Matthew 24, the Olivette Discourse - Jesus tells the disciples about the end times
 
   Study given in Worthychat on 3/19/2005

Preparation before the study, read this:

Tonight we will be going into controversial territory. My purpose is not to teach you the position I hold, but it will come out as we advance through the topics. This study is on Matthew Chapter 24, and as we discuss it, you will gain an understanding of why some people, hold positions which are different from your own. I do not claim to have a better understanding than others who hold differing views. Most of you, probably will not agree with my position, that is o.k., feel free to disagree. As I said, this is controversial, so, in order to maintain some kind of order here, I ask you not to become argumentative. Please, do not interrupt me with questions like: "What about verse so and so, doesn't it teach such and such?" There are hundreds of ways to distract this subject. If you have a question about something said that you do not understand, I would be happy to stop and elaborate, but again, try not to side track me, there is a lot to cover, and only so much time to do so. After the study, they should be opportunity to ask the questions or pose the arguments that you wanted to during the study. If not, feel free to do so at another time.  (Note: We did not have time for questions after the study, so a place is provided at the bottom of this page for that purpose.)

Finally, I ask you listen with an open mind. We have a tendency to bring our preconceptions and prejudice with us, but that hampers learning. Being emotional about a topic, especially if your position is being challenged, likewise hampers our ability to grasp the significance of what is being said. So, in a moment of quiet time, take the time to ask God to send His Spirit to help and guide our understanding, and ask Him for discernment as to whether anything I say here, is true. Pray the same for your brothers and sisters who are also attending this study. Finally, pray for me, that I have the ability to effectively communicate anything He would have you know or understand.

One last thing, it would be a good idea, for you to have your favorite version of the Bible at the ready, and a notepad in your hand, to jot down things you might want to discuss after the study. Thank you for reading this and for your cooperation.

 Definition of some terms

Rapture - There is coming a time where the church will be caught up to be with Jesus, in the air, we refer to this as the rapture. The word ‘rapture’ is not in the bible, but the concept is.

The Great Tribulation - There is coming a time when there will be tremendous, severe persecution and other troubles. This, according to some, will be of the Jewish people, others believe that in also includes the church.

Post-trib - the position held by some, that the church will be present on earth, and will endure the great tribulation before being caught up to be with the Lord.

Pre-trib - the position held by some, that the church will be caught up to be with the Lord, prior to the great tribulation

There is also a phrase "Day of the Lord" , which deserves our attention, but it is a large study itself, and would distract us here at this time, as we are studying Mat 24, and the phrase is not found there.

You may see a reference or two to exegesis or the word exegetical or exegesis, it is just a fancy term for proper interpretive methodology 

We may need to define more terms as we go along, but these will get us started.

Intro

Tonight, we will be talking about the sequence of some of the events of the end times. This is a controversial subject. It needs to be noted that qualified scholars, have studied these things for years, yet there is no consensus of opinion. Therefore, we will not solve these issues here. As near as I am able to determine, the majority of the Christian church believed that the church would endure the great tribulation, prior to being caught up to be with the Lord, for about 1800 years. To be fair, there was a great deal of time in those 1800 years, where the church at large was not very focused on eschatology (the study of the last things). Never-the-less, the historical position of the Protestants, as well as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, was a post-tribulation rapture position. We could look at the history of various viewpoints, and that would be interesting itself, but ultimately, it is irrelevant what people have believed historically, as that is not the test of truth.

I am sorry, for taking so much time to lay this groundwork, but I felt it was important to do so.

Methodology

I avoid starting a discussion about the end times with the book of Revelation, as it is a vision, full of symbolism, and not in chronological order. Good exegesis requires starting with the clearest passages, and working outward from there, developing the outline from the clear to the vague, not the other way around. I have heard it said, by proponents of various positions, that their position is the only one that lines up with scripture without contradiction. This assertion is ridiculous. If that were the case, there would be no controversy. Two (or more) contradictory positions, cannot both (all) be correct. So, were does the problem lie? It lies in the preconceptions, assumptions, and misunderstandings of the interpreters. Let us, therefore, be very careful, to not fall into those problems, and resolve to detect those areas, were we, ourselves, are making those mistakes. We will, when appropriate, be looking at Greek words or phrases, to help us clarify what the texts might be saying. We will use scripture to interpret scripture, there is no better way to discover what a verse is saying, than to look to the scripture for clarification.

