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It's Not the End of the World!
by Dee Dee Warren

Commentary on Matthew 24

Last Update: 1/25/14 - PLEASE NOTE: I am working on edits to put this in a publishable form. The original writing was done in a very informal context and is rife with spelling, grammar, and stylistic errors. Additionally, in editing, I am noting some source mis-citations (primarily page numbers) that are being fixed. If you use this work, please contact me to double check source citations or do that checking yourself. By using this commentary, you acknowledge its informal tone and the potential for some errors that do not impact the points or arguments. A page will be up to advertise the book when it gets closer.

The Scripture Index and the Bibliography can be viewed in new tabs or pop-up windows convenient for checking references and further reading.


Preface

This commentary started out as a serious of posts in an irenic discussion on the TheologyWeb forum between me and some preterist-curious futurists. When the discussion was done, I realized that the amount of work and research required for that discussion could easily be consolidated into one larger work as a commentary on the Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24.

The point of view presented herein is the orthodox Preterist perspective. I condemn with the strongest possible terms the modern cultic movement of NeoHymenæanism—a.k.a. full Preterism, hyper-preterism, or pantelism.

I pray this work blesses and enriches your study of Biblical eschatology.


How This Works

The format of this commentary is a progressive discussion of Matthew 24 beginning with verse 1 and continuing through the end of Matthew 25. Each verse of Matthew 24 is discussed sequentially and in-depth.

The Table of Contents enables easy navigation to the discussion of each verse group. The Scripture Index lists every Bible verse cited throughout. Original source citations are noted within brackets in the text which are linked to the Bibliography.


Table of Contents


Introduction

Jesus Christ's Olivet discourse, given near the end of His ministry, has sparked endless eschatological speculations and is now overwhelmingly believed, at least within American Christian culture, to refer to the Second Coming and a future horrific world-wide Tribulation.  I have come to believe that view is false.  I did not come to this conclusion easily or quickly but only after many years of wrangling with the text and history. Although Christ's words are recorded in three parallel passages (Luke 21, Mark 13, and Matthew 24), the foundational text for this commentary is the Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24 with reference to the Marcan and Lukan accounts, as well as other passages, as needed. The methodology for this study is exegetical: a verse or group of verses will be examined systematically and comprehensively before moving on to the next verse or group.   My goal is both persuasion and education.  There is an incipient arrogance in some conservative Christian circles to view any varying views as being obviously wrong and with no foundation whatsoever.  Even if I do not convince my dispensational futurist brethren to change their view, I hope to instill a newfound regard with those who differ as having at least a good faith and logical reason for their position.  The Body of Christ can only benefit from this mutual respect.  I used to be a dispensational futurist.  I understand why others still hold that view without comprimising their intellect or their commitment to Scripture.

As Tommy Ice has humourously said: ". . . when you talk to a Preterist, get ready to hear the words, "this generation" at least eight dozen times if you have an extended conversation" [Ic DVP 393]. Tommy was, of course, referring to the preteristic penchant for this verse:

Matthew 24:34: Most assuredly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

. . .  that is in fact the pivotal verse, or at least the initial pivotal verse that drives this discussion. In discussions with futurists, I am often told that it is improper to just look at that verse without benefit of the surrounding context. I couldn't agree more, and that is where we will start this adventure. The Gospel writers did not include everything that Jesus ever said and did—they quite deliberately chose what they wanted to record and in what order they wanted to record it in. Their narratives are much more than mere chronological recitations of historical events; they are the framing of historical events for a redemptive story and often a polemical point. This is particularly true in Matthew who was writing specifically to the Jews. The entire context of the Gospel of Matthew must be taken into consideration when attempting to interpret Matthew 24, which is a carefully crafted climax to a judgment motif began much earlier in the Gospel.

So let's get started with some contextual background. We all know that the chapter divisions in our text are not inspired and in fact the divisions they place in the text can be quite artificial. So while this commentary is focused upon an exegesis of Matthew 24, we actually do need to back up a little bit and go through the context in the preceding chapters.

The Gospel writers did not include everything that Jesus ever said and did—they chose (or more appropriately the Holy Spirit chose through them) what they wanted to record and very often in what order they wanted to record it in. Their narratives are much more than mere chronological recitations of historical events; they are the framing of historical events for a redemptive story and very often a polemical point. This is particularly true in Matthew who was writing specifically to the Jews. The entire context of the Gospel of Matthew must be taken into consideration when attempting to interpret Matthew 24, which is a carefully crafted climax of a particular theme by Matthew.

The Olivet Discourse, however, does not appear as a stand-alone speech or a solitary text. It is part of a larger work, i.e. the Gospel of Matthew, and can only be understood as part of the larger narrative[Ge TGT 16–26].

While all the Gospels do focus on the rejection of Christ by His own people [Sch M24GT 4], Matthew is uniquely focused on the judgment and condemnation of the Jewish apostates; so much so, that critics and Jewish anti-missionary types argue that it is anti-Semitic!! Matthew also portrays Gentiles in a favourable light to even further contrast the theme of judgment upon the apostate Jews. A detailed analysis of each of the proceeding chapters is beyond the scope of this work so I will simply highlight some important portions to set the tone and theme.

At the beginning of Matthew's Gospel, the ministry of John the Baptist is introduced. John speaks with great vitriol to the Jewish leadership, warning the people of the wrath to come and that the ax is NOW laid at the root of the tree. He proclaims that the Kingdom is AT HAND. The winnowing fork is ALREADY in God's hand. The contemporary urgency and time referents simply cannot be overlooked. Read the passage and let its force make the appropriate impact:

Matthew 3:7–12: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

There are many themes introduced in that passage which recur in the Gospel including the condemnation of the religious leaders and the warning of wrath due to judgment upon apostasy. The leaders were confident that their lineage from Abraham was sufficient, yet, as Jesus later graphically declared; their true lineage was from the murderers of the righteous. It is very important to note that John was emphatic about the immediate urgency of his appeal. The "one who is coming" after John will already have His winnowing fan in His hand to separate out the wheat from the chaff. This separation is not something that will wait until some other phase of the purpose of the Coming One, it will be one of His first orders of business. The two-fold theme of judgment and blessing is also introduced. The winnowing process is a blessing to the wheat, but destruction for the chaff. They are the two sides of the one reality—a dominant kerygma of the Gospel.

The themes of destruction and judgment continue as the Gospel progresses with the addition of the explicit and scandalous teaching that in fact the Gentiles will prove to be more righteous than the apostate Jews based upon faith and not upon bloodlines. For example:

Matthew 8:10–12: When Jesus heard it [the reports of the faith of a Gentile centurion], He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 11:20–24: Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."

Scattered throughout the chapters leading up to the Olivet Discourse, there is also a deliberate repetition of the phrase "this generation" almost as an epithet against the Jewish apostates of Jesus' day (11:16; 12:41; 12:42, and 23:36). This will be explored in greater detail when we get to that exact same phrase in Chapters 23 and 24.

Things worsen considerably in Chapters 21 and 22 where the contemporary judgment references are more explicit, frequent, and unmistakably directed towards the immediate audience. The clear Messianic claims also increase. In Chapter 21, Jesus cleanses the Temple and very shortly later permanently curses the fig tree which, in context, obviously represents barren Israel (which presents quite a pickle for those dispensationalists who want to say that the fig tree in the Discourse is the sign of Isreal bearing fruit again in our times.) But even more explicitly, there is the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers:

Matthew 21:33–39: "Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him."

The meaning of this parable in the context of Matthew is clear. God established Israel, His vineyard, (typified as Jerusalem, the seat of the Temple) and expected it to bear Him fruit. When it failed, He sent prophets and messengers, yet the people killed them. Finally, He sent His Son, but the people did not want to be under God's rule, they wanted independence, thus, they killed the Heir—Jesus, outside of the vineyard (Jerusalem). Not convinced of this imagery? Check out:

Hebrews 1:1–2: God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things. . . 

And (getting a bit ahead of ourselves):

Matthew 23:37–38: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate. . . "

The Son was sent to the vineyard keepers who would not receive Him.

Jesus continues:

Matthew 21:40–41: "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."

Notice the connection between the owner [God] "coming" and destruction of the disobedient. Jesus then appropriates a Messianic passage to Himself and declares:

Matthew 21:42–45: Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

They understood that Jesus was speaking of them, back then—who would reject the Son, who would lose the Kingdom, and upon whom the stone would fall.

We creep closer to the Discourse with Chapter 22.

Matthew 22:1–7And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

This parable of the wedding feast illustrates Israel's resistance to God's call which results in fiery judgment when "the king was enraged and sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire" (and God gathers Gentiles to the wedding feast). Interesting, as Gentry notes [Ge TGT 20], this utterly clear reference to AD70 has caused some "higher" critics (ha!) to declare it an ex eventu (after the fact) prophecy. R.T. France notes helpfully, "Jesus' prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple are too many and varied to be dismissed as vaticinia ex eventu." [Fr JOT 71]. But we cannot miss the importance of Chapter 21 and followingthe judgments here are vivid and clear; and nearly everyone concedes (as even the apostate Jews who were Jesus' audience conceded), He was "talking about them" (21:45) within this clear reference to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Now leading into the opening scene that immediately precedes the Discourse we find this passage:

Matthew 23:29–30: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.'

Which concludes with Jesus utter reaming of the top religious dogs of His day:

Matthew 23:31–36: "Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

The lock tumblers fall into place! Judgment comes upon "this generation"—upon THEM. He tells them that they have filled up the measure of their fathers' guilt. Why? All of the Old Testament testified about Christ (John 5:39)—all of the prophets testified about Christ (Luke 24:27). Now Christ was actually there, so in denying and murdering Christ, they confirmed and recommitted all of the lesser sins of their fathers, who just denied and murdered the messengers [De LDM 53] [Ge TGT 20-22] [Sch M24GT 6–8].

