman invasion—graphic evidence of God’s judgment everywhere. Vultures gather after battles.
  • Birds eating human flesh is a judgment motif in O.T. e.g. Ezek 32:3-4, 39:1-5, Rev 19:21.
  • In Luke’s account, Jesus answers the disciples’ question of those left behind in Judea and killed ‘where to Lord?’ answering ‘where the body is there also will the eagles be gathered’ (Luke 17:36). Again, this is a Judean, Roman conquest context, not the world’s end.

29. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

  • Immediately: Another time stamp—there is no delay after the tribulation ends and is then closely followed by the ‘appearance’ in v.30, no gap. Cf Mark 13:24 ‘but in those days’.   
  • Stars falling: Collapsing of cosmic entities is a common motif in judgment prophecy, e.g. Isa 13:10, 19:1,24:18-20, 34;8-15, Ezek 32:7–8; Joel 2:28; Nah 1:3; Pss 18, 104:3) and this would be understood by informed Jews familiar with the prophets.

30. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  

  • And then. Another timestamp—the remarkable number of these shows an unbroken sequence of all the things Jesus foretold, one after another, not split up over millennia.
  • The sign of the Son of Man: It is the sign that appears in heaven, not the Son of Man.
  • Cf.Daniel 7:13: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.”
  • The Son of Man is not seen in the sky but ‘seen’ seated in the heavenlies (Grk. oranaos)! Stephen said to the Sanhedrin, at his trial,I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
  • tribes of the land (Greek, epi tes ges) that is tribes of Israel. These Jews mourn because of the realisation of judgment—a Judean context, so there is no worldwide mourning. For Jews there is only one ‘land’—the land of Israel promised by God to Abraham.
  • Note the change to the 3rd person—‘they’; those who will ’see’ includes the high priest and those who have rejected the Messiah, cf Rev 1:7, Zech 12:10. Second Century Historian Hegesippus wrote that James (Jesus’ brother) proclaimed Jesus to the Pharisees saying: “He himself sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” The Pharisees then killed him.
  • they will see: This cannot be forced to mean to ‘see’ with physical eyes as a visible event but they will understand the staggering, horrifying truth of God’s judgment. Jesus’ second coming could never be seen optically, as He sits at the right hand of power and “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16).
  • Daniel Moraiswrote: Christ was invisible as the brightness of His presence was masked by the Glory Cloud, thick dark storm clouds, as was the case during the coming of the Lord in 2 Sam 22:8-15, Isa 66:15-16, Psalms 18:6-16, 50:3, 97:1-5, 144:5. Also judgment on cities in the past according to the Hebrew prophets—the brightness of his presence seemingly being masked by the thick, dark clouds of the Glory Cloud.
  • The visible destruction of Jerusalem and its temple will be the sign that the Son of Man reigns in heaven having ascended to the Father. His throne and reign is taught by the whole New Testament as heavenly, spiritual, not earthly or fleshly. Natural, fleshly Israel, with its temple worship, sacrificial system, priesthood, all will disappear.
  • Jesus told the high priest at his mock trial: “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mat 26:64). Jesus expected the high priest would be alive and recognise the coming of the Son of Man!
  • Jesus’ coming would be marked not by his visibility, but by much visible phenomenon, e.g. storm clouds hiding his glory, Psalm 18:6-16.  Remarkably, Josephus, Eusebius, Tacitus and the Talmud variously recorded that trumpets and angelic voices were heard and supernatural activity observed around the time of the end of Jerusalem and its temple. See Albert Barnes’ commentary. These are historical facts, taking place 2000 years ago.

Matthew 24:10-21

We continue our examination of how Jesus answered the two questions put to Him by the disciples on Mt Olivet.

10. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.

  • Note the change to the 3rd person. All of these things would take place within the lifetimes of the apostles as we read in Acts and many Letters of the NT.

11-12. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

  • many: there would be much apostasy, hatred, false prophets, deception, lawlessness, whereas the ‘one’ of v.13 to be saved from the terrible tribulation about to come.

13. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

  • the end. Jesus did not talk about the end of time. Believers of his generation would endure suffering and were warned to be faithful to an ‘end’ which they could foresee and survive.

14. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. 

  • This gospel: it isthe gospel of the kingdom which was already proclaimed at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as we read in the early chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
  • world: Grkoikomene’= inhabited world—this was accomplished by the apostles before the end, the end of the Mosaic age –see Rom 1:8, 10:18, 15:19, Col 1:6, 1 Thess 1:8.
  • Then the end will come: Jesus answered the disciples’ when-question, so that they would be able to discern ‘the end’. Note what Jesus did not prophesy, not the end of time or the world.
  • Nations: Grk ‘ethne’, here means people groups, not as our modern concept of nations.

15.“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),

  • Abomination of Desolation: Jesus referred to the abomination which Daniel spoke of (Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11) –a most critically serious event to be repeated and then at the end.
  • the reader:  The unique and fascinating writer’s note to his readers (bracketed in most translations) underscores the seriousness of the situation and that it is connected to the sign of the end and the deliverance of the faithful from the coming tribulation. This proves Jesus’ words were remembered and recorded and were deliberately intended to be read by believers of that generation and acted upon before the end of the age as we can see from history (AD 66-70) and by them escaping “to the mountains”.
  • It is clear Jesus was not prophesying about some event far in the future but soon events to people of his generation. So let the modern reader understand—history!
  • Here are two more time markers: 1st, when the disciples see this, and 2nd, what they must do.

