Jesus’ Use of “This Generation” in the Olivet Discourse Is No Different Than Anywhere Else


There is plenty of disagreement on what Jesus meant when He said, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). He was making a reference, of course, to all that He had said prior to this statement. This included prophecies about war, earthquakes, famine, false prophets, persecution in the synagogues, the spreading of the gospel to all nations, the surrounding of Jerusalem and Judea by a foreign army, a time of unparalleled distress, His coming in the clouds with great power and glory, the arrival of His kingdom, and redemption for His people.

The careful reader will take note that Jesus was prompted to make these predictions in response to His disciples’ question about when the temple would be destroyed, and what signs would point forward to that event (Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7). It was this question that led to His discourse, known as the Olivet Discourse.

Mark and Luke, in their accounts, only show the disciples asking this one question about the temple. Matthew shows them asking a three-part question or, some would say, three separate questions: [1] When will the temple fall? [2] What will be the sign of Your coming? [3] What will be the sign of the end of the age? Those who believe in fulfilled eschatology maintain that these events are synonymous, while those who regard this discourse as unfulfilled often say that the last two belong to our future.

When it comes, then, to the timing of this prophecy’s fulfillment, there is debate at both ends of the Olivet Discourse:

[1] Did Jesus set out to answer just one question? Or did He set out to answer three questions, and therefore He may have prophesied about two different time periods?

[2] When Jesus said “this generation,” did He mean His own generation? Or did He have in mind, as some are fond of saying, a future generation that would begin to see those signs take place all at once? Did He even perhaps imply a dual fulfillment, a partial fulfillment in His own generation, and an ultimate fulfillment in the far distant future?

We will set aside the first question for the rest of this article, and focus on the second question, for Jesus is shown to say precisely the same thing in all three accounts: “…this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

At the very beginning of the New Testament, we get a good idea of how Matthew defined the word “generation.” Consider his genealogy listing from Abraham to Jesus:

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17).

We learn from Matthew that 14 generations passed from the Babylonian captivity until the time of Jesus. We also know that Babylon took Judah captive in 586 BC. Putting these two pieces together, we can calculate that each of these 14 generations was about 42 years in length (586 divided by 14). [For more details on this, see my study on Matthew 24:29-34 / Mark 13:24-30 / Luke 21:25-32.]

This being the case, let us ask if the temple was destroyed, as Jesus predicted, within one generation of that prediction, i.e. within approximately 42 years. It was! Jesus was crucified in or around 30 AD, and the temple was destroyed by the Roman armies in 70 AD, that is, 40 years later.

The Olivet Discourse was not the first time that Jesus had used the expression, “this generation.” In all His other uses of this phrase, it’s more than evident that He meant His own generation. Consider the following examples:

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the pipe for you,and you did not dance; we sang a dirge,and you did not mourn.’” (Matthew 11:16-17)

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:41-42; see also Luke 11:29-32)

“Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:45)

You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” (Matthew 17:17)

And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.” (Matthew 23:35-36)

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:12)

Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?” (Luke 7:31)

“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17:25)

Time and space limitations will not allow us to examine all the signs that Jesus predicted would take place before “this generation” would pass away, although I believe that [1] a study comparing Scripture with Scripture and [2] a study of 1st century history will show that they did take place before Jesus’ own generation passed away. As an example of the first point, Luke says that Jews “from every nation under heaven” heard the mighty works of God proclaimed in their own languages (Acts 2:5-11), and the apostle Paul was emphatic that the gospel was preached all over the (known) world in his lifetime (Romans 1:8, Romans 16:25-26, Colossians 1:5-6, and Colossians 1:23).

However, as helpful as these confirmations may be, they are not even necessary for our understanding of Jesus’ words, “…this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The generation that would pass away had to see, not some, but all of those things take place. There’s only one generation that witnessed the fall of the temple, and that was Jesus’ own generation. This will never happen again, and this point alone indicates that “all these things” could not possibly take place in our own generation or in the future. Remember also that the earthquakes, wars, the invasion of Judea and Jerusalem, the great distress, and all the other signs were to take place, not after the temple fell, but before the temple would fall (Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7).

To the people of Jesus’ time, we who live in the 21st century would be regarded as “that generation.” To those of us living in the 21st century, the people of Jesus’ time would also be regarded as “that generation.” Jesus didn’t use that phrase, however. The people of Jesus’ time would have understood their own generation as “this generation,” just as they did when He uttered this phrase in Matthew 11:16-17; Matt. 12:41-42; Matt. 12:45; Matt. 17:17; Matt. 23:35-36; Mark 8:12; Luke 7:31; Luke 11:29-32; and Luke 17:25.

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All of our studies on the Olivet Discourse can be seen here, including a verse-by-verse parallel study of Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

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St. Paul Cultural Village


In a previous post I briefly mentioned a project that my wife, Jasmine, and I have been overseeing for much of the past year: the setting up of a multicultural marketplace and community gathering center that we’re calling St. Paul Cultural Village. This vision came out of our volunteer work with International Village, a nearby storefront ministry and resource center that is impacting the lives of Somali, Bhutanese, and Karen refugees. We saw the need for people in these communities to be given platforms where they can make a living, and display and maintain their culture. Some had previously run small businesses in their countries of origin (Somalia, Bhutan, and Myanmar), but had lost nearly everything when civil war and other tragic circumstances caused them to become refugees.

One of the reasons I haven’t posted much at this site over the last six months or so is that I’ve been very busy working on this project, while also holding down two jobs. There have been a few joyous occasions during this journey, but overall it’s been a very difficult and even painful one. It’s only by the grace of God that we’ve been able to persevere and keep pushing forward with this project in the face of many barriers, disappointments, being lied to and taken advantage of, delays (from more than one source), and local government red tape. Yet we do believe that God has called us to see this place take shape and carry on for His glory, and we’re holding on as long as we can for a real breakthrough. We’d appreciate your prayers.

I’d like to share a video from a gathering at our location 10 days ago, along with some pictures that will give a glimpse into what is taking shape at St. Paul Cultural Village. A number of us gathered together on Valentine’s Day, and we were a nice mix of Karen refugees, Bhutanese refugees, and Americans. After the Bhutanese had left, Bwet, a Karen brother from Myanmar, played his guitar and led us in the song, “Where You Go I’ll Go,” by Kim Walker (Jesus Culture):

YouTube link to the video above: Hanging out at St. Paul Cultural Village

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For the last couple weeks, we’ve been opening our doors every Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday from 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Members of the public are free to bring in their laptops or other devices, and access the internet for free (we have plenty of outlets available). We also have Keurig-brewed coffee (and tea or apple cider) available on a “donations are welcome, but not required” basis. Some have also taken the opportunity during this time to walk through our building and see what’s happening and what’s available.

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The space shown in the pictures above is also available to rent for meetings, parties, discussion groups, seminars, and more. We also have 12 market stalls available for small business owners. This opportunity was initially created for people in the refugee communities, but we have found that only a few individuals are ready, and this opportunity is now open to anyone. Here are a few pictures of our market stalls (taken about a month ago):

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As shown here, our neighborhood is very diverse. Out of about 20,000 people surrounding our location, 34% are Asian, 30% are Caucasian, 19% are African-American or African, and 11% are Hispanic. To learn more about some of the refugee communities in this part of Minnesota, please see the videos on these pages: Karen refugees, Somali refugees, and Bhutanese refugees.

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www.stpaulculturalvillage.com

My wife, Jasmine, and I (August 2012)

My wife, Jasmine, and I (August 2012)

Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology


I once believed in and taught “replacement theology,” but no one ever accused me of it at the time. Since turning away from replacement theology, however, I’ve faced this accusation numerous times.