It is key that Christ tells them to fill up then on the measure of their father's guilt. God tells us in the OT that He visits the iniquity of the fathers unto the children if the children confirm and continue in their father's way (Exodus 20:5). Their guilt is greater as they have the witness of their fathers and did not learn their lessons. God said that same thing when condemning the nation of Judah for not learning the lesson from watching her wicked sister, the nation of Israel, fall into harlotry (Jeremiah 3:7–8). Having reminded people of what the Scriptures warned about, Jesus then warns that those who rejected Him while He walked among them would receive greater punishment that those in the past who just rejected His messengers and not Him personally (Luke 11:29–32; Matthew 11:20–24) [De LDM 54]. And lastly it brings to mind Genesis 15:16 when God mentioned that the "iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full" and that it would take many generations (in the normal sense of the word) for that fullness to be complete. Christ is making an allusion to that passage and in fact to Daniel 9:24 in which a set amount of time was determined for Jerusalem and her people. His first century audience would have immediately recognized those allusions. Also remember that God took vengeance on the people of Amalek for the acts of their ancestors generations earlier who victimized the Israelites during their Exodus by killing the stragglers and the sick (1 Samuel 15:3). Why? Because the current Amalekites continued in and confirmed those sins. When all this is understood, it is patently obvious who "this generation" is and why it is consistently Biblical for this justice to be meted out on them. Thus there we have a clear passage pronouncing that the blood-guilt of the death of the faithful witnesses to YHWH throughout the ages would fall on them ("this generation") [Ge TGT 20–22] [Sch M24GT 6–8].

Some object that the Jews of that generation did not in fact kill the son of Berechiah as Jesus stated, thus the "you" being addressed could not be time-bound to the people then listening. However, as explained above, it is a corporate responsibility that is coming to a head as His audience would ratify and typify all of the sins that came before. In a similar way, Jesus specifically addresses the Pharisees standing before Him (Mark 7:6–7), Jesus states:

Well did Isaiah prophesy of YOU hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors Me with their lips but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Yet the original context (Isaiah 29:13) was clearly to the Jews living in the 8th century BC—yet Christ was able to say it was also specifically about THOSE hypocrites standing right before Him [Fr JOT 69].

Now continuing. . . 

Matthew 23:37–39: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!"

Jesus in light of this pronounced condemnation laments over the city of Jerusalem. Why the city? Cities and their leadership are often intertwined in the Bible. He makes it explicit here that in pronouncing doom upon the leadership, He was pronouncing doom upon Jerusalem, and makes reference to His longing for her faithfulness throughout the ages, and that now, the penalty for her harlotry has come home to roost. The city and Temple are also bound up together for it is the Temple that is the "House" that is left desolate—and the Discourse must be understood with that very specific backdrop. Jesus didn't pronounce doom upon the whole planet, but rather on the religious hierarchy and system of His day—Jerusalem and the Temple. We today, two thousand years removed, have a hard time really grasping just how heavy this was, and the utter shock this must have caused His disciples. This was made all the more shocking by the fact that Jesus was in the Temple itself as He was saying these things—and from that day forward, He never entered the Temple again. This milieu cannot be ignored or separated from the verses that follow. [Blu M24].

This same thought of impending and shattering judgment is repeated by Jesus on the Via Dolorosa to those who mourned Him:

Luke 23:28–31: But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!' For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?"

That generation of Jews did in fact call down that anathema upon themselves and their children:

Matthew 27:24–26: When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it." And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children." Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

PLEASE carefully note that this is a time-specific "curse"—it is not a curse upon Jews from that day forward until the Second Coming (which is a logical conclusion of consistently applied dispensationalism). Also, in somewhat of a sidenote, this is a good place to begin to point out some of the parallels between the doomed city of Jerusalem in the Olivet Discourse and the harlot "Mystery Babylon" in Revelation which are in fact, upon examination, one and the same. A full examination obviously is beyond the scope of this piece, but compare the verse just quoted above with this Old Testament passage [Bal Bab 77–80]:

Jeremiah 51:35: May the violence done to our flesh [alt. reading—done to us and to our children] be upon Babylon, say the inhabitants of Zion, may our blood be on those who live in Babylonia, says Jerusalem. [NIV]

The city which was called to be faithful to God has become like her ancient enemy, persecuting the righteous, murdering her bridegroom, and pridefully calling down the very same curses upon her. So much more could be said, but let this verse suffice for now:

Isaiah 1:21 See how the faithful city [Jerusalem] has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers! [NIV]

Now, there is a difficult statement here that some futurists clutch unto, but it cannot mean what they attempt to say. We may have some differences as to what it does mean, but we can rule some things out.

Matthew 23:39: . . . you shall see Me no more till you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!"

Now what in the world does this mean? Well one thing it cannot be referring to is "physical sight" as they certainly "saw" Him after that statement. It certainly is a promise of the withdrawal of Himself in some way until they repented, without any assurance that they would in fact repent. It is an utterly conditional promise [De LDM 60–62], and has nothing directly to do with "seeing" Christ at the Second Coming. The Second Coming is utterly foreign thus far to anything said. Jesus was not talking about leaving at all, never mind having to come back. His statements were utterly focused on His rejection of the Old Covenant order and the Old Covenant system.

Futurists have a habit of interpreting this verse as a future certain promise—i.e. that one day the Jews will certainly repent and welcome the returning Messiah. However, the word "until" does not indicate certainty but conditionality. For example: [De WATV]

Matthew 5:26: Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

Jesus is not stating a certainty that the parabolic prisoner will be released, He is stating the conditions for release (see also Matthew 18:20, Matthew 18:34, and Acts 23:12) [De WATV]. The meaning of "until" in that verse may be certain (as, "not until the next solar eclipse") rather than conditional (as, "not until you give me that!").  To determine which meaning, contextual indicators must be used.  As we will see, futurism has no warrant to pick the former meaning here. And in fact thousands of Jews did acknowledge their Messiah prior to God's vengeance on Jerusalem and were saved[De WATV] by looking unto Jesus.

Sometimes, to bolster the claim of a future ethnic Israel restored as a physical kingdom, dispensational futurists often quote:

Acts 1:6: Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Futurists suggest that Jesus is affirming the disciple's alleged belief in a future physical kingdom but merely rebuffs them on the timing. NT Wright is instructive:

[Jesus] gives an answer which many have taken as 'no' [He will not at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel], but which Luke almost certainly intends as a 'yes'. They will not know about particular times, but this is how the kingdom will come: by their Spirit-driven witness to him in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. [Acts 1:7–9] As has often been pointed out, this sentence is progammatic for the entire book, moving as it does from the initial preaching in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, through a specifically Samaritan mission in chapter 8, on to the worldwide reach of the gospel. . . . [NTW Rez 654]

Commentary Proper

Matthew 24:1–3: Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

The context has been set perfectly clear. The astounded disciples just heard Jesus denounce and pronounce judgment upon literally the whole Jewish "world"—the religious leaders, Jerusalem, and the Temple. They, in a typical way, wanted to ask Him about these pronouncements because in their flesh they cannot believe that He really meant what He said, so they point out to Him the seemingly "permanent" Temple and its beauty. How could God want to destroy this?

Let's dissect these verses first and then the parallel verses in Mark 13 and Luke 21 to see that Jesus made Himself abundantly clear First, from Matthew:

Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. (the Temple that existed back then) And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? (the Temple that existed back then) Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here (notice the word "here"—it is referring to those actual stones, the ones that existed then ) upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Next using Mark 13:3–4 as a source:

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives (opposite the Temple that existed back then) Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, "Tell us, when will these things be?" (it matters not that they asked Him more questions, obviously one of the things that they wanted to know was when the Temple that existed back then would be destroyed)

Lastly using Luke 21:5–7 as a source:

Then, as some spoke of the temple, (the Temple that existed back then) how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, "These things which you see—(the Temple that was before their very eyes right then) the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down." So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? (again, part of "these things" MUST include the destruction that He just prophesied that prompted their questions to begin with)

So the context is still undeniably the first century. There has been nothing said about the end of the earth, the Second Coming, black helicopters, etc. The context has been devastatingly local and Jewish and centered around the Temple and Jerusalem as it existed back then.

In Mark and Luke, just prior to this parallel condemnation on the Temple, Jesus, while IN the Temple, taught on Psalm 110, a fact which is usually overlooked. The importance of Psalm 110 to NT eschatology and Christology cannot be over-stressed as it is the most quoted or alluded to OT passage in the NT [Bau GC 29–34].

Luke 20:41–44 and Mark 12:35–37: And He said to them, "How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' Therefore David calls Him 'Lord'; how is He then his Son?"