On to the study

With respect to the timing of the so called rapture, or the sequence of other end time events, Matt 24 is the obvious starting place. The reason for this is, that it is Jesus Himself speaking, you cannot get more authoritative than that! It is the longest, most detailed passage in the Bible on the subject, and on top of that, it is a response to disciple's question about the timing, and Jesus answers with a chronological answer, as evidenced by words and phrases like "at that time", "then", "immediately after", etc., are there better reasons to start at another passage? I do not think there are. So, that is where our study begins. Since this is a clear and elaborate passage, we will be able to lay out certain events in sequence, and any subsequent verses, must harmonize. If they do not, then we are misinterpreting something.

Setting up the context

The disciples were with Jesus at the temple buildings, where He told them, that the buildings would all be torn down. These were magnificent stone buildings. It must have been hard to believe, that they would be torn down, it took 46 years to construct them. Later that day, four of the disciples came to Jesus and asked: "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" In Mark 13, it is rendered this way: "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?" You probably noticed that there is a minor discrepancy here in the two narratives. Since I believe that the Bible is true, and divinely inspired, I am taking these two accounts as containing additional details. So, the question being answered is" When will these things happen, what are the signs that they are about to be fulfilled, what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age. As you can see, this is a detailed chronological question, asking about the time, the signs, the coming and the end. I am glad they asked this question. Let's look at Jesus' answer, and take an inventory of the events, and look for the words which set time or sequence.

Mt 24:4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.

Mt 24:5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

Mt 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Mt 24:7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Mt 24:8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

There, we see the disciples were told to be careful not to be deceived. I want to give you something to ponder as we go through this study. Who is Jesus speaking to? Are these predictions and warnings for those disciples only, or, to the Jews, since the disciples were Jewish, or to Christians, because they were His followers? Were they for that time, or are they for us today? How you answer these questions, will shape what you believe about the unfolding sequence of future events. Give it some thought, keep it in the back of your mind.

There are those, who believe that all of the events prophesied in the Matthew 24 passage, have already been fulfilled. If anyone would like to see the evidence for this position, I will be happy to go into that at a later date. It is not what I believe, but I am not trying to teach you what to think, I am here to stimulate your own thinking, and it is up to you to come to your own conclusions.

So far, we have:

omegafish.gif (1333 bytes)Deceivers coming

omegafish.gif (1333 bytes) False messiahs

omegafish.gif (1333 bytes) Wars, and rumors of wars

omegafish.gif (1333 bytes) Nations and kingdoms coming against each other

omegafish.gif (1333 bytes) Famines and earthquakes in different places.

These are described as the beginning of birth pains.

Jesus has provided here, is a picture of things to come. He has compared it, with a woman giving birth. We know that when a woman is pregnant, there comes a point, where certain signs appear, alerting us to the fact, that she is about to give birth. So it is with these things in the end times. The appearance of these signs, let's those who see them, that the countdown has begun. The word for birth pains, in Greek, is oodínoon, literally it is pains or sorrows, but is especially used of birth pains.

He continues:

Mt 24:9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.