16. then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 

  • This was the signal to the disciples to flee to escape the coming great tribulation which Jesus will refer to next  (v.17).
  • The geographical description is local, Judean, not global, and cannot support some distant future event. History shows they fled to Pella, a city of the Decapolis in Trans-Jordan.
  • Luke adds that when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, they would know its destruction was near (21:20)—He instructed that “those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.” (21:21) If they don’t flee they will be the ones left behind!—see v.28.
  • Luke further adds “because these are the days of vengeance that all things written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22). It is vengeance against the apostate nation of which Moses forewarned long ago (please see Deuteronomy 28:34-68; 29:22-28).

17-19. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things that are in his house.  Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!  

  • For those who hear and understand what Jesus has just said, there will not be time to go back for anything, so serious is the imminent threat of the destruction—they must flee.
  • This warning comes straight after the “abomination” reference allowing time to escape.
  •  The scene is local, rural, Judean and does not fit any end of the world context. Jesus did not prophesy the end of the world—there would be no one ‘fleeing’ anywhere then!

20-21. But pray that your flight will 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 will.  

  • The warning is for the people of the generation he is addressing—it is ‘your flight’. Jesus was not warning people two millennia hence, but to people who observe the Sabbath, Jews.
  • To imagine that Jesus was referring to an event in the distant future is to question the truth of his prophecy which forsaw “yourflight” and observers of the Jewish Sabbath.
  • Jesus does not know the timing of this (see v.36) so he warns these disciples accordingly. The warning applied only to his disciples of his own generation.
  • There will be utter devastation and terrible suffering then. The eyewitness historian Josephus confirmed the terrible depth of horror of the incomparable events of 68-70 AD, having no restraint describing the chaotic, dreadful events in his famous ‘Wars of the Jews’.
  • Jesus’ term nor ever will shows this will not be the end of the world—again, no fleeing then!
  • Luke 23:27-31 shows us that Jesus, on the way to the cross, said to the weeping crowds and women “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.For behold, days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are those who cannot bear, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have not nursed.” They must be very concerned for terrible events would happen in their own generation.

To be continued . . . . . . .

The Olivet Discourse

In coming posts I aim to show that Jesus, in answering the disciples’ questions on the Mount of Olives, predicted the end of the age and his coming (Parousia) within his own generation. They were left in no doubt that He would come in their generation.

Matthew, Mark and Luke were not mistaken either, writing down what would happen and which history confirms. Paul, Peter, John and James in their writings of the New Testament show they believed His coming was imminent. Soon.

The “last days” in the New Testament refers to the end of an era, an age and not the end of time. The end of the long Mosaic age. The end of one age and the beginning of a new age. A New Covenant.

Futurist commentators say that our Lord’s ‘second’ coming is yet to happen and many of them teach that event is soon. If that is true, it follows from the texts that we face a time of great falling away, a most terrible ‘great tribulation’ while Satan’s kingdom triumphs.

But good news! We do not face what Jesus referred to as ‘the great tribulation’. We will not be ‘left behind’. Such erroneous views promote despair and an escape mentality. Many people want to opt out, some with the wish to be raptured, to escape the spectre of dying. To get out of this terrifying world.

Yet Jesus prayed for his disciples “ I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

We are called to bear witness to Jesus, his death and resurrection and his matchless character, power and authority at the right hand of the majesty on high. He is present with us, his new creation, his holy nation, within our lives, at home in our hearts, in a new covenant of the Holy Spirit.

All Jesus’ predictions, all of them, that we read here in the Olivet discourse came true together in amazing detail. Glory to God and to the Lamb forever for ‘He shall reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet, and then the end shall come’!

We are using as a basis here the Matthew, chapter 24, NASB version —plus some references to parallel texts in Luke and Mark.

Jesus answered two questions put to him by the disciples—a ‘when’ question and a ‘what’ question.

The coming of the Son of Man, the end of the age, is about judgment on apostate Israel, the rejecters of Jesus Messiah, a judgment which will use earthly means, the Roman armies. It is not about the end of the world.

Before we begin, let us understand some important principles which must guide our interpretation.

First, context. This discourse must really be seen in the wider context of the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke. This is especially so in Matthew. The reader should understand the narrative leading up to chapter 24, at least from chapter 21 and understand Jesus’ caustic and condemning words to the scribes and Pharisees and in the parables in chapters 21-23 of Matthew.

Reading of Chapter 23 is critical—for example, the ‘eight woes’ (vs.13-33) followed by the charge that their leaders will persecute those he will send and the terrifying prediction that “upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (vs.34-36). This is the same generation mentioned in Mat 24:34.

As you know, there are no chapter divisions in the original texts. It is a continuous narrative.

Second, this discourse was addressed to four of the twelve apostles at a particular point in time and place. It was not addressed to disciples beyond that generation, let alone to today’s readers. Of course, these four hearers imparted what they learned to other disciples in their lifetime.

We must resist the all too common habit of applying Jesus’ words to us, as if he was speaking to 21st-century readers about our future. Of course, this applies to all the texts in the New Testament, although we are edified by seeing how the truth of the gospel applies to us. There are many words recorded as spoken by Jesus to his disciples which cannot apply to us today. God gave us scriptures for us but they were not written to us!

Matthew 24 is often dubbed “the Little Apocalypse” because of the symbolic nature of verses 29-31. Jesus used cosmic collapse language, understood by Jews, Hebrew thinkers, and was frequently used by the prophets speaking from God about judgment.

It is very important to realise, as scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “Jerusalem remained the focal point of everything that the Jews were and did. Jewish identity was bound up with, and focused upon, a single city, and within that city a single shrine.” Jerusalem Past and Present in the Purposes of God.1994.