This is an extraordinary pronouncement that silenced His critics, made IN the Temple, and then while leaving the Temple Jesus makes the most extraordinary claim of all—that VERY Temple would be destroyed. We today may not grasp the absurdity and gravity of such an idea—it would be only equivalent to someone predicting the utter destruction of the World Trade Centers before it happened. Actually with our "worship" of material success and status perhaps a parallel to the Temple is uncomfortably close. The Temple was a glorious structure that inspired awe in the ancient world:

"So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple upon them, being in length twenty additional cubits, and in height twenty additional cubits. . .  Now the temple was built of stones that were white and strong, and each of their length was twenty-five cubits, their height was eight, and their breadth about twelve; and the whole structure, as also the structure of the royal cloister, was on each side much lower, but the middle was much higher, till they were visible to those that dwelt in the country for a great many furlongs, but chiefly to such as lived over against them and those that approached them. The temple had doors also at the entrance, and lintels over them, of the same height with the temple itself. They were adorned with embroidered veils, with their flowers of purple, and pillars interwoven: and over these, but under the crown-work, was spread a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and fine workmanship of which was a surprising sight to the spectators, to see what vast materials there were, and with what great skill the workmanship was done. He also encompassed the entire temple with very large cloisters, contriving them to be in due proportion thereto; and he laid out larger sums of money upon them than had been done before him, till it seemed that no one else had so greatly adorned the temple as he had done. There was a large wall to both the cloisters; which wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man. This hill it was which Solomon, who was the first of our kings, by divine revelation, encompassed with a wall; it was excellent workmanship upwards, and round the top of it. He also built a wall below, beginning at the bottom, which was encompassed by a deep valley; and at the south side he laid rocks together and bound them one to another with lead, and included some of the inner parts, till it proceeded to a great height, and till both the largeness of the square edifice and its altitude were immense, and till the vastness of the stones in the front were plainly visible on the outside, yet so that the inward parts were fastened together with iron, and preserved the joints immovable for all future times. . .  and round about the entire temple were fixed the spoils taken from barbarous nations; all these had been dedicated to the temple by Herod, with the addition of these he had taken from the Arabians." ("Jewish Antiquities" 15.11.3) cited in [Gh Per 2–3]

This is not the only place where Jesus clearly prophesies the fate of the Temple (and the city) then standing.

Luke 19:41–44: Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."

This also remarkably fulfills Old Testament prophecy [Blu M24] [Cu Rap 156]:

Micah 3:9–12: Now hear this,you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity: her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD, and say,"Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us." Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest.

There is a hair-raising Old Testament parallel involved here as well [Low ESCH part 9].

Leviticus 14:33–45: And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: "When you have come into the land of Canaan, which I give you as a possession, and I put the leprous plague in a house in the land of your possession, and he who owns the house comes and tells the priest, saying, 'It seems to me that there is some plague in the house,' then the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes into it to examine the plague, that all that is in the house may not be made unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to examine the house. And he shall examine the plague; and indeed if the plague is on the walls of the house with ingrained streaks, greenish or reddish, which appear to be deep in the wall, then the priest shall go out of the house, to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days. And the priest shall come again on the seventh day and look; and indeed if the plague has spread on the walls of the house, then the priest shall command that they take away the stones in which is the plague, and they shall cast them into an unclean place outside the city. And he shall cause the house to be scraped inside, all around, and the dust that they scrape off they shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city. Then they shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other mortar and plaster the house. Now if the plague comes back and breaks out in the house, after he has taken away the stones, after he has scraped the house, and after it is plastered, then the priest shall come and look; and indeed if the plague has spread in the house, it is an active leprosy in the house. It is unclean. And he shall break down the house, its stones, its timber, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them outside the city to an unclean place.

How could God have made it any plainer? There is NO rebuilt Temple in view, but the one that existed when Jesus spoke. He not only made the limited location specific, He also made known the reason: because they did not know the time of their visitation. Further the fact is that the Romans DID plough through and level the Temple Mount and the city in the first century [Blu M24].

How can we deny such plain proof?

As an interesting historical aside, despite several attempts in the past, the Temple has not been rebuilt, with one such attempt mounted by the Emperor Julian with the specific intent to disprove Christianity by such an act only to be thwarted by spontaneous fireballs and other destructive signs [Hol DoJ 48–50] and another attempted by Bar Kochba which resulted only in further miseries for the Jews [Gh Per 4]. It has been noted by many that as of the present it is unlikely that the Temple can be rebuilt as God has seen fit to allow the Dome of the Rock to be erected on what is commonly believed to be the exact former site on the Temple Mount [Gh Per 3–4]. In destroying the Temple, God completely shut the door to the possibility of anyone attempting to follow the Old Testament types and shadows. That is HUGE! [Mor Des].

Matthew 24:3: Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Oftentimes futurists make a very big deal out of the fact that the disciples asked more than one question in Matthew's account. It really doesn't matter if they asked one or twenty. Let's take a look at the parallels:

Mark 13:4: "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"
Luke 21:7: So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"

In Mark and Luke any references to "coming" are missing. That is strange if this passage were talking about the Second Coming—that would mean Mark and Luke entirely omitted the Main Eventtm. If we line up Matthew, Mark, and Luke we appear to have these equivalent phrases.

Matthew:What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?

Mark: What will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?

Luke: And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?

Interesting. The narratives equate "these things" with "Your coming and of the end of the age?"

We have to ask at this point (and there is a BIG hint above) why did Matthew include a reference to Christ's "coming" when, as we have seen, there is nothing in the context so far that refers to Christ's Second Coming (or even a First Going), and the other Gospel authors didn't record the disciples even asking a thing about that event? Doesn't that seem odd to you?

The fact is that the disciples had NO concept that Jesus was to die, rise again, and return again to consummate redemption. There is every indication that they expected the Kingdom and consummation to take place immediately. As noted by another:

These men, followers and disciples of Jesus though they were, did not look for a resurrection.... While Jesus on several occasions referred to His death and rising again, there is nothing in the record to indicate that the disciples ever glimpsed what He meant. On the contrary, they appear upon each occasion to have received His references with at most only academic interest, as if He spoke of something that in no way concerned them.
A notable instance of this attitude is revealed during the descent from the Mount of Transfiguration. It will be recalled that on that occasion Jesus enjoined silence upon Peter, James, and John, the three disciples accompanying Him, as to the stirring event recently witnessed by them until the Son of man should have risen again from the dead. The reaction of His disciples to this and other references by Jesus to His rising again is clearly revealed by the expression of puzzlement recorded by the gospel historian, Mark, who was undoubtedly quoting Simon Peter, when he states that they kept the saying, questioning among themselves what the rising from the dead should mean (Mark 9:10).
Such was the response to each reference by Jesus to His rising again. The meaning of His revelations to them did not register. They rebuked Him even for suggesting His impending death at the hands of the high priests (Matthew 16:21, 23).
If they could not envision a crucifixion, the prelude to His rising again, surely it is incredible that they could have foreseen and believed in a resurrection. Indeed the disciples had been unable to look upon Him as doing more than ushering in a new and better temporal state.[Rop Rise 37-39]

That last paragraph is crucial. If they could not envision a going, they certainly were not envisioning a coming in the way that futurists claim. They were asking when He would usher in the new order and do away with those that opposed Him. That of course doesn't mean that Jesus could not still be talking about a coming in the futurist sense, and they just wouldn't understand, but one absolutely cannot say that the disciples were asking about His Second Coming. Such a concept was utterly foreign to them.

I am indebted to Ron C. Fay for this insight [FAY GG]. Does any prior Gospel narrative give us insight into the expected future "coming" of the Messiah? Yes.

John 11:17–20 :So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

Whoa, back up there Martha, "Is to come into the world"? Wasn't He already there? It is clear (to the embarassment of hyperpreterists) that Martha expected a physical resurrection at the last day. However, it is equally clear that she expected this to be somehow in conjunction with Christ's "coming" in a way that was not already present, though He was already present. I submit (and as the exposition will later bear out) that the "coming" expected by Martha was the final victory of the Messiah without a thought as to whether He would be leaving and coming and when it would happen. Thus, after Jesus spoke of the destruction of the Temple, the disciples were somewhat short-sighted and might have expected the complete victory at that time—but His "going" and "coming back" simply were not on the radar screen. We learn that is indeed what will happen, but that meaning cannot be imported back into Martha's and the disciples' questions. The only thing for certain is that "to come" and "coming" are closely tied into Messianic victory. It is my current position that this present time is the "coming" of the Christ which will be bookmarked by two physical advents, one in the first century and one in our future at the resurrection. Thus indeed, He cometh with clouds even in our age as another enemy is put under His feet.

Just as a side-note before we proceed, a great deal of the historical documentation will come from the Jewish historian Josephus. Some persons object to this use, but I have yet to find a good reason to do so. The areas of potential shortcomings with Josephus are well-known and few, and it is hardly a legitimate objection to complain that he is an unbelieving source—what better record could be found as he certainly would not be embellishing the record to fit Christian prophecy. Furthermore, considering the importance of the Temple and the sacrificial cult to this area of Scripture, and the focus on the Jews, the fact that not only was Josephus a Jew, but also a Priest, makes his testimony all the more relevant.

As a preterist I think we are incredibly fortunate to have such detailed historical records of the period as we find in Josephus. However, let's say that Josephus never wrote any histories or none of them survived, that would not make many of the things we know that happened through Josephus any less true. So there may be many cases where I might not have any historical events that I can specifically point to, but rather principles. We do not have complete records of that time, but from what we do have, I am very confident even of the things for which I cannot point to a specific document.

Matthew 24:4–5: And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

Now do these warnings apply to the future (i.e. to us) or to His immediate listening audience? Now, I think that some preterists make the mistake of rigidity when they lay so much weight on passages simply because the word "you" is used. It is not unusual to hear a preterist expound such passages (Gary DeMar does this frequently) by stressing, "Take heed that no one deceives YOU" and similarly. I don't tend to do this. I think that the "you" is important, but it cannot bear all of the weight that some claim. Note the following observation by Walter C. Kaiser:

The precise specificness and paticularity of the Bible was not meant to prejudice its universal usefulness, but to make the principles involved all the more concrete, real, and personal. The problem of particularity occurs in other aspects of biblical studies, but even there one can witness the Bible's own direct application of earlier historical events. The use of first person "we" or "us," as if the people addressed several centuries after the event took place were still participating in that ancient event bears witness to the Bible's refusal to let the specific and particular block any appeal to universals or general applications. This principle is strikingly exhibited in Hosea's use (Hos. 12:3–6) of Genesis 25:26 and 32:24ff. Thus, while there are fewer general principles than there are specific commands, this should not affect the eventual usefulness of most, if not all of the injunctions. [Ka TOTE 42]

Now all this being said, I do think the "you" in this entire Discourse are the "yous" He was speaking to back then. However, I derive this from the context and other time indicators in which "you" (rather than "them" or "they") is only a part. So as we look at this passage, the context has not changed, making it extraordinarily unlikely (though not impossible) that the "you" has changed to mean some distant group of persons in the future. It is also even possible that this in fact has happened after the explicit timing statement in verse 34.