What is replacement theology? Matt Slick, the president and founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), says this on the subject:

Replacement theology is the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God… [In] replacement theology the church has replaced Israel as the primary means by which the world is blessed by God’s work… Replacement theology is also known as supersessionism, which means that the Christian church has superseded Israel in God’s plan.

John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), said this in his 2006 book, “Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World”:

“Adherents of replacement theology believe that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel” (page 72)… “Replacement theology means that Israel failed, and God has replaced Israel with the church” (page165).

Ironically, when I formerly taught replacement theology, my thinking was very much in line with Slick and Hagee. I wasn’t replacing Israel with the church, but I sure was replacing Jesus with the modern nation of Israel. I would have agreed with graphics like this one I saw posted on Facebook by a fellow Christian a few weeks ago:

false interpretation of Genesis 12-3

SOURCE

This illustration epitomizes the replacement theology I’ve left behind. It takes the role belonging to Jesus and assigns it to a political nation whose population generally has nothing to do with Him. The New Testament is especially clear in showing that it’s through salvation in Jesus that the nations are blessed.

Consider the progression of Biblical revelation regarding the promise recorded in Genesis 12:3:

[1] It was first made by God to Abraham alone: “It will be through you [Abraham], that all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

[2] It was repeated again in Genesis 22:18, and this time expanded to include his offspring: “And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me.”

[3] In Acts 3:25-26, the apostle Peter, speaking to a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, is clear in identifying Abraham’s offspring and the means of blessing for the nations:

And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

It’s Jesus who is Abraham’s offspring, and He blesses the nations, beginning with the proclamation of the gospel to Jews in the first century.

[4] The apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:7-8, declared that Jesus’ followers are Abraham’s offspring too:

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’”

According to the terms laid out by Matt Slick and John Hagee, the apostles Peter and Paul were guilty of teaching replacement theology. Yet according to Peter and Paul, when it comes to God’s plans, purpose, and promises, Slick and Hagee are seeking to replace Jesus and His church with a geopolitical nation located in the Middle East. It’s highly ironic that there are Christians who are comfortable with the idea of replacing Christ (their Savior) with a mere political nation, but are up in arms with those who allegedly replace Israel with the church.

Galatians 3, incidentally, goes on to make the point even more strongly that all of God’s promises are wrapped up first in Jesus and second in His followers. Paul says this in verse 16:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Jesus is singularly the recipient of all of God’s promises, and He extends those promises to His followers (verse 29), who are all one in Him regardless of ethnicity, societal status, or gender (verse 28):

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Does Paul leave any room for those who are outside of Christ to be heirs of the promises? No, he doesn’t, not even for Jews who are outside of Christ. Neither did Peter (Acts 3:23), and neither did Jesus (e.g. Matthew 8:10-12Matthew 21:43John 8:31-47). As Paul says in II Corinthians 1:20, all of God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus. What are they outside of Jesus? Meaningless and void.

One of my questions for Slick and Hagee is this: If God’s plan, purpose, and promises are waiting for the nation of Israel to carry them out, then did God utterly abandon the world between 70 AD and 1948 when there was no nation of Israel? Or is it not possible that God’s plan, purpose, and promises continued to be carried out by true Israel, i.e., Jesus and His church?

Consider also what Paul said to the Roman church: “A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit…” (Romans 2:28-29). “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring… This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of Godbut the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

The church is Israel, that is, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). This is only true because Jesus is true Israel, and we who belong to Christ are made one with Him. One more example of each of these points will suffice. First we will look at how Matthew takes what was once said about the nation of Israel, and applies it to Jesus. Then, finally, we will look at how Peter takes what was once said of the nation of Israel, and applies it to the church.

[1] In Exodus 4:22, God instructs Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me.”’” Then in Hosea 11:1-2 we read, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.” Who is Israel in these Old Testament texts? Clearly it’s that ancient nation, known as Israel, which was finally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Yet look at how Matthew treats this same statement. To set the background, an angel has warned Joseph, the father of Jesus, to flee to Egypt with his family, because Herod would seek to destroy Jesus: “And he [Joseph] rose and took the child [Jesus] and His mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called My son’” (Matthew 2:14-15).

Only 40 verses into the New Testament, Matthew declares, by strong implication, that Jesus is true Israel.

[2] Compare what Moses spoke to “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3) to what Peter said was true of the church. It’s impossible to miss the parallel language, and I have letter-coded the parallels (A, B, and C):

To ancient national Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be [A] MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me [B] A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and a [C] HOLY NATION…” (Exodus 19:5-6).

To the church: “But you are a chosen race[B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSIONthat you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” (I Peter 2:9-10).

Peter leaves no doubt that Christ’s followers are chosen for the same purpose for which the nation of Israel was once chosen.

I abandoned replacement theology because Jesus is irreplaceable, and I love His church.

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I first published this article on Hubpages on February 10, 2013.

God’s People Bring the Leaves of Healing to Detroit


Last month I reflected on the incredible needs and opportunities in our cities here in the US. We focused a lot on how God is intentionally bringing the nations to our doorstep, and we heard Ray Bakke’s challenge for God’s people to respond accordingly. This post will highlight some significant efforts by a growing number of people in Detroit to do just that.

Now those who know me fairly well are aware that I’ve joyfully abandoned my dispensationalist upbringing, a futurist eschatology which featured [1] an escapist mentality (i.e. “we’re going to be raptured out of here at any moment”) and [2] the idea that the crumbling of the world around us is a good and/or necessary thing because it means Jesus is about to return.

I now believe that we live in the everlasting new covenant age and that God’s kingdom was fully established in the first century. As “the light of the world” and “a city built on a hill” (Matthew 5:15-16), and as a people who have been camped at Mount Zion/God’s city/the heavenly Jerusalem for centuries (Hebrews 12:22), I am convinced that we possess the leaves of the tree of life that are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2). It’s our mandate and our calling to seek healing for all nations, including our own. (Yes, I do believe that warped eschatology is one key factor that has too often kept the church from living out this calling.) This calling is not at all divorced from our calling to proclaim the message of the cross and the gospel.

That’s why I’m thrilled to learn about what is happening in the city of Detroit, Michigan. In 2010 it was ranked the 18th most populous city in the US, with over 700,000 people. About 82% of the city’s population is African-American, and thousands of Iraqi and Hmong refugees have also made their home there. Less than 10 miles away is another key city, Dearborn, with a population of about 100,000 that is 33% Arab. The greater metro area including and surrounding Detroit features about 5.2 million people.

As reported by the Northville Patch (Northville is located about 28 miles northwest of downtown Detroit), a community-impacting initiative that began in the spring of 2011 now includes representatives from more than 560 different churches and para-church organizations, and it’s bringing new life to a crippled city:

For the second year, Southeast Michigan residents are coming together from hundreds of churches and organizations to share their faith and offer free medical and dental services, food, housing construction and renovations to tens of thousands of residents in need. It’s a continuation of the EACH (Everyone a Chance to Hear) movement that launched last spring.

EACH is guided by a steering committee with church leaders from both city and suburbs. The EACH effort started in 2011 and focused on a 40-day period starting Easter Sunday, but the hope that the impact and continued effort to help the community would continue into the future came to fruition. Most of the local church-based projects and actions will be determined by individual congregations and Christian organizations.

Thousands of individuals from approximately 560 churches and para-church organizations from all over the city of Detroit and suburbs have become active members of EACH in the last year. The movement kicked off again on Easter Sunday.

“EACH was designed to be a one-year initiative, but something special happened,” said Pastor Bob Shirock, senior pastor of Oak Pointe Church in Novi. “We went from being a group of individual churches to really being one church with one purpose…to share and show the love of Jesus to our communities through prayer, Good News and good deeds. We decided to keep doing it, while finding more ways to share and show Christ’s love to people in our communities.”