This verse is loaded with information. It begins with the word "then" (Tóte) , which means most literally "at that time". So at that time (the time just after the birth pains) , "you" will be handed over to be persecuted. Who is the 'you' here? We are back to our original question of "Who are these prophecies for?". Now, my position is that it is to the disciples certainly, and indeed, they we persecuted and killed. But, was it only for them? I am persuaded, that it is for a time more that 2000 years later also. God frequently gave prophecies, with dual fulfillments. Usually the pre-fulfillment, is a taste of the larger, latter fulfillment. I cannot prove the case here, but it is possible, and, the evidence will mount later if you study the end times in further detail. It is interesting to note, that He said "you will be handed over", in other words, the persecuted will be betrayed or turned in. Many point out, that this is a prophecy intended for Jews, not Christians. I certainly think that is possible. The "nations" is often a phase used of the Gentiles. That makes this sound Jewish. I have my reservations, because it says "they" (who although they are Jews, are also followers of Jesus) will be hated because of "me" (Jesus). I tend to think that Jews are not hated because of Jesus (except for a few kooks), but Christians are the one who the world finds offensive for Christ's sake.

Now, I want to digress a moment. There are a few issues of attitude or philosophy I want to toss in here, as they come to mind. It may seem out of place, I will try to make it make sense though. If it doesn't, cut me some slack. There are many views of these end times events. In this study, I am addressing two of them. Even these two, have variations. In any vocal discussion about these two positions, someone will claim a third position: "I am pan-trib", then someone will ask: "What do you mean by pan-trib?" "Well, I don't care if it is post or pre, as long as it all pans out". Now, this attitude is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a neutral, non combative position, one that implies submission to the will of God, whichever way it all goes. That part of the attitude is good. However, I think that the Bible discusses this subject frequently for a reason, God does not waste His breath. If He thinks it is important, so should we, I hope there is no argument about that. What you believe about these things, can affect how you live your life, how you make decisions, what your focus is. For example some people, have cancelled college/career plans, because they were sure the Lord would return soon. A few, have sold their homes, and given the money away. Others, store food etc. in preparation for the possibility of the great tribulation. What we want, is balance. I think a good attitude, is to hope for the best, living each day as though Jesus might come that day, while recognizing that may be a misunderstanding, and do what we can, to prepare spiritually and physically for hardship. Finally, I think to treat this area of study as unimportant, is an insult to God. It says, in essence, that I know what is good for me to know, more that God does.

That attitude, is the scariest. I said that I would try to tie this together with where we were in the study. Where we left off, we were looking at the phrase "you will be handed over". I think it would be wise, that if we are among those who see the signs leading to the great tribulation, that we evaluate our relationships. I may well be, that those that hand us over, are our friends, parents, children, brothers, sisters and spouses. If I am here at that time, I want to be certain, that my associations are "real" Christians, or to the degree that that is not possible, have some sort of escape plan if it comes down to that. Continuing the study:

Mt 24:10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,

Mt 24:11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

Mt 24:12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,

Mt 24:13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Interesting set there, wasn't it? Betrayal, false prophets and deception, increasing wickedness, and love waning. Then comes a positive note" He who stands firm, will be saved. Question: Who does this apply to, standing firm in what against what, What is the end, and saved from what?

Mt 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

That verse seems pretty key. The gospel of the kingdom will be reached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.

Let me ask another question. Is the 'gospel of the kingdom', the same gospel that the church preaches? Note that it is to be preached to all nations before the end will come, and once it is, the end will come. This, is an answer to the question originally posed by the disciples:

"When will these things happen, what are the signs, that they are about to be fulfilled, what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age. "

Jesus outlined a set of signs, which He will further elaborate on in subsequent verses, and gave a sign about the nearness of the end:

"preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations". The word nation, is 'éthnesin', in the Greek. It does not mean country, like we think of nations. It means, tribe, ethnicity, people groups, that sort of thing. In a Jewish context, it would mean 'gentiles', non Jews. Basically, it means that the gospel will be preached in the whole world, to all peoples. Now, if you think about it, that means that these things could not even have happened, before the discovery of the New World, the Americas. The idea that Jesus could have returned at any moment, does not seem plausible, although the discovery of the New World, was not an event which the bible seems to have predicted. So, as missionaries have been penetrating with the gospel, worldwide, they bring the possibility of the "end" nearer. Some claim the gospel of the kingdom is not the same as the gospel of salvation through Jesus. I honestly do not know one way or the other, but I see no reason to conclude that this is some other gospel.