In a debate on this verse with a skeptic (and believers do advance a similar argument), it was asserted that "until the time of Bar Kochba, there is no evidence of any person actually coming forth and saying, 'I am Messiah.'" I was taking and am now taking the opposing position of affirming that there were definitely persons coming forward and claiming to be  the Messiah, though possibly not one said explicitly, "I am the Messiah." However, this being said, I do affirm that we have no undisputed recorded instance of anyone actually mouthing those exact words, "I am the Messiah" before AD70. That is an argument from silence as we do not have a tape recorder for the every word of every would-be contender, but for purposes of this discussion, I will stipulate for the sake of argument there were in fact none who did—in those exact words.

However, Jesus' prediction does not require a word for word recital it merely requires that people overtly make Messianic claims. It is an absolutely untenable position to force Jesus to mean that those exact words would have to be parroted for fulfillment. It is irrelevant if they ever used those exact words for that is not the point that Christ was communicating. To demonstrate this, let's pretend that a guy (we'll call him Roger) appeared on the scene and had this similar conversation that Jesus had with Peter (whom we will call Harry)

Roger: Harry who do other people say that I am?

Harry: Well some say that you are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, or one of the prophets.

Roger: But who do you say that I am?

Harry: You are the Messiah.

Roger: Bingo!

Now let's say all of this happened after Jesus' prediction about false Messiahs and His death. According to this assertion, Roger would not qualify to fulfill Christ's words because he did not mouth the words "I am the Messiah!" and thus cannot have claimed to be the Messiah!! How patently absurd and even beyond banal anachronism since we would not even in today's vernacular hyper-literalize to that extent. It is extreme error to infuse mojo magic into an exact wording when all that is being communicated is that people will come along with Messianic claims.

Also, notice this ridiculous logical outworking of this position. By its own standard, someone who came along and did and said the exact same things as Jesus would not be a fulfillment because Jesus Himself never uttered the words "I am the Christ." Does that make any sense at all? Did Jesus not claim to be the Messiah? In context of the Discourse, what was Jesus warning about? Was He really concerned that His disciples just keep a look out for people that uttered a certain magic phrase? Or was He concerned that they would be deceived and follow after false messiahs? If the latter, how would simply listening for a catch phrase have any merit whatsoever? It wouldn't.

Now there is a second, more reasonable prong, to this objection that states that not only did no one make this claim, there was no one who was identified as such.

A lot of how we go about looking at this question will hinge upon the issue of Messianic expectations and ideas in first century Judaism, which were not monolithic but most often, a Messianic figure would certainly have "Davidic" and kingship overtones and would be a deliverer of Israel often acting under overt claims of divine sanction and guidance, sometimes including actual prophetic status. All kinds of writers agree on that.

In that debate, I had made the mistake of incorrectly naming Theudas and Judas of Acts as fulfillments of Christ's words. Actually they preceded Christ by a number of years (but Horsley and Hanson state that the Biblical text which places Theudas prior to Judas the Galilean is incorrect, and thus dispute this timing [Hor BPM 165]—as an inerrantist, I cannot agree with their assertion). However, this turned out to be a very helpful mistake for me. There is no doubt that the early Christians were participants of a Messianic movement within Judaism claiming Jesus as the Messiah. Gamaliel in Acts 5:33–39 in reasoning what to do about these Christians compared them with other failed Messianic movements such as the prior ones led by Theudas and Judas. This of course proves my point that a Messianic contender can be identified by other means than a signed and dated transcript saying, "I am the Messiah." Thus, while Theudas and Judas of Acts were not the men prophesied by Christ, they are examples of Messianic contenders of the time period and are usable as controls for other proposed contenders. Theudas "rose up, claiming to be somebody" and drew off a large number of people to follow him as did Judas of Galilee.

Glenn Miller in addressing this issue has identified the following [Mi ME]. The italicized entries predate Christ's ministry and are not cited as fulfillments but as controls for the type of figures in question.

Messianic Kings

Messianic Prophets

Now though before delving deeper, I submit that often what we are asking of the data is woefully anachronistic, i.e. we are not asking of potential contenders if they have characteristics that would have been considered Messianic in the first century, or even what it meant to be Messianic in the first century—we are filtering everything through two thousand years of Christian doctrine and tradition—much of which does not reflect the wide diversity of "messianism" of that time [Mi ME]. A very useful book for this subject is Bandits, Prophets,& Messiahs, especially chapter 3. The expectations of that day revolved much more around the "son of David" imagery and kingship. As Horsley and Hanson explain, "Another presupposition for election as popular king is an organized following, indeed, a fighting force. In David's case, in a time of social, political, and economic turmoil, he had became the leader of a sizable band of brigands." [Hor BPM 95] This becomes a model for a particular species of popular kingship, and kings were in fact, "anointed ones," i.e. messiahs.

As far as the specifics for some that I would now propose as fulfillments for Christ's words and as others which are stated as control examples, I will utilize five that were proposed (not necessarily as a fulfillment of this prophecy but as historical figures of that time) by ultra-liberal, "Let Us Vote on What Jesus Actually Said," Crossan [Cr THJ Chapter 9] so I cannot be accused of only using a preterist or conservative source for my argument, see also generally [Hor BPM chapter 3](a conservative source). In addition to these specific works cited below, I also generally utilized [De LDM 72–74] [Bra M24F 25–27] [Pa M24 81–82] [Sch M24GT 16–17].

Figures Antedating Christ's Earthly inistry

For this period, Crossan recognizes at least three Messianic claimants:…Judas in Galilee, Simon in Perea, and Athronges in Judea [Cr THJ 198–202].


1. Judas in Galilee (son of the bandit chieftain Ezekias whom Herod had executed)

Note well how he was the son of a brigand, and became a royal contender [Hor BPM 115].

"At Sepphoris in Galilee. . .  [he]raised a considerable body of followers, broke open the royal arsenals, and having armed his companions, attacked the other aspirants to power." ("Jewish Wars" 2.56) cited in [Hor BPM 112]
"Judas got together a large number of desperate men at Sepphoris in Galilee and there made an assault on the royal palace, and having seized all the arms that were stored there, he armed every single one of his men and made off with all the property that had been seized there. He became an object of terror to all men by plundering those he came across in his desire for great possession and his ambition for royal rank, a prize that he expected to obtain not through the practice of virtue but through excessive ill treatment of others."("Jewish Antiquities" 17:271–272) cited in [Cr THJ 200] [Hor BPM 112, different translation cited]

Notice that Crossan recognized that royal contenders were recognized as "Messianic" consistent with the research of Horsley and Hanson [Cr THJ 198–202].


2, Simon in Perea (a slave of Herod's)

First Crossan notes that Tacitus in "Histories" 5:9 says of Simon, "he assumed the name of king without waiting for Caesar's decision [about Herod's will and heirs]."[Cr THJ 200]

"Simon. . .  proud of his tall and handsome figure, assumed the diadem. Perambulating about the country with the brigands whom he had collected he burnt down the royal palace at Jericho and many other stately mansions, such incendiarism providing him with an easy opportunity for plunder. Not a house of any respectability would have escaped the flames, had not… the… troops gone out to encounter this rascal." (Jewish War 2:57–58) cited in [Cr THJ 200–201] [Hor BPM 112–113, different translation cited]
"Simon… a handsome man, who took pre-eminence by size and bodily strength… was expected to go farther. Elated by the unsettled conditions of affairs, he was bold enough to place the diadem on his head, and having got together a body of men, he was himself also proclaimed king by them in their madness, and he rated himself worthy of this beyond anyone else. After burning the royal palace in Jericho, he plundered and carried off the things that had been seized there. He also set fire to many other royal residences in many parts of the country and utterly destroyed them after permitting his fellow rebels to take as booty whatever had been left in them." ("Jewish Antiquities" 17:273–274) cited in [Cr THJ 201]

And further Crossan characterizes this as an "oblique and indirect reference of popular Messianic hopes" [Cr THJ 201]

"Such was the great madness that settled upon the nation because they had no king of their own to restrain the populace by his pre-eminence, and because of the foreigners who came among them to suppress the rebellion were themselves a cause of provocation through their arrogance and their greed." ("Jewish Antiquities" 17:277b) cited in [Cr THJ 201]

3. Athronges in Judea

"Now, too, a mere shepherd had the temerity to aspire to the throne. He was called Athronges, and his sole recommendations, to raise such hopes, were vigor of body, a soul contemptuous of death, and four brothers resembling himself. To each of them he entrusted an armed band. . .  while he himself, like a king, handled matters of graver moment. It was not that he donned the diadem, but his raiding expeditions continued long afterwards." (Jewish War 2:60–62) cited in [Cr THJ 201–202]
"There was a certain Athronges, a man distinguished neither for the position of his ancestors nor by the excellence of his character, nor for any abundance of means but merely a shepherd completely unknown to everybody although he was remarkable for his great stature and feats of strength. This man had the temerity to spire to the kingship thinking that if he obtained it he would enjoy freedom to act more outrageously; as for meeting death, he did not attach much importance to the loss of his life under such circumstances. He also had four brothers and they too were tall men and confident of being successful through their feats of strength, and he believed them to be a strong point in his bid for the kingdom.. Athronges himself put on the diadem. . .  This man kept his power for a long while, for he had the title of king and nothing to prevent him from doing what he wished." ("Jewish Antiquities" 17:278) cited in [Cr THJ 202] [Hor BPM 113–114, different translation cited]