The Detroit Prayer Walk, which last year attracted about 25,000 followers of Jesus to downtown Detroit, will be the first event where all churches will gather together. This year it will be on Saturday, April 28 at Comerica Park. New for this year, the walk will also include no-cost community medical assistance at a neighboring church. The Detroit Prayer Walk will feature the theme, “1 Church Coming Together for One Purpose.”

Since April 2011, the EACH movement has provided thousands of free meals and 3,500 hours of medical and dental service and repaired or refurbished more than 100 houses in the Detroit area.

The EACH movement will significantly increase community assistance in 2012 through expanded deployment of mobile medical and dental trailers that provide no cost services to uninsured or underinsured people. They will also be expanding the housing construction and renovation effort and creating a community resource event called Lovin’ The D on Saturday, May 19 in midtown Detroit on the Wayne State University campus.

“The impact that we have had on this region as believers of Jesus has been incredible when you look at all the people in need we have helped,” said Pastor Christopher Brooks of Evangel Ministries in Detroit. “We’re talking about thousands of people in need who have been helped by their neighbors, co-workers, friends and family. It’s a very powerful message.”

The coalition will continue to use the 2WordStory social media and personal testimony campaign that was launched as part of the movement in 2011 to show examples of changed lives.

“There is Good News all around us – here in the Detroit area because people have experienced the life changing love of Jesus and have made this a great place to live and work,” said Pastor Doug Schmidt, senior pastor for Woodside Bible Church. “As a community we are listening to Jesus’ words and sharing His message with those around us. And there is no better way to share such a message of love than living it out.”

Other programs that started from the EACH movement in the past year include Handyman Ministries, a faith-based non-profit community revitalization organization dedicated to helping low-income individuals and families by providing free maintenance and repair services, energy audits and other upgrades; and Life Remodeled, a non-profit organization that builds houses and provides other resources to transform lives in troubled communities.

A 2009 CNN Money article shows that some Detroit-area churches were already at that time “taking a hands-on approach to saving their neighborhoods, plowing millions into buying and redeveloping local housing and businesses.” The author noted that Detroit was known for “its ever-increasing pockets of barren land and abandoned housing,” and that it “may be the most financially devastated city in the country.” To read more of this article, see here.

In the midst of such ruin, it’s exciting and encouraging to see God’s people rise up with the power of God’s kingdom that is in our midst and within us (Luke 17:20-21), and work together to see large-scale transformation take place throughout a city, and in many hearts and lives. Pastor Bob Shirock, the founder of the EACH initiative, says “he got the idea to mobilize churches after traveling overseas and witnessing Christians uniting to serve the disadvantaged. Shirock yearned to replicate the outreach coalition in Detroit.” May it be that God’s people living in other cities soon have even greater stories to tell.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-15).

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).

The Implications of Luke 21:8


Some of Jesus’ disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” 

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.

Luke 21:5-8

In six previous posts (hereherehere, here, here, and herewe examined the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Jesus elsewhere warned His disciples that false prophets would claim to be Him (e.g. Matthew 24:5, 23, 26; Mark 13:6, 21; Luke 17:22-23). It’s only in Luke 21:8, though, that Jesus warns His followers not to pay attention to those who would proclaim that “the time is near” (or “at hand” in some translations). In fact, they were to regard such a proclamation as a characteristic of false prophets…at least for a while. We should give this some extra thought.

If we look ahead to Luke 21:28, we see that Jesus later says, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus thus gives permission at that point for His people to realize the very thing that earlier they were not to believe, that is, that the time was near. First they had to see “these things begin to take place,” and then they could know and proclaim that the end was near. The expression “these things” refers to what Jesus describes in verses 9-27 (see Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of our series for an explanation on how all these things were indeed fulfilled in Jesus’ own generation).

Did any of the writers of the New Testament proclaim that the time was near? Consider these statements:

“…For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand…” (Romans 13:11-12).

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).

Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:37).

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand…behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:8).

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (I Peter 4:7).

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18).

From these statements we see that Paul, James, Peter, and John all proclaimed that the time was near. They stated that “the day” was at hand, “the Lord” was at hand, “the coming of the Lord” was at hand, “the end of all things” was at hand, and that it was “the last hour.”

Did they become the very false prophets Jesus had warned about in Luke 21:8, since they uttered the very statement that Jesus warned His followers not to believe? If the signs of the Olivet Discourse are still future and unfulfilled, as futurists insist, then they certainly did become those false prophets.

We know, however, that this is not the case. This is actually one more indication that the events predicted by Jesus came to pass within His own generation. The apostles witnessed the predicted signs coming to pass, and on this authority they announced that the end was near. Notice how closely the language they used mirrors what Jesus said, as recorded by Mark: “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that He is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:29-30).

Soon after Paul, James, Peter, and John made these declarations, that end did come, i.e. the end of the Old Covenant world and age. The apostles were not false prophets. Jesus also did not lie to, or tease, His disciples. Nor did He speak in terms, or with time markers, that they couldn’t understand. Nor did He ascend to His Father, only to find out that His overall rejection by the Jewish people would set in motion an unforeseen 2000 year postponement of His promises. Instead He kept His word, and fulfilled all that He said He would do within the time frame that He boldly market out. (He said these things would happen before the downfall of the temple, and before His own generation passed away). We can trust that everything else He said outside of the area of eschatology is also true.

Formula for Frustration and the work of International Village (Twin Cities)


Since November 2011, my schedule has allowed me to gather with a group of believers in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Saturday evenings. This assembly, International Village Church, is led by a good friend of mine. It’s been a great blessing to continue growing spiritually with these brothers and sisters. We meet in a storefront, drop-in center where, throughout the week, refugees and immigrants are receiving practical assistance (ESL instruction, job search assistance, etc.) and being ministered to with the love of Christ. This center also opened in early November, and it’s already meeting needs in the community, with even greater things yet to come.

On February 4th, my friend, John, led us in a great discussion based on Genesis 29-30, which two days later he turned into a blog post titled “Formula for Frustration.”  I’d like to share that post here (which is no longer available at his former site). Ultimately, this message is about maintaining hope by cherishing, holding onto, and focusing on the tremendous spiritual blessings we have in Christ:

On Saturday at church, we attempted to plow through the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah in Genesis 29-30.  What a messed up, real, yet hopeful story of God’s blessing in the midst of chaos.  My thoughts centered on the reality that God continued to bless Rachel and Leah in the midst of their longing for other things.  Rachel was given love from her husband, and Leah blessed with many children.  Both were said to be blessings from the Lord.  We find these two ladies continually crying out for something they couldn’t have.

Contentment is a nasty ordeal, isn’t it?  Perhaps one of the easiest ways for us to lose focus on the blessing of God over our lives is to think about what we don’t have.  What we’ve lost.  What we wish could be.  If I was just in that place, that job, married to that person . . . and on and on the ride goes.  We’ve all been here.  Perhaps some of us live here.  And it is certainly a formula for frustration.  A sure way to stay miserable – just ignore the blessings of God poured out over our lives.

At times I have thought that American culture is completely backwards when it comes to being content in our current situation.  Craving for money, power, and success truly does rule our lives at times.  I’ve often idolized pieces of African, Asian, and Latino culture because of the strong relational focus they bring.  While these traits are wonderful gifts from the Lord, discontentment knocks on all of our doors.  It pounds and pounds to the point where we either deal with it or continue to ignore it.  Every culture, every family, every person deals with this gnawing feeling to try to escape and not deal with what is before them.