Now, observe what Jesus says next, the first word is "so". The implication is, that what He is about to say, is applied to all that He just said that it springs from the previous part of the conversation. In other words, we could say "therefore" where it says "so".

Mt 24:15 "So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—

Mt 24:16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Mt 24:17 Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.

Mt 24:18 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.

Mt 24:19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!

Mt 24:20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.

Mt 24:21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

Mt 24:22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

Right of the bat in that passage, Jesus mentions something from Daniel, we, therefore, should look at Daniel.

Now, Daniel 9 would make a great study itself, maybe next time though. For now we are just going to look at one verse, after a short explanation of what preceded this verse. Daniel nine is a prophecy of seventy sevens, In other words it talks of 70 X 7 years, or 490 years. The first 69 weeks, are a period of time leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. The seventieth week, takes place in the last days we are discussing in Matt 24. At least I think that is a real possibility

Dan 9:27

 27 "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate , even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate ."

Notice that "he" will make a covenant for a week. The word translated as week, just means 7, not seven days. It here means 7 years. In the middle of the week, he breaks the covenant, by ending the sacrifices. You see here, certain words, abomination, and desolate. This is the "abomination of desolation" Jesus referred to. We could develop this further, and should, this verse by itself, seems a bit vague, but we can get more data in other passages, time constraints, prevent that for now, we are studying Mat 24.

As a side note, you may have noted that I have mentioned the word tribulation. Tribulation, in the Greek, is most literally translated as pressure, as in these people will be under tremendous pressure. Think of an olive press or a grape press, Same word, same idea, it is not a gentle pressing. It is usually translated as trouble, testing, that sort of thing. You have probably heard of the seven year tribulation. The Bible never refers to a seven year tribulation, as far as I know. There is a seven year period, to be sure, but the Jesus called the second half of the 7 years "a great tribulation" (KJV).

Returning to Mat 24

Mt 24:15 "So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—

Mt 24:16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Mt 24:17 Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.

Mt 24:18 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.

I would like to point out, that Jesus referred to one standing in the holy place. It seems obvious to me, that there has to be a holy place to stand in. I think, as many do, that this is a reference to a yet future, rebuilt temple, in Jerusalem. I could be wrong, many think I am. In any case, when this one stands in the holy place, those in Judea, are told to get out fast, very fast. The references here, point definitely to Israel, the holy place, Judea, etc. My best guess is, that the whole tribulation, starts locally, in Jerusalem, but it is clear from other passages in the bible, that the implications, are world wide. Never-the-less, there is an Israel-centric focus here. This is one reason why some feel thistribulation is for the Jews only.However, other passages indicate that this is not only a local issue. I tend therefore to think this trouble begins and is concentrated in Jerusalem, but it spreads out with global implications.

Mt 24:20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.

Definite Jewish context there, note that there is Sabbath observance. But there is an interesting thing there also, that often gets glossed over. Jesus says to pray about the timing of it. My thinking is, that Jesus would not ask us to pray about something that prayer would have no affect on. So, I am asking you to obey him on this point, to help those who will be fleeing in this terrible time. Also, the fact that we should pray about it, seems to suggest that the timing is not set in stone, at least, not at the time Jesus spoke these words.

Mt 24:21 For then there will be GREAT DISTRESS, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

Mt 24:22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

I place emphasis there, because that is the phrase in the Bible, where we get the name of the period from, in the King James Version, it is rendered "Great Tribulation". Notice that it is the most terrible time, ever in history or the future. It is so bad, that if God does not intervene, not a single person will survive.

Mt 24:23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.

Mt 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible

At that time, there will be a persuasive demonstration of power attempting to deceive the elect if possible. First question is, "Who are the "elect". I have my opinion on this, but you will need to form your own. The elect often refers to Jews, it sometimes refers to Christians, especially in Paul's writings, perhaps here, it refers to both. There is also the phrase "if that were possible".