Horsley and Hanson note how seriously these kind of threats were historically considered by gauging the reaction of the Varus, legate of Syria:

"Abandoned by its inhabitants, Emmaus was also burned to the ground when Varus ordered it to avenge the slaying of Arius and his troops. He then marched on to Jerusalem where at the mere sight of him and his forces the Jewish armies dissolved and fled into the countryside. Those in the city, however, welcomed him and disclaimed all responsibility for the revolt. They explained that they had done nothing, but had been forced to put up with the swarm of visitors on account of the festival, so that far from joining the rebel attack they were themselves besieged, as were the Romans. . . . Varus dispatched parts of his army around the countryside to go after those responsible for the revolt, and among the many apprehended he imprisoned those who seemed to have taken a less active role, and crucified those most responsible—about two thousand in all." ("Jewish Antiquities", 2.71–75) cited in [Hor BPM 116–117]

Figures After Christ's Death and Prior to the Jewish War

In addition to kingly Messianic claims, there were also Messianic prophets who made claims to be harbingers of divine acts of deliverance. Josephus notes:

"Impostors and demagogues, under the guise of divine inspiration, provoked revolutionary actions and impelled the masses to act like madmen. They led them out into the wilderness so that there God would show them signs of imminent liberation." ("Jewish Wars" 2.259) cited in [Hor BPM 161]
"For they said that they would display unmistakable signs and wonders done according to God's plan." ("Jewish Antiquities" 20.168) cited in [Hor BPM 161]

1. The Anonymous Samaritan (AD35)

"Nor was the Samaritan nation free from disturbance. For a man who had no qualms about deceit and freely used it to sway the crowd, commanded them to go up with him as a group to Mount Gerizim, which is for them the most sacred mountain. He promised to show them, when they got there, the holy vessels buried at the spot where Moses had put them. Those who thought his speech convincing came with arms and stationed themselves at a village called Tirathana. There they welcomed late-comers so that they might make the climb up the mountain in a great throng. But Pilate was quick to prevent their ascent with a contingent of cavalry and armed infantry. They attacked those who had assembled beforehand into the village, killed some, routed others, and took many into captivity. From this group Pilate executed the ringleaders as well as the most able among the fugitives." ("Jewish Antiquities" 18:85–87) cited in [Hor BPM 63]

The claim to be able to reclaim the vessels of Moses is a claim to be the "prophet" like unto Moses, an eschatological claim. Pilate's reaction shows that he understood the potential gravity of this situation [Hor BPM 164].


2. Theudas (AD45)—Horsley and Hanson recognize this as the Theudas of Acts 5:36 but dispute the timing presented in that passage, placing this Theudas after the death of Christ [Hor BPM 165])

When Fadus was governor of Judea, a charlatan named Theudas persuaded most of the common people to take their possessions and follow him to the Jordan River. He said he was a prophet, and that at his command the river would be divided and allow an easy crossing. Through such words he deceived many. But Fadus hardly let them consummate such foolishness. He sent out a cavalry unit against them, which killed many in a surprise attack, though they also took many alive. Having captured Theudas himself, they cut off his head and carried it off to Jerusalem." ("Jewish Antiquities" 20:97–98) cited in [Hor BPM 164–165]

Notice again the symbolic eschatological action—the parting of waters which represent both deliverance and conquest [Hor BPM 165–166].


3. The Anonymous Egyptian (Jew) (AD56)

"At this time, a certain man from Egypt arrived at Jerusalem, saying he was a prophet and advising the mass of common people to go with him to the Mount of Olives, which is opposite the ity. . . . He said that from there he wanted to show them that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down and they could then make an entry into the city. But when Felix learned of these things, he commanded his soldiers to take up their weapons. Marching from Jerusalem with many horsemen and foot-soldiers, he attacked the Egyptian and his followers, killed four hundred of them and took two hundred alive. The Egyptian himself fled the battle and vanished without a trace." ("Jewish Antiquities" 20:169–71) cited in [Hor BPM 168]
"The Egyptian false-prophet. . .  when he arrived in the countryside, though an imposter, made himself credible as a prophet and railed about thirty thousand dupes and took them around through the wilderness to the Mount of Olives. From there he intended to force an entry into Jerusalem, overpower the Roman garrison, and become ruler of the citizen body, using his fellow-raiders as bodyguards. Felix anticipated his assault and met him with heavily armed Roman troops, with the whole citizen body joining in the defense. In the aftermath, the Egyptian escaped with a few of his followers, but most of them were killed or captured; the rest scattered and hid out in their homes. ("Jewish Wars" 2.261–63) cited in [Hor BPM 169]

And yet again, the Old Testament "conquest" imagery is present (i.e. the walls of a city falling down like Jericho) and the Mount of Olives (i.e. the deliverance of Jerusalem prophesied by Zechariah). Horsley and Hanson mention that it appears that Luke was "confused" in Acts 21 in associating the "Egyptian" with the Sicarii. That explanation is not acceptable to me as an inerrantist, but in any event, that is not a concern here—this is a historical figure (and perhaps Luke was referring to someone completely different that Josephus did not). Most importantly for this study they note:

"Most significant is the clear pattern of symbolic correspondence between the great historical acts of redemption and the new eschatological acts anticipated by these prophetic movements. As was the mighty act of God in the formative history of early Israel, so would be God's imminent eschatological act of deliverance. Just as Moses led the people through the divided waters and into the wilderness so would the prophet Theudas lead a new exodus through the waters of the Jordan and into the wilderness. As God's agent Joshua led the battle of Jericho, so the prophet from Egypt would lead the people to the Mount of Olives, expecting the walls of Jerusalem to fall so they could 'liberate' the city." [Hor BPM 69–171]

Figures During the Jewish War

Now during the Jewish War, Crossan recognizes two Messianic claimants: Menahem, son of Judas the Galilean, and Simon son of Gioras [Cr THJ 202–206].


1. Menahem, son of Judas the Galilean

"Menahem. . .  took his intimate friends off with him to Masada, where he broke into king Herod's armory and provided arms both for his fellow-townsmen and for other brigands; then, with these men for his bodyguard, he returned like a veritable king to Jerusalem, became the leader of the revolution, and directed the siege of the place. . .  So they laid their plans to attack him in the Temple, whither he had gone up in state to pay his devotions, arrayed in royal robes and attend his suite of armed fanatics." (Jewish War 2:434, 444) cited in [Cr THJ 203] [Hor BPM 118, a different translation cited]

Menahem not only presented himself as King, he came from an organized group of brigands known as the Sicarii in which teaching ability was part of their leadership; thus he also was a "teacher-messiah" which type of figure was already in popular expectation in such communities as the Essenes due to such passages as Ps. Sol. 17 [Hor BPM 119 and Chapter 3 generally].


2. Simon son of Gioras (AD68)

First Crossan notes that Simon "was ritually executed as the official Jewish leader during the Roman triumph towards its end." [Cr THJ 202] Horsley and Hanson go into detail to show how his treatment and actions leading up to and after his capture show that both he considered himself the messiah and that the conquering Romans recognized him as the leader—Simon was killed in the manner of the conquered rebel ruler while John of Gischala suffered imprisonment. Most strikingly after attempting to escape and finding no exit, he openly presented himself arrayed in royal attire in the spot where the Temple once stood. It is speculated that he was attempting to divert further agony to his people by self-sacrifice/surrender or to offer one last plea to God for divine deliverance at the last moment [Hor BPM 126–127].

"He withdrew to the hills, where, by proclaiming liberty for slaves and rewards for free, he gathered around him the villains from every quarter. . .  And now when he was becoming a terror to the towns, many men of standing were seduced by his strength and career of unbroken success into joining him; and his was no longer an army of mere serfs or brigands, but one including numerous citizen recruits, subservient to his command as to a king." (Jewish War 4:508, 510) cited in [Cr THJ 204] [Hor BPM 120–121, different translation cited]

This next incident is interesting in showing how Simon had succeeded in getting some Idumean leadership to make arrangements for his take-over of that area—notice how he arrives with a sizeable trailing entourage [Hor BPM 121].

"Contrary to expectation, Simon invaded Idumea without bloodshed. In a surprise attack, he first overpowers the small town of Hebron where he seized a great deal of booty and carried away a vast quantity of grain. As the natives of Hebron say, the town is not only older than any of the other towns in the country, it is also older than Memphis in Egypt. . . . There Abraham, forefather of the Jews, has his home after his departure from Mesopotamia, and it was from there that his descendants went down into Egypt. . . . From Hebron, Simon advanced through all of Idumea, not only sacking villages and town, but plundering the countryside as well, since his supplies were not adequate for such a huge multitude, his followers now numbering forty thousand, not counting his armed men. ("Jewish Wars" 4.529–34) cited in [Hor BPM 121].

It is interesting that Simon's stated agenda was to set aright social injustices and declared that he would give "freedom for slaves and rewards for the free." ("Jewish Wars" 4.508) When Simon entered Jerusalem, he was one of two major leaders, residing and ruling principally in the city while the followers of John of Gischala and the Zealots remained in the Temple environs. Strife arose between the two factions as John's party were betraying the Jews to the Romans so that they might survive (my note: the idea of the priestly class and families as the false prophet of the beast) [Hor BPM 122–124].