What then would this mean in challenging the most vulnerable to embrace the blessings God has given them?  While the refugee highway may be paved with pain, loss, and tears, it is also a place where God continues to lavish his rich blessings.  God gives many who are stranded on this highway the ability to keep going, keep moving, and stay hopeful.  What a gift.  That hope can come from no one other than the Sustainer of all things who continues to bless.  I don’t know if I have what it takes to survive on such a highway, but I do know what it feels like to lose things, people, and abilities that are precious to me.  My dear friend Paul taken by a logging accident in college.  My eyesight taken away day by day.  Seeing dear friends and colleagues struggle deeply through horrible train wrecks in their marriages and careers.  It isn’t exactly a refugee highway, but it sure has the markings of hell that roll over many parts of the globe.

Into this we all have to learn how to speak of, sing out, and perhaps scream aloud the rich, wonderful, extravagant blessings of God.  He is the Source.  He holds it all together.  We can’t afford to live in frustration by ignoring His strong hand in all things.

International Village Church is “a new church north of downtown St. Paul, with a heart to serve the diverse ethnic groups in our city.” In addition to the already-established Hmong population in this area, the surrounding neighborhoods feature a growing number of refugees from Somalia, Myanmar (the Karen people), and Bhutan. John and his wife have been living in this community for about three years. John says this about the work and focus of International Village:

International Village is a community-focused, drop-in friendship center and church planting ministry in St. Paul.  We strive to see people empowered vocationally, educationally, and spiritually while remaining a launch pad for various ethnic ministries throughout our area.

We are a new ministry project of the Minnesota Assemblies of God and International Teams MSP [Minneapolis/Saint Paul] that reaches out in practical ways to our new neighbors all around us.  Over the past three years we’ve met new refugees at the airport, provided basic necessities when they first arrive, taught them to ride the bus, helped in learning English, as well as a variety of other practical needs.  These needs have primarily been met through meeting people at their apartments and helping them navigate through the gauntlet of choices that we have in this great country.

Now, with the opening of International Village, we will strive to be a place where many of these needs can be accessed more quickly and in a more concentrated way.  We will function as a neighborhood resource center and faith community.  The goal is to be a center that continues to demonstrate the social service needs that we’ve been addressing thus far, while adding to it concentrated Bible studies, ministry development, and the training of ethnic ministry leaders.

God has sovereignly arranged for an increasing population from amongst the unreached people groups around the world to relocate and spring up here in the US, especially in urban centers. Here they will have far greater access to the gospel than in the lands from which they came, and more so as the Church recognizes what God is doing and what great opportunities are before us. It’s encouraging to see God raising up efforts like International Village to meet this challenge.

A New Testament Pattern: A Wedding Follows Jerusalem’s Demise


In the last two posts (here and here), we wrapped up our study of Matthew 24, covering verses 35-51. This followed a 4-part parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32 (seen here, here, here, and here).

As Matthew 24 transitions into Matthew 25, we observe something that reflects a pattern seen elsewhere in the New Testament. That is, Matthew 24-25 is one of three New Testament passages where the destructive judgment upon Jerusalem gives way to something far more redemptive and glorious, the wedding of Christ to His bride.

Matthew 24-25

As discussed in the six posts devoted to the Olivet Discourse (cited above), Jesus has just foretold the destruction of the temple, and His coming in judgment and in His kingdom, all of which was fulfilled within His own generation. Consider what He says next: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1). He then goes on to describe how those who were equipped with plenty of oil were able to go into the marriage feast with the bridegroom (Matt. 25:1-13), a most blessed opportunity. This is already the second time we’ve seen this pattern in the book of Matthew.

Matthew 22

Recall Matthew 22 and the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22:1-14). In this parable, a king put on a wedding feast for his son, and the king’s servants were sent out to tell “those who were invited” (verse 2) that everything had been prepared. This represented God preparing a feast for His Son, Jesus, and the gospel first being spread among the Jewish people (e.g. Matthew 10:5-7, Matthew 15:24, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, Acts 3:26, Acts 13:46, Romans 1:16).

Many who were invited repeatedly ignored the invitation, and others even mistreated and killed the king’s servants who had invited them (verse 6). As a result:

The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find’” (verses 7-9).

This, of course, was a foretelling of what would happen, and what did happen, to Jerusalem in 70 AD when it was burned by God’s instrument of judgment, the Romans.

The invitation then goes out to others (Gentiles as well as Jews; vss. 9-10), which I believe can be seen, for example, in the bold proclamation made by Paul and Barnabas in the city of Antioch:

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:44-47).

Only those with proper wedding garments were allowed to remain at the wedding feast (vss. 10-14). In Jesus’ analogy before His first century audience, the speechless man (verse 12) perhaps represents the Jew who believed that his ethnic descent from Abraham earned him an automatic place in the kingdom of God. The proper wedding garment, however, meant being clothed in the righteousness of Christ (see Revelation 19:8). Those who lacked these garments remained in outer darkness and were not part of the chosen people of God (vss. 13-14; see also Matthew 8:11-12; Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Matt. 21:43-45).

Revelation 19

Outside of Matthew, this pattern of judgment before bridal bliss is also repeated. Babylon the Great is shown in Revelation 16-18 to be an adulterous city that was responsible for the shedding of the blood of prophets, apostles, and saints (see especially Rev. 16:4-6, 17:6, 18:20, and 18:24). This detail alone answers so clearly to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:29-38 that there is no further need to speculate on the identity of Babylon the Great. In Matthew 23, He not only tells who would be held responsible for the martyrdom of His people, but also when they would be held responsible:

Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees… I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generationO Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together… See, your house is left to you desolate.”

To make Babylon’s identity even more clear, though, John’s readers are told in Revelation 11 exactly what city he speaks of later in the book. In Rev. 11:8 we first come across the expression, “the great city,” which is later used seven more times in chapters 16-18 (Rev. 16:19, 17:18; 18:9, 16, 17, 19, 21) in reference to Babylon the Great. Speaking of God’s “two witnesses” (Rev. 11:3), John was told that their dead bodies would lie “in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” In what city was Jesus crucified? Of course, we know that it was Jerusalem.

So, with these things established, John’s readers are told four times that “the great city,” identified as Jerusalem, was to be burned with fire (Rev. 17:16, 18:8-9, 18:17, and 19:3). This literally happened in 70 AD, as Josephus and other eyewitnesses affirm. As the book of Matthew has already demonstrated, the story doesn’t end there. A great multitude in heaven cries out:

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just; for He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants… Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (Rev. 19:1-3).

The great multitude then goes on to say:

Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:6-7).

Mirroring the words of Jesus in Matthew 22 and 25, an angel proclaims, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).

This perhaps comes into greater focus when we recall that the apostle Paul said things like this to his first century readers:

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (Romans 7:4)

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (II Corinthians 11:2)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish… This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:25-32)

So, in summary, we see that a wedding immediately follows the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 22:7-8, Matthew 24-25, and Revelation 19:1-10. This wedding feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb, is not awaiting fulfillment. It commenced in the first century. Let us rejoice, for God’s people are still called to partake of this feast even now!

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Thoughts Are Welcome

What are your thoughts on what Scripture says concerning the marriage of Christ to the Church?

For years, I was taught that the Church has not yet entered into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and that we remain betrothed (i.e. engaged) to Christ (see II Cor. 11:2, quoted above). This will be the case, I was taught, until He returns, at which time the marriage will take place. If this were true, what would be the significance/implications of a betrothal period lasting for 2000 years or more?

I now believe that Scripture shows that this betrothal period lasted for about one generation, and that the marriage and feast began at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction and the dissolution of the Old Covenant system in the first century. Since I believe this is true, I’m asking myself what is the significance of the betrothal period lasting for just that one generation?

