Bible Warns of Apostasy and Persecution, Part 5
We ended our last installment – Bible Warns of Apostasy and Persecution, Part 4 – highlighting the fact that after Jesus had just pronounced the upcoming destruction of the Jewish Temple (Matthew 24:1), the disciples then asked Him several important questions. Culled from Matthew 24:3, they are:
- When will these things happen?
- What will be the sign of your coming?
- What will be the sign of the end of the age?
As noted previously, some commentators place the second and third questions together. The first question is addressing the timetable regarding the destruction of the Temple. The other two questions move ahead in time to the very end of this age. If more people understood this, there would be far less misinterpretation going on here and less arguing over “this” or “that” as Preterists and others are prone to do. They are missing the big picture. But some commentators believe that the “end of the age” occurred when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple that stood at the time. These same commentators also believe that Jesus “returned” at this same time, though He returned spiritually in judgment of Israel. To them, this marks the end of the age to which Jesus refers.
The problem with this view is that later on in Matthew 24, Jesus refers specifically to His own return as being something that “every eye” will see. Again, some of these same commentators believe Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms. But if we compare this with the passage in Acts 1 (where angelic messengers pointedly tell the disciples who were looking up into the sky where Jesus had just physically ascended and become hidden in clouds), that Jesus would return to earth in this same manner, it stretches credulity to think the angels meant that Jesus would return in some spiritual manner in spite of the fact that He had just ascended into the third heaven physically. Yet, some believe this is the case without batting an eye or seeing any sort of incongruity.
But again, the disciples want Jesus to tell them when the Temple will be destroyed (question #1). Beyond this, they want Jesus to enlighten them regarding the very end of the age (questions #2 & 3). As Jewish individuals, they well understood that when the Messiah returns to this earth, He would do so in power and would reign (cf. Zechariah 9:9-10). When that happens, it will mean the end of this current age and the beginning of the next age.
The disciples understood that the current age is the same age that takes society all the way up to the return of Jesus in the Second Coming. For the orthodox Jewish person, there are two ages: this age and the age of the Messiah and the separating event is the physical return of the Messiah. Of course, they also did not see a “gap” between the time Messiah would come and the beginning of His reign as King. We will talk briefly about this next time.
However, it’s all very clear, very easy to comprehend, especially from our vantage point. Since Jesus has not returned physically to this earth, then it is plain that we are still in the very same age now as the disciples lived in during Jesus’ day. The dividing point between the two ages is the physical return of Jesus, which has not yet occurred.
We are living in the same age as the disciples were when they asked Jesus the three questions. The final seven years of this age is marked out as the Tribulation and will end in the physical return of Jesus. I’m not sure what could be easier to grasp, but all too often, people make it exceedingly difficult because they prefer reading into the text, which keeps them from “rightly dividing” it. This is called eisegesis, whereas the proper way to interpret Scripture is through exegesis, or the “pulling out of” meaning from the text.
Jesus’ response to the question about the destruction of the Temple is as follows as seen in Matthew 24:2.
“Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
I’ve emphasized the middle phrase – I tell you the truth – because it’s extremely important. Jesus did not use that phrase because there was a possibility He was going to lie. He used that phrase because it hearkened back to the days of the prophets sent by God to Israel to warn of impending doom if they did not straighten out. It is a phrase designed to grab the hearer’s attention and to note that they are hearing something of extreme importance. It also pointed to the authority of the speaker. It should not be missed. Jesus makes this statement then immediately follows it with “…not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
The Jewish Temple was finally finished in AD 64. It was ostensibly a “gift” to the Jews by Herod, who was Jewish himself, yet often worked against Jewish interests on behalf of his own selfish political interests. Though it took so many years to build, it was destroyed very quickly by Roman armies in AD 70. This is historical fact and simply cannot be denied.
As Jesus begins to explain the signs regarding the end of the age and of His return, it becomes clear that the signs He points to have not all happened at this point yet. There are numerous signs in His Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 that act like plot points on a cartographer’s map. Before Jesus actually provides any real clues or signs pointing to the climax of this current age and His return, He provides a few warnings.
We’ll start with those next time as seen in Matthew 24:4. Join me then!
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming, temple mount. Tags: ad 70 roman invasion of jerusalem, destruction of jerusalem, jewish temple, matthew 24, olivet discourse.