Crossan particularly notes the Davidic parallels in the Messianic contenders, most specifically in Simon who started for Jerusalem from Hebron just as David as done, has references to his "wives, and who like David progressed from bandit to general to King." [Cr THJ 204–206] Horsley and Hanson note similar Davidic patterns: both were popular leaders that were a threat to the current establishment; in narratives their physical characteristics and prowess are mentioned; the political state was one of crisis; initially joined by bands of discontents that were joined later by large numbers of the more respectable; and, both captured Hebron[Hor BPM 121–122].

That last observation is very important for some try to dismiss some contenders as being mere bandits and not Messianic contenders, but fail to realized the very close connection in the concept with certain of the banditry which is evidenced by Rome's treatment of them as a different class than mere robbers or criminals, but as actual threats to the rulership. This is explained by the fact that banditry in the ancient world was often the path to legitimate rulership (i.e. the examples given from Horsley and Hanson regarding the Davidic theme in which David himself assembled a group of brigands). Some examples include. . . 

Viriathus (Spain circa 140s–130s BC) who went from being a shepherd to a hunter to a bandit to a general; Tacfarinas (North Africa circa 20s AD) who went from shepherd to soldier to bandit to general; and Maximus (Thrace 230s AD) who went from shepherd to bandit to soldier to emperor. As Crossan asked, "What was a bandit but an emperor on the make, what was an emperor but a bandit on the throne? Such men were never seen simply as common criminals." [Cr THJ 172] So to dismiss the widespread banditry as not being indicative of Messianic contenders is misplaced and anachronistic and does not take into consideration the Davidic typology of his own "banditry" before assuming the kingship. Though Crossan apparently dismisses it, Josephus at times "confuses" bandits with prophets or as Joe prefers to call them—"impostoers and deceivers." This adds another element to strengthen the Messianic claim, the claim of divine inspiration and guidance for the deliverance activities.

"In Judea matters were constantly going from bad to worse. For the country was again infested with bands of brigands and impostors who deceived the mob. Not a day passed, however, but that Felix captured and put to death many of these impostors and brigands. He also, by a ruse, took alive Eleazar the son of Dinaeus, who had organized the company of brigands; for by offering a pledge that he would suffer no harm, Felix induced him to appear before him. Felix then imprisoned him and dispatched him to Rome." ("Jewish Antiquities" 20.160–161) cited in [Cr THJ 184–185]
"No sooner were these disorders reduced than the inflammation, as in a sick man's body, broke out again in another quarter. The impostors and brigands, banding together, incited numbers to revolt, exhorting them to assert their independence and threatening to kill any who submitted to Roman domination and forcibly to suppress those who voluntarily accepted servitude, Distributing themselves in companies throughout the country, they looted the houses of the wealthy, murdered their owners, and set the villages on fire. The effects of their frenzy were thus felt throughout all Judea, and every day saw this war being fanned into fiercer flame." ("Jewish Antiquities" 20.172b) cited in [Cr THJ 185]

And as Miller noted [Mi ME]:

"Besides these there arose another body of villains, with purer hands but more impious intentions, who no less that the assassins ruined the peace of the city. Deceivers and impostors, under the pretense of divine inspiration fostering revolutionary changes, they persuaded the multitude to act like madmen, and led them out into the desert under the belief that God would give them tokens of deliverance."(Jewish War 2.258–60)

Interestingly for this study, Josephus is silent about bandits during the lifetime of Christ and at the time Christ would have uttered this prediction, which was in fact during the famous Pax Romana (the peace of Rome, more on that later in this study); however, for the years following 44AD they are mentioned for almost every period of time save one.

"The country, also, in various districts, was a prey to disorder, and the opportunity induced numbers of persons to aspire to sovereignty. And so Judea was filled with brigandage. Anyone might make himself king as head of a band of rebels whom he fell in with, and then would press on to the destruction of the community causing trouble to few Romans and then only to a small degree but brining the greatest slaughter upon their own people." ("Jewish Wars" 2.55a, "Jewish Antiquities" 17:285) cited in [Hor BPM 115]

We're not yet done with those people, but let's look at another aspect of the verse.

Some note that Mark 13:5–6 and Luke 21:8 phrase this passage differently, putting "I AM" (often translated "I am he" though the pronoun is really absent) instead of "I am the Christ" in Matthew.. The argument then follows that Jesus is requiring that the candidates make a claim to divinity. I am ambivalent on this line of reasoning, but do note that Simon made claims to deity, and Justin Martyr cited Simon as one among others who were "put forth by demons who claim to be gods"[Gh Per 12–13].

But were great numbers actually deceived? Enough that the whole nation and city were lost:

"Thus it was that the wretched people were deluded at that time by charlatans and pretended messengers of the deity; while they neither heeded nor believed in the manifest portents that foretold the coming desolation, but, as if thunderstruck and bereft of eyes and mind, disregarded the plain warnings of God." ("Jewish Wars" 6:288) cited in [Mar SOT 6]

St. Jerome (4th century) stated:

At the time of the Jewish captivity, there were many leaders who declared themselves to be Christs, so that while the Romans were actually beseiging them, there were three factions within. (Golden Chain by Thomas Aquinas cited by [Cu Rap 157])

This same theme is repeated later in verses 23–24:

Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

This verse became a bone of contention in a TheologyWeb (http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?t=80079) debate in which my futurist opponent (Jeff), unlike most futurist opponents, did concede that false Christs did indeed appear prior to A.D. 70. However, he also made the highly unusual claims that the mention of false Christs seems to be completely disconnected from the rest of the Discourse, which was given to the Disciples and not to the general public and also that this idea of false Christs is a central theme of this passage. Thus, he believes that it makes much more sense in the whole scheme of the context if Christ was predicting not merely false messiahs, but impostors actually claiming to be Him personally. He did not see how this warning would be important or related to the rest of the passage if the preterist interpretation is correct.

Now while I don't agree with his objection at all which seems to me to be little more than a tempest in a teapot; however, I believe I have found a good answer to Jeff's point in N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God. On this matter, here's what Wright has to say [NTW Rez 557–559]:

Messiahship in Judaism

The problem is, of course, that the varied pictures of a coming Anointed One in the varied Judaisms of the time do not conform to what Jesus did and said, still less to what happened to him. . .  In so far as we can generalize about such complex things, three interrelated themes emerge, stressed variously in different sources: the Messiah was supposed to win the decisive victory over the pagans, to rebuild or cleanse the temple, and in some way or other to bring true, god-given justice and peace to the whole world. What nobody expected the Messiah to do was to die at the hands of the pagans instead of defeating them; to mount a symbolic attack on the Temple, warning it of imminent judgment, instead of rebuilding or cleansing it; and to suffer unjust violence at the hands of the pagans instead of bringing them justice and peace. The crucifixion of Jesus, understood from the point of view of any onlooker, whether sympathetic or not, was bound to have appeared as the complete destruction of any messianic pretensions or possibilities he or his followers might have hinted at. The violent execution of the prophet (which, uncontroversially, was how Jesus was regarded in by many), still more of a would-be Messiah, did not say to any Jewish onlooker that he really was the Messiah after all, or that if YHWH's kingdom had come through his work. It said, powerfully and irresistibly, that he wasn't and that it hadn't.

We can see this clearly enough if we imagine for a moment the situation after the death of two of the most famous would-be Messiahs of the period, Simeon bar-Giora or during the first to revolt (AD 66–70) and Simeon ben Kosiba (i.e. Bar-Kochba) during the second (AD 132–5). Simon was killed at the climax of Vespasian's triumph in Rome; Simeon, we assume, died as the Romans crushed his movement and with it all prospect of Jewish liberation. We only have to exercise appropriate historical imagination, thinking into the situation a few days after their deaths, to see how it would look.

Take Simon, for example. The year it is AD 70. Vespasian has become emperor. Titus, his son and heir, has obliterated the Jewish rebellion, destroying Jerusalem the process. He returns to Rome to celebrate a magnificent triumph, pictured in stone to this day on Titus's arch at the east end of the Forum. The bedraggled Jewish prisoners are displayed within the pageant telling the story of the war; the spoils, particularly those from the Temple, are carried through the city. Finally there comes the conquering heroes: Vespasian himself, followed by Titus, with Titus's younger brother Domitian riding beside them. But there remains one ceremony:

The triumphal procession stopped in front of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.  . . it was an ancient custom to wait there until it was announced that the enemy general has been put to death. This was Simon son of Gioras, who had featured in the pageant among the prisoners, and then, with a halter thrown around him, was dragged to the spot beside the Forum were Roman law requires that criminals under the sentence of death should be killed. The people leading him there scorched him as they went. After the announcement of his death, and the universal shouts of rejoicing that followed, the princes began the sacrifices; when they had been duly offered, they went back to the Palace. . .  The city of Rome hold a celebration that day for its victory in the war against its enemies, for the stopping of civil disturbances, and the beginning of hopes of prosperity.