I’m thinking aloud, but I’m guessing that Romans 7:4 (quoted above) holds a clue to this. Paul told his readers that they became dead to the law for a purpose. It was so that they could be married to Jesus who had been raised from the dead. Why was there a connection between the Church turning its back on the law, and looking forward to being married to Christ?

In our study of Matthew 24:35, we looked into Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17-18 that nothing would pass from the Law until heaven and earth disappeared. We saw that, viewing Scripture as a whole, “heaven and earth” is used as covenant language here. The Old Covenant was made obsolete at the cross, but a few decades later when Hebrews was written it was still “becoming obsolete and growing old” and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). This was accomplished when temple-based, Old Covenant Judaism met its demise in 70 AD. On the heels of the manifest passing of the Law, then (in fulfillment of Matthew 5:17-18), the Church was married to Christ. This took place as predicted in Matthew 22:7-8, Matthew 24-25, and Revelation 19:1-10; and as alluded to in Romans 7:4, II Corinthians 11:2, and Ephesians 5:25-32.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?

Matthew 24:35-51 (Part 2 of 2)


Matthew 24:35-51 (Part 2 of 2)

This post is a continued addendum to the 4-part Olivet Discourse series posted between April and August 2011. That series featured a parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32. It can be seen here, here, here, and here.

In the last post (Part 1 of our study of Matthew 24:35-51), we extensively looked at Matthew 24:35, showing that when Jesus said heaven and earth would pass away, He was using covenant language already used elsewhere in Scripture. In doing so, He spoke of the soon-to-come passing of the Old Covenant world. That post also included an examination of Luke 21:34-36.

In this post we will finish covering the last 17 verses of Matthew 24 (verses 35-51), the text of which is below. The first two verses in this text are also found as direct parallels in the gospel accounts of Mark and Luke (highlighted in red), and several other verses seem to allude to similar statements in Mark and Luke (these are highlighted in blue):

MATTHEW 24:35-51

Parallels and Similarities in Mark 13 and Luke 21

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not kno51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

1. Direct Parallels

Verse 35 –> Mark 13:31,  Luke 21:33

Verse 36 –> Mark 13:32

2. Similarities

Verses 42-44, 48-50 –> Mark 13:33-37, Luke 21:36

Verse 36: Jesus’ disciples are now told that only the Father knew “that day and hour.” According to the context, Jesus Himself, at that time, did not know the day and hour of [1] the passing of “heaven and earth” (verse 35), and [2] the judgment upon Jerusalem which He had just predicted (verses 1-34). Again, the passing of Jerusalem, and the passing of heaven and earth, were spoken of as one climactic event. The generation in which these things would happen was known and revealed—i.e. it was to be His own generation (verse 34). However, the exact day was not known when Jesus spoke these words in about 30 AD. James Stuart Russell, writing in 1878, made the following point:

To have specified the day and the hour, to have said, ‘In the seven and thirtieth year*, in the sixth month and the eighth day of the month, the city shall be taken and the temple burnt with fire,’ would not only have been inconsistent with the manner of prophecy, but would have taken away one of the strongest inducements to constant watchfulness and prayer—the uncertainty of the precise time (The Parousia, p. 90).

*(Russell apparently supposes that Jesus spoke these words in 33 AD, that is, 37 years before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.)

Verses 37-39: Jesus compares the time of His coming to the time when Noah built an ark in preparation for a great flood. That story is recorded in Genesis 6-7. During those days of preparation, those who would be swept away spent their days eating, drinking, marrying, and carrying on as normal, as if there was no tragic event just around the corner. Only righteous Noah and his family prepared in faith. It would be the same for Jesus’ own generation, He said. The implication was that His followers would prepare in faith for the perilous events that Jesus had predicted, but those outside of God’s family would not do so.

One early church father indicated that Christ’s followers did indeed behave differently leading up to the days of Jesus’ coming in judgment and in His kingdom. Athanasius (296-372 AD) once said:

“And when [Jesus] appeared in the end of the world [age], He also gave this commandment, saying…, ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation…then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains…’ [Matthew 24:15-16]. Knowing these things, the saints regulated their conduct accordingly.

I understand Athanasius to mean that the early believers lived very simply, in order to be prepared for that time when they would need to suddenly vacate Jerusalem. That’s why we read in the book of Acts that the believers in Jerusalem “had all things in common,” they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45), and “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own” (Acts 4:32).

They took seriously Jesus’ words that His doomsday predictions for Jerusalem and Judea would be fulfilled in His own generation (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). They didn’t know the day or the hour of these events (Matthew 24:36), but they did know the generation when it would all take place, and they knew it was their own. As it was for Noah and his family, this knowledge affected their behavior.

History then tells us that Roman armies did come and surround Jerusalem in 67 AD (see also Luke 21:20-24), and at that time the believers remembered what Jesus had said. Remigius (437-533 AD) explains:

“[For] on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.”

The city of Pella was like Noah’s ark to these 1st century believers.

Verses 40-41: At the time of His coming, Jesus said, some would be “taken” and others would be “left.” Jesus used the illustrations of two men in a field, and two women grinding with a hand mill, to demonstrate this point. This has been interpreted in various ways. Some believe, as I do, that this prophecy was fulfilled during the Roman-Jewish War of 66-73 AD, while many teach and believe that this prophecy remains to be fulfilled.

In this section, though, we will focus more on another variant among these interpretations. Some believe that to be “taken” was to be a blessed event, while those who were “left” would face great horror. This was the opinion of John Wesley (1703-1791), who said in his commentary on verse 40, “One is taken – Into God’s immediate protection: and one is left – To share the common calamities.”

Others believe that to be “left” was instead to be desired, while those who were “taken” were the unfortunate ones. This was the opinion of Albert Barnes (1834), who said, “The word ‘taken’ may mean either to be taken away from the danger – that is, rescued, as Lot was (Luke 17:28-29), or to be taken away ‘by death.’ Probably the latter is the meaning.” Likewise, John Gill (1746-63) said, “the one shall be taken; …by the eagles, the Roman army, and either killed or carried captive by them: and the other left; …by the Romans, being by some remarkable providence, or another, delivered out of their hands.”

Here are some reasons which might be given by proponents of both views (whether they see this as a past or a future event):

WHY IT’S GOOD TO BE “TAKEN”

WHY IT’S GOOD TO BE “LEFT”

The picture of being “taken” mirrors the picture of being gathered “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Jesus said this would happen to the elect. In the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:36-43), Jesus said that the angels would first gather (take) the weeds and burn them with fire. As Jesus said, “so will it be at the close of the age.” That age ended in Jesus’ own generation, as He predicted (Matthew 24:3, 34).
This text speaks of “the Rapture,” a time when living believers will be literally caught up in the sky in an instant to be with Jesus. Therefore, being “taken” is a good thing. A study of the history of the Roman-Jewish War reveals that from 67-70 AD the Roman armies swept through Judea and Galilee massacring large populations. In this way, they were “taken” by the Romans. Finally, Rome laid siege on Jerusalem for five months and burned that city with fire.
Noah is pictured as entering the ark first (Matthew 24:38). This corresponds to being “taken.” Only then were the wicked, the ones “left” outside of the ark, swept away (verse 39). The reference to being “taken,” which occurs twice in Matthew 24:40-41, seems to correspond with being “swept away” (verse 39), the description used for those who perished in the flood in Noah’s day. In the case of Noah, those who were left behind (i.e. spared by taking refuge in the ark) were the fortunate ones, but those who were taken/swept away (i.e. destroyed) were not.
Of the 10 virgins spoken of in Matthew 25:1-13, the five wise virgins were “taken” in to be with the bridegroom, but the five foolish virgins were “left” out and the door was not opened to them. In another example, Isaiah 6:11-12 speaks of cities lying “waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land a desolate waste,” and the Lord removing people far away (which was an act of judgment upon those people). The verses preceding these were quoted by Jesus concerning His own generation: “’Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive…’” (Isaiah 6:9-10, quoted in Matthew 13:10-17).