Some say, that the "if" implies that the deception is not possible. I do not see that. I see it more as "to whatever degree it is possible, the elect will be deceived, since these are such persuasive signs. "If", in this case, is the Greek word "ei", same as used by the devil when he said to Jesus: "If you are the Son of God". It is a stretch, but since Jesus was, then we might almost assume "since it is possible", ah, never mind, that is a stretch, point is, it is obvious that the word "if" does not rule out the possibility. One final note on the possibility of being deceived: If it is not possible to be deceived, why is Jesus repeatedly warning about seeing to it that they (we?) are NOT deceived. The same word translated "if", is sometimes translated "since".

Now, this is a Matt 24 study, as I keep saying, but I think pulling a snippet from 2nd Thessalonians is in order on this point:

2 Thess 2:8-12

8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

Now, the above passage makes it clear, that most of the deception, is for the wicked, we need to be on guard, aware, and well studied. If we are, we will not be taken in. Continuing on in Matthew:

Mt 24:25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

Mt 24:26 "So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.

Mt 24:27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Now notice that previous verse, verse 27. Isn't that saying that the Son of Man's coming, will be a spectacular, visible event?

Now, so far, Jesus has gone from the signs of the birth pains, leading up to the other events, like the Great Tribulation, and He mentions that His coming will be visible.

So far, if there is a rapture before (or in the middle of) the tribulation, Jesus hasn't mentioned it. Continuing:

Mt 24:28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

This verse requires further examination. We see this same phrase, in Luke’s account of this discourse. Now, there is a lot to comment on in Luke’s version, but I will not do so, because there is so much to cover. However, I am going to have you read a large part of it, so you can see the context. We will probably comment on the parallel passages in Matthew, as we come to them.

Luke 17:26-37

26 "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 "On that day, let not the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house go down to take them away; and likewise let not the one who is in the field turn back. 32 "Remember Lot's wife. 33 "Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall preserve it. 34 "I tell you, on that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken, and the other will be left. 35 "There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken, and the other will be left. 36["Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left."] 37 And answering they said to Him, "Where, Lord ?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered."

O.K. You noticed the last verse about the body and the vultures. Here though, we have it placed in a context where we can see, I think, what is being said.

Luke reports Jesus saying many things, things very similar to each other, What is the common thread? All of these things, are talking about two people, or two groups of people.

Noah and his family, compared with those outside the ark.

Lot and his family, compared with those in Sodom.

Then Jesus said, it will be the same at His revelation, His return. Several examples are given, much alike, for the sake of brevity, let’s skip to the last one:

36"Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left." Next comes the clarification we need. The disciples ask a simple question:

"Where Lord?"

Where what? Obviously, where will they be taken? Jesus answers: "Where the body is and where the vultures gather." In other words, they are taken away to destruction, to death, Remember, this is Just as in the Days of Noah and of Lot. Those around Noah's ark, were living normal lives, knowing nothing, until they were taken away. This cannot refer to Noah being taken away and saved from trouble, because he was not living a normal life, he was preparing for the flood, and it was not he that knew nothing, it was those outside the ark. Same in the case with Lot, He wasn't living life as normal, he was making his escape, those living their normal lives, were the ones surprised, and subsequently destroyed. So, I conclude those that maintain that the verses talking about one taken, the other left, meaning that the ones taken are taken in the rapture, have it backwards. Those taken, are the ones destroyed. We will see this pointed out again, in other ways, if we get to study other passages. Also note, that this all occurs, at Jesus revelation (visible return) not some secret or invisible rapture. We could go on, for now though, we need to return to Mat 24, and try to wrap that up.

 Mt 24:29 "Immediately after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken."

Now, that is another key verse about timing and sequence. Immediately after the tribulation, there will be extreme celestial phenomena. This obviously has not happened yet, it is yet in the future.