When the triumphal ceremonies were over, and the empire of the Romans had been established on the firmest possible foundation, Vespasian decided to set up a temple of Peace. . .  Josephus Wars of the Jews 7.153–8)

Roman victory; Roman justice; Roman empire; Roman peace; all because the Jewish leader had been killed. An interesting parallel to the Christian claim, that salvation had come to the world because of the death of the Messiah; but we will let that pass for the moment. Instead, as our immediate task, imagine two or three of Simon's supporters—if there were any of them left, hiding in caves or secret cellars—a few days later. Supposing one is said to another, 'Actually, I think Simon really was the Messiah.' The kindest view the others might take would be that the speaker had gone mad. Alternatively, the statement might be understood as heavily ironic: he really was our Messiah—n other words, our god has forgotten us, this is the best we can expect, we may as well admit there is no more hope! But if the case were pressed: Simon really was the Messiah, so we should now launch a movement which hails them as such, which declares to our fellow Jews that YHWH's anointed has been in their midst and has established the kingdom (at the very moment when Caesar's kingdom seems more firmly established than ever!), and which may then go out into the world to declare that Simon, as the King of the Jews, is really the Lord of the whole world. . . then the verdict of madness, of a kind of criminal lunacy which turns reality upside down and inside out, seems inevitable. And if (to anticipate the sort of theory we shall discuss later) the speaker, realizing his companions' horror at his proposal, were to explain it all by saying that he had received a vision of Simon being with him; that he had a strong sense that Israel's god had forgiven them for their failure to support him properly; that he had enjoyed a wonderful and heartwarming spiritual experience as he thought about the death of Simon; then his companions would have shaken their heads sorrowfully. None of this would remotely mean that Simon was the Messiah after all. None of it would mean that the long-awaited of Israel's god had come. None of it would mean, either, that Simon had been 'raised from the dead'.

A moment's disciplined historical imagination, then (something 'historical criticism' has often been unwilling to employ), is enough to make the point. Jewish beliefs about a coming Messiah, and about the deeds is such a figure would be expected to accomplish, came in the areas of shapes and sizes, but they did not include a shameful death which left the Roman empire celebrating its usual victory.
[NTW Rez 557–559]

To bring this back to the point at hand. Jesus was an "unexpected Messiah" in many respects, and while His disciples and post-Ascension converts had many proofs and witnessed many things, as the years wore on, and other more "Jewish" (or in line with Jewish expectations) appeared, the potential for deception and temptation for apostasy and doubt would be great. They did not yet have the destruction of the entire "world" that they knew which removed forever that possibly and completely annihilated any inkling of this former expectation to the rest of us who believe in Christ. This was a uniquely first-century problem, and explains quite handily why there was a concern for false Christs in the Discourse in a unique way that will not again be possible.

So in final answer to Jeff's objections, the Discourse was not solely to warn the three dudes who went up on the hill with Jesus, they were expected to teach these things to the others and those that would come after. Even if we limited it to the Disciples (which I do not and can't imagine any preterist who would), we already do have an example of a major New Testament figure doubting that Christ was the coming Messiah (or in the two Messiah theory, the only coming Messiah):

Luke 7:19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"

And as to the importance of Jerusalem to Jesus' immediate audience, i.e. the Apostles, they stayed in Jersualem even in the midst of persecution when others fled.

Acts 8:1 At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Further the Christian community in Jersualem, knowing of the coming destruction, (Acts 6:14) lived communally (Acts 4), selling their possessions and sharing all things in common in this aberrant time of distress. In fact Paul even advocated that during this time, it was better to remain single. This period of time was obviously very significant for the life of the whole Christian community (1 Corin. 7:26.)

Matthew 24:6–8: And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass but the end is not yet. Nation will rise against nation, and Kingdom will rise against Kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Jesus now gives many "signs" for the disciples to look out for, but to be assured that these were harbingers of the end, not the end itself, so as not to get alarmed at every erupting disorder, but rather to take it in stride. Let's go through each of these signs to see if in fact they did occur.

Wars

The world has always been troubled by wars, yet Jesus declares that a "sign" of the approaching Tribulation would be "wars and rumours of wars." Now think about it. Wars can only be a sign if they occur after a long time of prior peace, otherwise they are not a sign but rather business as usual. The fact is that when Jesus uttered the Discourse, the Roman Empire was in a time of peace called the Pax Romana (the peace of Rome) since about 17BC with the last major uprising occurring in Palestine in 7BC. [Sch M24GT 17–18] [Ge TGT 36]. Other sources will date the period from 27BC beginning with Augustus [UNRVPAX]. However, as the years ground on after His death, violence increasingly deranged the peace. Historians of that time such as Tacitus record the disturbances of that day thusly:

"Disturbances in Germany; commotions in Africa; commotions in Thrace; insurrections in Gaul; intrigues among the Parthians; the war in Britain; the war in Armenia." ("The Annals of Tacitus") cited in [De LDM 78–79]

And

"The history on which I am entering [just following Nero's death] is that of a period rich in disaster, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors failed by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars and often both at the same time." ("Histories" 1:2) cited in [Ge TGT 37]

Here are some historical nuggets of uprisings and disturbances that I gathered:

DATE LOCATION DETAILS SOURCE
A.D. 40 Mesopotamia Josephus records more than 50,000 killed [Sch M24GT 82, footnote 34]
[Bra M24F 28]
A.D. 49 Jerusalem 10,000 to 20,000 dead at Passover [Sch M24GT 82, footnote 34]
[Bra M24F 28]
Unknown Caesarea 20,000 Jewish deaths with 20,000 more being killed by Syrians as they moved to other regions [Sch M24GT 82, footnote 34]
[Bra M24F 28]
Unknown Alexandria 50,000 dead [Sch M24GT 82, footnote 34]
[Bra M24F 28]
Unknown Scythopolis 13,000 Jewish deaths [Sch M24GT 82, footnote 34]
[Bra M24F 28]
Unknown Damascus 10,000 dead in an hour's time [Sch M24GT 82, footnote 34]
[Bra M24F 28]

Josephus went so far to state:

I have omitted to give an exact account of them [the Roman civil wars], because they are well known by all, and they are described by a great number of Greek and Roman authors; yet for the sake of the connection of matters, and that my history may not be incoherent, I have touched upon everything briefly. ("Jewish Wars" 4:9:2) cited in [De LDM 78–79]

Remember (tying in to the above section about the false christs), Josephus stated of these times and men:

The country, also, in various districts, was a prey to disorder, and the opportunity induced numbers of persons to aspire to sovereignty.  And so Judea was filled with brigandage.  Anyone might make himself king as head of a band of rebels whom he fell in with, and then would press on to the destruction of the community causing trouble to few Romans and then only to a small degree but brining the greatest slaughter upon their own people. ("Jewish Wars" 2.55a, "Jewish Antiquities" 17:285) [Hor BPM 115]

In fact these totals of lives lost were in the hundreds of thousands. As the wars progressed, four Roman Emperors were violently killed (murder and suicide) in the space of under two years. Now some may object that these internal turmoils within the Roman empire do not count as "nation rising against nation." In response it can be noted that Tacitus (above) noted these events in places outside the Empire; however, and even more importantly, the Roman Empire was not ONE nation, but an empire made up of many conquered nations and persons, thus, the internal conflicts were indeed "nation rising against nation "[Sch M24GT 18].

Now, to bring in a potential parallel to the Book of Revelation, Chilton brings up a very interesting point with regards to the "red horse" (representing war) of Revelation 6; and that is that the rider does not bring war, he simply takes away peace, or God's restraining hand upon the wickedness of men so that they turn on each other [Ch DOV 188–189]. This is interesting to tie in to Gentry's observation that it was "wars and rumours" of wars that began the downfall of the apostate Jews, for it was the news of the Jewish victory in A.D. 66 against Cestius Gallus and the Twelfth Legion that emboldened the Jews in Jerusalem to believe that they could win a revolt [Ge TGT 38].

Josephus described these events as occurring during the Jewish War:

. . . every city was divided into two armies encamped against one another, and the preservation of the one party was in the destruction of the other; so that the day-time was spent in the shedding of blood, and the night in fear. It was then common to see cities filled with dead bodies, still lying unburied, and those of old men, mixed with infants, all dead, and scattered about together; women also lay amongst them, without any covering for their nakedness; you might then see the whole province full of inexpressible calamities, while dread of still more barbarous practices which were threatened, was everywhere greater than what had already perpetrated. ("Jewish Wars" 2.18.2) cited in [Ch DOV 189]

Don't skim that, absorb the weight of those eyewitness words.

Famines and Pestilences

Jesus predicted famines and pestilences? Did those happen? And of course the answer is yes. In fact, the answer would remain yes even I had not one ounce of historical backup because Jesus said that those things would happen within the first century generation. However, happily we do have historical evidence. I have already demonstrated there were wars. Famine with pestilences is war's ugly red-haired step-sister, especially in the ancient world. Where there was war, famine and pestilence followed [Sch M24GT 18] [Ge PT 49].

Even without the causation of war, there were four famines during Claudius' reign, including the one recorded in Acts 11:28 (circa A.D. 49). . . 

Acts 11:28: Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world [interesting—all the world], which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

This is likely the famine that Josephus wrote about:

A famine did oppress them at that time, and many people died for want of what was necessary to procure food withal. ("Jewish Antiquities" 20:2:5) cited in [Ge PT 49]

Pestilences and famines were recorded throughout the whole known world during this time by Suetonius, Dio Cassius, Eusebius, Tacitus, and Orosius [Ge PT 49].