The reader may decide which option is more convincing. The challenge is that we are not told explicitly in this text who “takes” the one, and who “leaves” the other. Other clues to this mystery, however, might come from the parallel text given in Luke’s account (Luke 17:28-37):

It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

In Luke’s account, Jesus connected the “taking” and “leaving” with His command that His people should flee without delay. This was specific to people living in Judea. We know that this flight was in conjunction with Jerusalem being surrounded by Roman armies (see Matthew 24:15-20, Mark 13:14-18, Luke 21:20-23, and Part 3 of our Olivet Discourse series). Those who believe, then, that being “taken” instead of “left” speaks of a future, worldwide Rapture should take note that it actually has to do with a promised invasion of Judea, one that history tells us already took place in the same manner (and within the same timeframe) that Jesus said it would.

This text also pokes another hole in the position of the partial-preterist who says that Matthew 24:1-34 is fulfilled, but Matthew 24:35-51 remains unfulfilled. For when does Jesus say that “one will be taken and the other left”? He said it would be “on that night.” What night was He speaking of? It was clearly the same night when His followers would need to flee with great haste from Jerusalem. That flight was foretold in Matthew 24:15-20, within the portion of Matthew 24 that partial-preterists affirm has been fulfilled. Luke 17 ties these events together in such a way that no amount of time can separate them, let alone 2000 years.

According to Strong’s Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible (KJV version), the Greek word which is translated as “taken” is “paralambano.” It comes from two root words: [1] “para,” meaning near/beside/at the vicinity of/on account of, and [2] “lambano,” meaning to take/to get hold of/have offered to one/to seize or remove. The suggested meanings of “paralambano” are to receive near/to assume an office/receive/take (unto, with). This word is used 16 times in the book of Matthew. These entries are listed below so that the reader can see how this word is used in other contexts outside of Matthew 24:40-41.

[1] “…fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife…” (Matthew 1:20)

[2] “Then Joseph…took unto him his wife…” (Matt. 1:24)

[3] “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt…” (Matt. 2:13)

[4] “When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night…” (Matt. 2:14)

[5] [6] —same usage as in the two previous examples (Matt. 2:20, 21)

[7] “Then the devil taketh Him (Jesus) up into the holy city…” (Matt. 4:5)

[8] “Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain…” (Matt. 4:8)

[9] “Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits…” (Matt. 12:45)

[10] “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John…” (Matt. 17:1)

[11] “But if he will not hear, take with thee one or two more [witnesses]…” (Matt. 18:6)

[12] “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the 12 disciples apart in the way…” (Matt. 20:1)

[13] [14] “…the one shall be taken, and the other left…” (Matt. 24:40, 41)

[15] “And He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee…” (Matt. 26:37)

[16] “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall…” (Matt. 27:27)

The Greek word which is translated as “left” in Matthew 24:40-41 is “aphiemi,” meaning to send (forth)/cry/forgive/forsake/lay aside/leave/let (alone, be, go, have)/omit/put (send) away/remit, suffer, yield up. According to the Blue Letter Bible Lexicon, this Greek word appears in Matthew a total of 40 times, being translated in various ways. It’s only translated as “left,” however, a total of 10 times in the book of Matthew:

[1] “And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:20)

[2] “And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” (Matt. 4:22)

[3] “And He touched her hand, and the fever left her…” (Matt. 8:15)

[4] “When they had heard these words, they marveled and left Him…” (Matt. 22:22)

[5] “…the first…[died and] left his wife unto his brother.” (Matt. 22:25)

[6] “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38)

[7] “…There shall not be left here one stone upon another…” (Matt. 24:2)

[8] [9] “…the one shall be taken, and the other left…” (Matt. 24:40, 41)

[10] “And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time…” (Matt. 26:44)

In Luke’s account we see another connection that we don’t see in Matthew’s account. When Jesus says “one will be taken and the other left,” the disciples ask, “Where, Lord?” His response is striking: “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” It’s not made explicitly clear whether His answer is in regard to those who are “taken,” or in regard to those who are “left.” The options are:

[1] The disciples asked where the people would be taken.

[2] The disciples asked where the people would be left.

Does the surrounding text answer either one of these questions? Yes, it does. In the examples Jesus gives, those who are “left” are still (1) in bed (2) at a grain mill (3) in a field. Therefore, the disciples had been told, and already knew, the whereabouts of those who were to be “left.” It then could make more sense that they wanted to know the destiny of those who were to be “taken.” It would then be this question which Jesus answers when He speaks of vultures gathering around dead bodies. If this is the case, then it was not a good thing to be taken at the time of the fulfillment of this prophecy, for those who were taken became a meal for the vultures.

There is also the possibility, however, that Jesus is not answering a question about what happens to those who are taken, but rather gives a clue as to what will happen to those left behind. From an already fulfilled-perspective, there would be a way to view this as the meaning behind Jesus’ words. As pointed out earlier, we have historical records showing that Jesus’ followers did indeed flee from Judea and Jerusalem and take refuge in Pella, while those who remained behind were ravaged by the Romans. If it was a good thing to be “taken” at the time of the fulfillment of this prophecy, it can be seen in Christ’s followers being “taken,” i.e. brought by God’s providence, to Pella where they dwelt safely during this very tumultuous time.

In the end, it’s up to the reader to decide which proposal holds more validity.

Verses 42-44: Jesus’ followers were urged to stay awake in anticipation of His coming. Take note again that they, living in the first century, were to hold this expectation that He would come in their lifetime (compare with Matthew 16:27-28). Some indeed lived until that time; others were martyred in advance.

They had already been warned about false prophets who were soon to come, of false signs and wonders, of betrayal, of lawlessness, of the love of many growing cold, of fearful signs, etc. As we saw earlier in the Olivet Discourse series, these warnings certainly became a reality in the years following Jesus’ ascension. We also know that apostate Judaizers plagued the church in the decades that were to come, something that we see Paul addressing often in his epistles. This is evidence, then, that many did not stay awake. Jesus said that the hour (precise time) of His coming would not be according to expectations, and therefore staying awake was of great importance.

Verses 45-51: Jesus gives an analogy contrasting a faithful and wise servant with a wicked servant. The faithful servant would be given joyful responsibilities at the time of the master’s coming. On the other hand, the wicked servant would be unpleasantly surprised at the coming of his master, and would experience agonizing punishment. It’s interesting to note that Jesus refers to the servant who would say, “my master is delaying his coming,” as evil. Yet many believers today are fond of using the expression, “if the Lord tarries.”

The reference to weeping and gnashing of teeth goes back to Matthew 8:10-12, where Jesus said that many outsiders would dine in the kingdom of heaven with the prophets and patriarchs of old, but many “sons of the kingdom” (Jews) would find themselves in outer darkness with “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This, of course, would have been a shocking statement to many Jews who believed, that by virtue of their ethnicity, they had an automatic place in God’s economy. Weeping and gnashing of teeth was also to be the destiny of the tares thrown into the fire at the end of the age (Matthew 13:41-42).