Mt 24:30 "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

Mt 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

So, the sequence so far, is birth pain signs, beginning of 7 years, a personage in the temple making a covenant, breaking the covenant after 3 1/2 years, beginning the great tribulation. At the end of the tribulation, the celestial signs, the visible return of Jesus, and then the angels gathering the elect. If the Rapture is mentioned in this discourse, it was right there, and placed at the end of the tribulation. This, is what I believe is being described here, but that is a matter of my opinion. I once believed, like most of the western church for the last century in a pre-tribulation rapture. Passages like this one, comparing scripture with scripture, changed my mind. Personally, I think any other understanding, is imposing your wishes into the scripture, but I cannot prove that, and so, I suggest that you do your own, independent study, get rid of your preconceptions, and then, carefully and prayerfully come to your own conclusions.

Consider that we are warned against deception in the last days, another warning is this:

2 Tim 4:3-5

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.

Always consider the tickle factor. Which tickles your ears more, being raptured before the great tribulation, or suffering through it? This should not be taken to refer to the question of the rapture necessarily, but I do think that it is worth considering. It seems possible to me, that getting people to believe they will escape calamity, only to find themselves in the middle of it, could be part of what case many to fall away from the faith, as has happened before in history. However, it is my opinion that those who fall away, were not likely "real" believers anyway.

Continuing:

Mt 24:32   "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.

Mt 24:33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.

Mt 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Mt 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Here, Jesus says to learn something, a lesson. In verses 32 and 33, He tells us in plain language that these signs are to tell you that it is about to break loose. Verse 34 says this generation will not pass away until all of these things have happened. The Greek word for generation there is:

genea a generation; by implication, an age (the period or the persons). The KJV translates the word into age, generation, nation, and time.

You will hear all sorts of things said by commentators on this verse. From me, since I am not at all certain of what is intended, I have no opinion. Some opinions are that the fig tree symbolizes Israel. When the leaves come out, was in 1948 when Israel was established again. They noted that the bible has generations often meaning a period of 40 years, so based on that, this was all going to happen by 1988. Guess what, it did not. Then there were other predictions based on other things, also wrong. I am not setting dates. Some have thought that the nation of Israel would not pass until all these things happened. Some thought that the generation Jesus was speaking to, would not pass away until all these things happened, and reasoned, that therefore they all these thing happened within 40 years of Jesus' words. Still others think that within 40 years of all these thing happening, the end comes. There is, in my opinion, no reason to be stuck on the 40 year number. There are dozens of others, so you see why I hesitate to get into it.

Since this is the end of the portion of Matthew 24 where Jesus gives a discourse on signs and sequences, let's recap in brief what he told them, with emphasis placed on words denoting chronological sequence:

FIRST

is the beginning of the birthpangs and Jesus' first warning about deception, Matt 24:4-8

THEN

betrayal, persecution for Jesus' sake

AT THAT TIME

Betrayal, false prophets and deception, increasing wickedness, and love waning. 2nd warning on deception.

AND (could be sequence, maybe not)

gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world

AND THEN

the end will come.

Jesus then adds more detail to the previous outline:

you will see the abomination that causes desolation, standing in the holy place

THEN

let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Going back to take nothing, get out fast

THEN

The Great Tribulation occurs.

AT THAT TIME (most likely during the tribulation)

do not believe the false signs, miracles, prophets and Messiahs for if possible, even the elect will be deceived

IMMEDIATELY AFTER

Sun, Moon darkened, stars fall, heavenly bodies shaken.

AT THAT TIME

Son of Man will appear in the sky, all nations will see Him and mourn.

He sends angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

 Have you ever noticed how many time/sequence related words there are there?

First, then, at that time, and, and then, then, then, at that time, immediately after, at that time. You see why, this is the place to begin a study of this subject. Now, we have a firm foundation upon which, we can examine other details from other places in scripture, and see how they fit in. We can eliminate some of our pet theories with these passages and understanding. We need to note, that the rapture may not have been chronicled in this discourse, though it may have been at Matt 24:30,31, where it was said that the Son of Man will appear in the sky, all nations will see Him and mourn and He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

This happens to be what I believe those verses are talking about, but I cannot prove that, at least not here. That would take some more digging on another night, which we could, if anyone is interested in looking into that possibility, but it tends to challenge existing notions, people do not generally like rethinking their assumptions, in my experience.