Matthew 24:35-51 (Part 1 of 2)


Post Outline

1. A Study of Matthew 24:35
2. A Study of Luke 21:34-36

This post is a continuation of the 4-part Olivet Discourse series posted between April and August 2011 (here, here, here, and here). That series featured a parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32. At this point in the Olivet Discourse, Matthew gives us an extended version of this discourse, 63 more verses actually, in Matt. 24:35-51 and Matt. 25:1-46. Mark and Luke, on the other hand, wrap up Jesus’ message in just a few verses. In Mark’s case, there are seven (7) more verses (Mark 13:31-37), and in Luke’s case there are only four (4) more verses (Luke 21:33-36).

These next two posts will cover the last 17 verses of Matthew 24 (verses 35-51), the text of which is below. The first two verses in this text are also found as direct parallels in the gospel accounts of Mark and Luke (highlighted in red), and several other verses seem to allude to similar statements in Mark and Luke (these are highlighted in blue):

MATTHEW 24:35-51

Parallels and Similarities in Mark 13 and Luke 21

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

1. Direct Parallels

Verse 35 –> Mark 13:31,  Luke 21:33

Verse 36 –> Mark 13:32

2. Similarities

Verses 42-44, 48-50 –> Mark 13:33-37, Luke 21:36


Verse 35: In the last portion of the Olivet Discourse (covering Matthew 24:29-34/Mark 13:24-30/Luke 21:25-32), we examined Jesus’ declaration that “all these things” (the fall of the temple, and all that would precede that event) must take place before His own generation would pass away. Following that statement, He immediately adds that “heaven and earth” would also pass away. This was in contrast to “His Word,” which would never pass away. This statement also appears in Mark’s and Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33).

Are there grounds for believing that Jesus was saying that heaven and earth would pass away along with His own generation? I believe there are. Certainly, there is no clear indication that Jesus suddenly goes here from speaking about first century events (verses 1-34) to speaking (in verse 35 and beyond) of events that are future to us 2000 years later. This idea has been proposed by some, but the weight of the gospel accounts in their entirety do not allow for this. If we examine, for example, Luke 17:22-37, we will see that four portions of this passage are directly parallel to content found within Matthew 24:1-34, and two separate portions are directly parallel to content found within Matthew 24:35-51.

Portions of Luke 17:20-37 parallel to content in Matthew 24:1-34

Portions of Luke 17:20-37 parallel to content in Matthew 24:35-51

Parallel to Matthew 24:23

Luke 17:23And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.

Parallel to Matthew 24:27

Luke 17:24For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.

Parallel to Matthew 24:17-18

Luke 17:31On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.

Parallel to Matthew 24:28

Luke 17:37And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

 

 

 

 

Parallel to Matthew 24:37-39

Luke 17:26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Parallel to Matthew 24:41

Luke 17:35There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.

So we see that in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus blends these six references (four of which are present in Matthew 24:1-34, and two of which are present in Matthew 24:35-51) together, without any distinctions related to time. Therefore, the one who acknowledges that everything Jesus said in Matthew 24:1-34 is tied to His own first century generation, but insists that what He said in Matthew 24:35 and beyond is not yet fulfilled, is very much inconsistent. Otherwise, in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus arbitrarily switched back and forth between speaking of first century events and events in the 21st century (or beyond).

What would Jesus have meant then by saying that heaven and earth would pass away in His own generation? We have repeatedly seen in our study of the Olivet Discourse that the prophetic language of the Old Testament provides quite a backdrop to what Jesus says in this discourse. The same is true for the expression “heaven and earth.” It’s covenant language. This is perhaps most evident in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah was given a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the very first verse (1:1). The very first words he uttered were these: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:2). This is not unique to Isaiah, for heaven and earth were repeatedly called as witnesses against Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:18-19, 31:28, 32:1; Jeremiah 2:12, 6:19; Micah 6:2). In Isaiah 51, speaking to the people of Israel, God says:

I, I am He who comforts you; who are you that you…have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…? …And I have put My words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of My hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are My people (verses 12-16).

The establishment of the heavens and the earth is thus linked directly to the establishment of Israel as God’s people at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-6). Psalm 68:7-8 reiterates that the earth and the heavens were greatly affected when “God, the One of Sinai” marched through the wilderness before His people, as does Judges 5:4-5. Jeremiah also spoke of Jerusalem’s pending destruction (in 586 BC) in a way that might seem as if he was talking about planet earth and the galaxies, if it weren’t for the context:

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war… I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light… For thus says the Lord, ‘The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark…’” (Jeremiah 4:19, 23, 27).

On a more pleasant note, Isaiah also prophesied of “new heavens and a new earth,” and the creation of Jerusalem as a joy (Isaiah 65:17-19). That this is covenantal language, and not language referring to the material/physical heavens and earth, can be seen in the fact that the new heavens and new earth were to be marked by sin and death (verse 20), building and planting (verses 21-22), and the reproduction of children (verse 23). When I was younger, I was taught that the new heavens and earth would be set up following a future Second Coming of Christ and a 1000 year “millennial reign” based out of Jerusalem, at which time sin and death would completely cease to exist.

Isaiah’s description of the new heavens and earth, however, does not allow for this. Instead, his description speaks of present realities, the earthly existence being experienced by anyone reading this. It also mirrors what we see in the New Testament. Paul told the Ephesians that God’s people are called to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). He likewise told the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, a new temple/tabernacle had come (e.g. I Corinthians 3:16-17, I Cor. 6:19, II Cor. 6:16, Ephesians 2:21, Revelation 3:12), and the old temple/tabernacle had to go. During the one generation following the cross, all of the rituals attached to the temple in Jerusalem were worthless. By the end of that generation, that temple and those worthless rituals were gone.

Obituary of the Old Covenant

SOURCE

We would also do well to remember that Jesus had already made a very significant statement about the disappearance of (the old) heaven and earth in the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will be any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Is the Law 100% intact even now in the year 2012, and are we thus still under the old heavens and earth? Or did Jesus accomplish everything and fulfill the Law, so that we are now under the covenantal framework of the new heavens and earth? Matthew 5:17-18 is an all-or-nothing statement. If “heaven and earth” have not yet disappeared, neither then has even one trace of the Law of Moses.

The “heaven and earth” spoken of by Jesus here are certainly connected to the temple worship and law keeping of the Jewish world. We know that Jerusalem, the temple, and the Old Covenant system attached to it passed away in a fiery blaze in 70 AD. Jesus, of course, predicted this (in Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16-17; Rev. 18:8-9, 17-18).

II Peter 3:7-13 also speaks of the heavens and earth of that time being “stored up for fire” (verse 7) and ready to “pass away with a roar” and be “burned up and dissolved” (verse 10), giving way to “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (verse 13). As Bishop John Lightfoot (1601-1675) wrote in his Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 3, p. 452),

“Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26, Gal. 4:9, Coloss. 2:20: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing of the dispensation of Moses.”

Indeed, Galatians 4:9 and Colossians 2:20 make use of the same word translated as “elements” in II Peter 3:10. It’s clear that Paul spoke there, not of the cosmos, but of what was contained in the Law:

[1] “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10).

[2] “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?” (Colossians 2:20-22).

In a 1721 sermon, the Puritan preacher John Owen said,

I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state… [A]nd then the heavens and earth that God Himself planted, -the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinancy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed: this we know shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.”

Jonathan Edwards (in 1739) said this in his work, “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath, Vol. 2”:

The Scriptures further teach us to call the gospel-restoration and redemption, a creation of a new heaven and a new earth… The gospel state is everywhere spoken of as a renewed state of things, wherein old things are passed away, and all things become new… And the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world. But we who belong to the gospel-church, belong to the new creation; and therefore there seems to be at least as much reason, that we should commemorate the work of this creation, as that the members of the ancient Jewish church should commemorate the work of the old creation.