Now, I have to say, that some of my own assumptions have been challenged while doing this study. I had the study nearly finished, when I ran into some unexpected difficulties, that I need to investigate. At this point, we are not through Matt 24, but we have finished this section of it. The remainder of Matt. 24, goes on to elaborate a bit more, but in parabolic language, and the beginning of Matt 25, is a continuation of that. I will not  be doing a study in chat on that most likely, but may finish it up here. Check back if interested.

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5/14/2008 - Update

It has been over 3 years since I presented the above Bible study. I was rereading it and it seems time to continue from where I left off. Matthew 24:35 sees to be that last verse I addressed, looking over the Bible text, that was a terrible place to leave it hanging, here is why:

This was an expository Study on Matt 24. In order to clarify some passages, we looked at other places in scripture for additional light. The study was therefore, also a topical one, dealing with the end times, the sequence of events dealing with the great tribulation an Jesus return at the end of that. As was made clear, my personal (but studied) opinion is, that the church would be around to see and endure the tribulation, as I have found not one passage of scripture that clearly indicates that Jesus would come for His church at any time prior, certainly that idea is not mentioned in Matt. 24. I realize that my idea that the church will undergo the great tribulation is not a majority view in the modern western church. One of the things that characterizes a competing view point (the view that holds that the church will be caught up to be with Jesus before the great tribulation) is the idea that His coming will be a surprise, that it will be unexpected. Had I continued in the Matt 24 study, I would have come to a main, if not the main verse, that many believe indicates this time as not being knowable. "Indeed", they say, "If the church were here to see these things, there could be no surprise, we would know almost exactly when He will return". So, let's pick up where we left off, this is the long awaited "Part Two"

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Matt 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

The reasoning goes, that it if the church was in the tribulation, then they would know that there would be 7 years or 3 1/2 years (depending on what event you are counting from) until Jesus returns, which would make verse 36 untrue. That sounds like a strong argument. Let's look more carefully at what Jesus says here:

"No one knows". In Englsh, we call that present tense. In otherwords, 2000 plus years ago, when Jesus said that, no one knew except for the Father. He did not say that no one would ever know. In the Greek, the original language that this was written in, the tense is a bit different. The word in the Greek for "know" (oiden) in that verse, is a perfect indicative verb. Literally the verse would read "No one has known". To quote Strong's Dictionary: "a primary verb; used only in certain past tenses". So, to hold that know one would ever know, is poor exegesis. Aside from the exegetical errors concerning the language construction, there is another, more obvious exegetical error. To argue that verse 36 teaches that Jesus could return at any time, is to ignore the whole context of what was just said, where clearly this chapter is referring to Jesus return after the tribulation.

Now I have just made the point, that the language does not say that no one would ever know the time. By implication then, I must be saying that it is possible, that perhaps, some will know the time. My belief is, that this is the case. What did the disciples ask? "WHEN will these things happen, and WHAT will be the signs?" Is it not reasonable, to consider that Jesus was answering this question? He told us what would be the signs with a long list, and He told us when - the generation that sees ALL of these things happen, they will know it is right at the door.

Remember how Jesus instructed us to read Daniel? Let's Examine another passage from there:

Dan 12:9-11

9 He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

11 "From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.

Now, you will notice that here again we see a mention of the abomination of desolation.  Notice that there are a very specific a number of days mentioned.  Let's see how many years that equates to.  In order to determine that, we would have to go into the old testament and find out just how many days there are in one year.  That might seem like an odd thing to do, because everyone knows that there are 365 days in one year.  when dealing with prophetic timelines, we have to use a different number.  When the bible talks about one year, it does not mean 365 days.  In the bible one year is 360 days long.  This is not because the ancient Hebrews were unfamiliar with the length of the solar year, they adjusted for the missing five days with special holidays etc.  Many of their festivals were centered around a lunar cycle regards to a month instead of dividing a solar year by 12.  Of course I don't expect you to just accept that in Hebrew reckoning a year was 360 days, so let's establish that fact from scripture before going any further. In Gen 7:11 we've read:

 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month — on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened

 In Gen 7:24 we see:

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days

Gen 8:3 The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, 4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

Gen 8:13 By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth.

What we can determine by a careful examination of the above vs. is that we see in genesis 83 a specified date of the 17th day of the seventh month while in genesis 711 we see a specified date of the 17th day of the second month and from that we can see that there is a time span of exactly five months.  We also observe that this time span is 150 days if we divide 150 by five will see that each month is 30 days.  I could show you other examples, but my purpose here is not to do a study of time in the bible, but to establish of the fact that I am not just pulling this 30 day a month idea out of thin air.  Example above is just the first occurrence in the bible that tells us how long a month is.

With the 30 day month understanding, let's put it all together.  First let's take the 1290 days from Daniel 12 and divide them by 30 to see how many months that is.

1290 / 30 = 43 (this section postponed during further study before publication)

 

 This is still a work in progress, this line will be deleted when this study is complete

Matt 24:37-41

37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;

39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Verse 40 shows two types of people verse 41 does also. Perhaps you are wondering why these two vs.  Seem to say about the same thing.  I don't know the answer to that but if you read the old testament much, you may have noted that this is frequently done.  You'll see something stated in something very similar stated again.  An example that comes to my mind right now is " Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." In both of these verses, there are some things in common.  For example, in each first there are two people, in each first they are near each other physically, and in each verse one is taken while the other is left. 

Perhaps when you read these verses, you are reminded of recent novels known as the Left Behind series. In these popular books the people who are left behind are the people who are suffering in the great tribulation, while the church has been caught up with Jesus previously. Is that what is being indicated here by Jesus?  Again, we need to watch the context carefully, not just in these verses, but in the verses that describe what Jesus is talking about.   The local context, is verse 37: "As it was in the days of Noah", which points us backward to an historical context, the time of Noah. Remember, Jesus is saying that for the groups taken and left, it will be how it was in Noahs day. You can check out the story of Noah yourself around Gen chapters 6 and 7, but Jesus suppied the context there in verse 38, so let's apply that.

We already covered this in Part One of this study, but we will revisit the examination of who is taken and who is left again, because the text warrants it, and the passage is too often misunderstood. Before the flood, people were living life as normal, right up until the day that the flood took them all away. That picture needs to be applied as analogous to those taken in verses 40 and 41, so in Noah's time there were people taken away by the flood just as in verse 40 and 41 there are people taken away.  So the question becomes: Is Jesus saying that the people taken away in verses 41 and 41 to be compared with no one in his family being taken away in the flood?  We can answer that with a resounding "no". Verse 39 makes this clear: "and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away".  Verse 39 tells us that those who were taken away had no idea about what would happen.  This cannot refer to Noah and his family for they had been building an arc exactly because they knew what would happen.  Therefore, just as the ones who were taken away in Noah's time were taken away to destruction, so are the people described in first 39 and 40 taken away to destruction, and they also will have no idea about what was about to happen.

In the book of Luke, there is recorded a very similar sermon, with many of the same elements described. There, when Jesus talks about one taken and the other left, the deciples ask "Where Lord?". "Where what?", we might wonder. The most likely thing they are asking is "Where are these people taken too?" Jesus replied with "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." (Luke 17:37), an apparent allusion to those who will die in the coming judgement.

Bye the way, I am willing to entertain questions on this, and clarify my views. To submit a question, use the feddback from below. However, I am not inviting a big debate, I have a busy life, keep it short and to the point, and specifically about the topic on this page. Remember that this is Matt 24, not a treatise on eschatology.

m...@omegazine.com

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You can submit a question on this study, in the box provided. Be patient, I do not check my e-mail often, if you send something, you might want to catch me in chat and tell me that you sent something to me  . I am generous in the questions I will allow, but I have made this form to limit your question to a few hundred words, don't send a treatise as though it is a question.

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