C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon also had the same understanding. In a sermon delivered in 1865 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vo. XXXVII, p. 354), he said:

Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away and we now live under a new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.

Here also is a very intriguing quote from the church father, Eusebius (265-340 AD), from one of his writings known as “the Theophania”:

All authorities concur in the declaration that “when all these things should have been done”, ‘The End’ should come: that “the mystery of God should be finished as he had declared to His servants the prophets“: it should be completed: time should now be no more: the End of all things (so foretold) should be at hand, and be fully brought to pass: in these days should be fulfilled all that had been spoken of Christ (and of His church) by the prophets: or, in other words, when the gospel should have been preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and the power of the Holy People be scattered (abroad), then should the End come, then should all these things be finished. I need now only say, all these things have been done: the old and elementary system passed away with a great noise; all these predicted empires have actually fallen, and the new kingdom, the new heaven and earth, the new Jerusalem–all of which were to descend from God, to be formed by His power, have been realised on earth; all these things have been done in the sight of all the nations; God’s holy arm has been made bare in their sight: His judgments have prevailed, and they remain for an everlasting testimony to the whole world. His kingdom has come, as it was foretold it should, and His will has, so far, been done; His purposes have been finished; and, from that day to the extreme end of time, it will be the duty, as indeed it will be the great privilege of the Church, to gather into its bosom the Jew, the Greek, the Scythian, the Barbarian, bond and free; and to do this as the Apostles did in their days–in obedience, faith and hope.

A LOOK AT LUKE 21:34-36

Before going on to the rest of Matthew 24, some details from Luke 21:34-36 are also very much worth noting. This passage follows His two-fold declaration in verses 32-33 that [1] His own generation and [2] heaven and earth would pass away. He then says,

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

In verse 34, Jesus refers to “that day.” Taking this reference in context, what day would He be referring to? It should be clear that He was referring [1] to the passing of His generation after all that He had prophesied would take place and [2] to the passing away of heaven and earth. This command to “watch yourselves” was given to His followers living in the first century.

In verse 35, Jesus says “that day” will come “upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”  On the Biblos Online Parallel Bible website (www.bible.cc), there are 18 parallel translations listed for this verse. All of them render the final phrase of this verse as “the whole earth,” except for Young’s Literal Translation, which renders it as “all the land.” Indeed, the Greek word used here, “ge,” can be rendered as “land” in many cases where it is used, and can refer specifically to the Promised Land (i.e. Israel). In various commentaries on Luke 21:35, Albert Barnes (1834) and Adam Clarke (1831) agreed that these troubles were to come upon Judea, and John Gill (1746-1763) said that Jerusalem, Galilee, and Judea suffered the calamities that Jesus predicted.

This certainly makes sense here, as we have already seen in Luke 21:23 that Jesus says those days would be full of great distress for “this people” and for “the earth” (or “the land”), and this is very clearly equated with “those who are in Judea” (Luke 21:21). The same Greek word, “ge,” is also used in verse 23, and there it is rendered as “land” instead of as “earth” 17 out of 18 times in the Biblos entry for that verse.

The expression “those who dwell on the earth” (or similar forms of this expression) can also be seen often in the book of Revelation, and a solid case can be made that it refers, not to the globe, but to 1st century apostate Israel. See the 3-part series I have written on this phenomenon: here, here, and here.

Lastly, in Luke 21:36, we see that Jesus makes reference to “all these things that are going to take place.” In verses 34-36 He does not detail any number of things that are going to take place. We must conclude, then, that He is referring to what He has already described in verses 5-32 (see verses 7, 9, 12, 22, 26, 31, and 32 for similar references). This is further evidence that Jesus does not, as some have suggested, speak of 1st century events in certain parts of this chapter and speak of yet unfulfilled events in other parts. For He declares in verse 32 that all these things must take place before His own generation passes away. Furthermore, in verses 8 and following He details the signs which must take place before the temple was to be completely destroyed (see verses 6-7), an event that we know took place in 70 AD.

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In the following post, we will conclude our study of Matthew 24 by examining the remaining 16 verses (Matthew 24:36-51).

Romans 15 Shows That Isaiah 11 Is Fulfilled


The wolf is now dwelling with the lamb, and this has been true for two millennium. Is this a surprising statement? While this is not true in the animal kingdom, it is most certainly true in Christ, for His Church. I’m referring, of course, to two well-known parallel passages in Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65:

[Isaiah 11:1-10] There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit… The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

[Isaiah 65:25] “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.

PHOTO SOURCE: TERRY CROPPER

On what authority do I say that this is a present reality? The authority I stand on is the New Testament, which interprets the Old Testament far better than I ever could. Specifically, I would point to the testimony of the apostle Paul in Romans 15. The short study that follows already exists on this blog, but it’s buried in a longer post regarding Revelation 20 and the millennium. It’s a valuable study, so I’d like to re-post it here on its own. Terry Cropper has also posted this study on his “New Jerusalem Community” site (at this link). As Terry says, “Seven centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah peered into the future and depicted the glorious nature of the Messianic era with these words.” Here’s the study as it appears on Terry’s site:

In what sense is the wolf now dwelling with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), the cow and the bear grazing together (verse 7), the nursing child playing over the hole of the cobra (verse 8), and the earth full of the knowledge of the Lord (verse 9)? Good question—let’s ask the apostle Paul. He quoted the next verse as being fulfilled in his own lifetime: “IN THAT DAY the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of Him shall the nations inquire, and His resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). Romans 15:12, where Paul cites this verse, reads this way: “The root of Jesse will come, even He who arises to rule the Gentiles, in Him will the Gentiles hope” (Romans 15:12).

The context of both Isaiah 11 and Romans 15 suggests a bringing together in Christ the remnant of God’s people from among both the Jews and the Gentiles. Isaiah uses figurative language; Paul in Romans is more straightforward. Why not? The “mystery of God” spoken of by the prophets had been revealed and was about to be fulfilled in Paul’s day (compare Ephesians 3:6 with Revelation 10:7).

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). There is no Jew or Gentile in Christ Jesus (Romans 10:12-13; Galatians 3:28, 5:6, 6:15-16); “the dividing wall of hostility” has been broken down (Eph. 2:14).

The wolf (Gentiles), so to speak, now dwells safely with the lamb (Jews), i.e. among those who belong to Christ. The Gentile nations which were deceived and dwelling “far off” (Ephesians 2:11-22; Romans 9:22-26) prior to Christ’s work on the cross are now brought near (so that without distinction “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”; Romans 10:12-13).

To expand a little bit on this, Paul states in Romans 15:8 his purpose for quoting Isaiah 11:10 four verses later in Romans 15:12.

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Clearly, then, Isaiah’s prophecy was confirmed (fulfilled) when Jesus came to earth to be a servant even to the point of going to the cross on our behalf. This also brought about a great harvest among the Gentiles. Isaiah 11 goes on to immediately say this:

In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, fromHamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.

Did this not occur on Pentecost, when Jews from “every nation under heaven” were gathered to hear the gospel preached through the mouth of Peter?

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:5-11)

Paul’s application of classic “premillennial passages” (Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65) to his own lifetime (Romans 15) is not an isolated incident in the New Testament. Many of these passages have been arbitrarily equated with the millennium (spoken of solely in Revelation 20), thrust into our future and declared to be unfulfilled, when the New Testament says otherwise. Simply put, a lot of Old Testament passages taken by premillennialists to refer to a future, physical/earthly kingdom centered around earthly Jerusalem actually have to do with a present, non-physical/earthly kingdom centered around the New Jerusalem, the Church (Gal. 4:24-27, Heb. 12:22-24).

Let us rejoice that God’s kingdom, marked by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17), is here with us now.