Tacitus records a famine occurring about 51AD in Rome:

"This year witnessed many prodigies; repeated earthquakes. . .  further portents were seen in a shortage of corn, resulting in famine. It was established that there was no more than fifteen days' supply of food in the city. Only heaven's special favor and a mild winter prevented catastrophe." ("Annals" 12:43) cited in [De LDM 79] [Ge PT 49]

These things grew more intense during the time of the Jewish Wars of AD67–70. Josephus describes what had happened:

As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the insurgents kept pace with it, and every day these horrors burned more fiercely. For, since nowhere was grain to be seen, men would break into houses, and if they found some they mistreated the occupants for having denied their possession of it; if they found none, they tortured them as if they had concealed it more carefully. Proof whether they had food or not was provided by the physical appearance of the wretches; those still in good condition were deemed to be well-provided with food, while those who were already wasting away were passed over, for it seemed pointless to kill persons who would soon die of starvation. Many secretly bartered their possessions for a single measure of wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor. Then they shut themselves up in the darkest corners of their houses; in the extremity of hunger some even ate their grain underground, while others baked it, guided by necessity and fear. Nowhere was a table laid—the food was snatched half-cooked from the fire and torn into pieces. ("Jewish Wars" 5:10:2) cited in [Ch TGT 75–76]

And

Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the marketplaces like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead whosever their misery seized them. (Jewish War 5:12:3, 723) cited in [De LDM 80]

Suetonius noted:

In a single autumn 30,000 deaths from plague were registered at the Temple of Libitina. ("Nero" 39) cited in [Ge PT 49]

Tacitus wrote:

At Rome, a plaque devastated the entire population. . . . The houses were full of corpses, and the streets of funerals. ("Annals" 16:13) cited in [Ge PT 49]

Chilton also provides a great short history lesson for us [Ch TGT 14–15]:

Josephus has left us an eyewitness record of much of the horror of those years, and especially of the final days in Jerusalem. It was a time when 'the day-time was spent in the shedding of blood, and the night in fear'; when it was 'common to see cities filled with dead bodies'; when Jews panicked and began indiscriminately killing each other; when fathers tearfully slaughtered their entire families, in order to prevent them from receiving worse treatment from the Romans; when, in the midst of terrible famine, mothers killed, roasted, and ate their own children (cf. Deut 28:53); when the whole land 'was all over filled with fire and blood'; when the lakes and seas turned red, dead bodies floating everywhere, littering the shores, bloating in the sun, rotting and splitting apart; when the Roman soldiers captured people attempting to escape and then crucified them—at the rate of 500 per day.
'Let Him be crucified! Let Him be crucified! His blood be on us, and on our children!' the apostates had cried forty years earlier (Matthew 27:22–25); and when it was all over, more than a million Jews had been killed in the siege of Jerusalem; close to a million more were sold into slavery throughout the empire, and the whole of Judea lay smoldering in ruins, virtually depopulated. The Days of Vengeance had come with horrifying, unpitying intensity. In breaking her covenant, the holy city had become the Babylonish whore; and now she was a desert, 'the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.' (Revelation 18:2).

This should bring to mind the promised Covenant curses that God had threatened upon Israel should she apostatize from Him. . . . quite frighteningly literally [Ge PT 49]:

Deut. 28:53–57:You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.
Lamentations 2:20: "See, O Lord, and consider! To whom have You done this? Should the women eat their offspring, the children they have cuddled? Should the priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?"

Earthquakes

We cannot talk about the earthquakes without dealing with the issue of the phrase "beginning of sorrows." Futurists will point to this and note that this phrase literally means "birth pangs" and then take this to analogize the signs to a woman giving birth; that is, that they will increase in frequency and intensity up to the end. The text, however, does not say that [De LDM 80]. It is an analogy that cannot be pressed to walk on all fours. To then use this phrase to attempt to chart the record of earthquakes so as to try and predict the end is nonsensical. My Nelson NJKV Study Bible contains this honking assumption:

Sorrows literally means "birth pangs." The earth continually has birth pangs today (see Romans 8:22); during the tribulation, these "sorrows" will increase in intensity and frequency until Jesus returns in glory (see 19:28; Acts 3:21) [NSB 1621].

First, the two supporting references say no such thing. Second, the Romans passage cited shows how off-base this theory is. If the creation continually has had birth pangs, has everything really gotten more frequent and with greater intensity? No. History has shown us that natural devastations are often local and cyclical, and there are periods of time with relatively few. In other words, the analogy just cannot be stretched (pun intended) that far. I believe that Biblical symbolism and redemptive typology also requires us to remember that these "pangs" are emblematic of the curse. First the general curse over the earth, but in this passage specifically, Jerusalem and the apostates have just been condemned and cursed. Understanding this context, it is interesting that this phrase "sorrows" (odinon) is also used for the pains of death.

Acts 2:24: . . . whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death.

Also, and much more in line with the whole theme and tenor of this passage, God's divine judgment is often cast in terms of birth pangs, in fact such is the first judgment upon humanity recorded in Scripture:

Genesis 3:16: To the woman He said:"I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children. . . ."
Isaiah 13:8: And they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth.
Isaiah 26:16–17: LORD, in trouble they have visited You, they poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them. As a woman with child is in pain and cries out in her pangs, when she draws near the time of her delivery, so have we been in Your sight, O LORD. We have been with child, we have been in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth wind; we have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth, nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen.
Jeremiah 4:31: For I have heard a voice as of a woman in labor, the anguish as of her who brings forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion bewailing herself; She spreads her hands, saying, "Woe is me now, for my soul is weary because of murderers!"
Jeremiah 6:24: We have heard the report of it; our hands grow feeble. Anguish has taken hold of us, pain as of a woman in labor. . . 
Jeremiah 13:21: What will you say when He punishes you? For you have taught them to be chieftains, to be head over you. Will not pangs seize you, like a woman in labor?
Jeremiah 22:23: O inhabitant of Lebanon, making your nest in the cedars,how gracious will you be when pangs come upon you, like the pain of a woman in labor?
Jeremiah 50:43: The king of Babylon has heard the report about them, and his hands grow feeble; anguish has taken hold of him, pangs as of a woman in childbirth.
Hosea 13:13: The sorrows of a woman in childbirth shall come upon him.
Micah 4:9: Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in your midst? Has your counselor perished? For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor.

The point was not at all that these pains would be increasing in frequency and intensity (Luke's account simply states that there will be "great earthquakes" - Luke 21:11), but rather that while they would be intense signs of judgment, Christ is reassuring them that these things are just the beginning. There is still time [Sch M24GT 19].

Now with this in mind, were there intense earthquakes during this time? Yes. Scripture itself records three of them: when Jesus was murdered (Matthew 27:54); when the stone was rolled away from His tomb (Matthew 28:2); and when Paul and Silas were imprisoned (Acts 16:26).

Historians note the following earthquakes [Sch M24GT 19]:

This activity was so noteworthy that Seneca wrote:

"How often the cities of Africa and Achea have fallen with one fatal shock! How many cities have been swallowed up in Syria, how many in Macedonia! How often have Pathos become a ruin! News has often been brought of the demolition of whole cities at once. quoted in [Sch M24GT 19]

Commentator Edward Hayes Plumptre wrote, "Perhaps no period in the world's history has ever been so marked by these convulsions as that which intervenes between the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem." quoted in [De LDM 81]

And there is something else that we must note. Remember that Romans 8 states that the whole creation is having birth pangs. If these signs are to occur anywhere on the whole planet, how are they signs? Areas on the whole planet at any given time may be experiencing such distress, but if these signs are confined to a specified area, such as the Roman Empire, they are meaningful, and the whole context of the passage is thus restricted [Sch M24GT 19].

I am finding I need to back up a bit. Although we are dealing primarily with the text of Matthew, I notice something important that was mentioned by Luke that we should discuss.

Luke 21:11: And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

We already dealt with the earthquakes, famines, and pestilences, but the Matthean passage did not mention "signs from heaven." Now I would point out that this was paired with very natural phenomena, but since the ancients saw natural phenomena as portents and signs from heaven, this is quite expected, thus this really need not need anything more than what was already stated. The wars and natural disturbances were indeed fearful sights and great signs which were in providence, from heaven. The "natural" signs were evidence of supernatural judgment [Sch M24GT 18–19]. But there is more that we can point to.

Supernatural Signs in the First Century

Josephus reports the following events all occurring during AD66:

While the people were assembling for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the eight of the month of Nisan, at the ninth hour of the night [3am] so a bright a line shone round the altar and Temple that it looked like broad daylight, and this lasted for a half an hour. The inexperienced regarded it as a good omen, but it was immediately interpreted by the Scribes in conformity with subsequent events. cited in [Ch TGT 114–115]

Also during the same feast:

The East Gate of the inner sanctuary was a very massive gate made of brass and so heavy that it could scarcely be moved every evening by twenty men; it was fastened by iron-bound bars and secured by bolts that were sunk very deep into a threshold that was fashioned from a single stone block; yet this gate was seen to open of its own accord at the sixth hour of the night. The Temple guards ran and reported the news to the captain and he came up and by strenuous efforts managed to close it. To the uninitiated this also appeared to be the best of omens as they had assumed that God had opened to them the gate of happiness. But wiser people realized that the security of the Temple was breaking down of its own accord and that the opening of the gates was a present to the enemy; and they interpreted this in their own minds as a portent of the coming desolation. cited in [Ch TGT 114–115]
A supernatural apparition was seen, too amazing to be believed. What I am now to relate would, I imagine, be dismissed as imaginary, had this not been vouched for by eyewitnesses, then followed by subsequent disasters that deserved to be thus signalized. For before sunset chariots were seen in the air over the whole country, and armed battalions speeding through the clouds and encircling the cities. cited in [Ch TGT 116]

And:

"At the feast called Pentecost, when the priests had entered the inner courts of the Temple by night to perform their usual ministrations, they declared that they were aware first, of a violent commotion and din, then of a voice as of a host crying, 'We are departing hence!'" cited in [Ch TGT 116]
And the fifth sign in the heavens that year: "A star that looked like a sword stood over the city and a comet that continued for a whole year." It was obvious, as Josephus says, that Jerusalem was "no longer the dwelling place of God." cited in [Ch TGT 116]

These are in addition to the signs recorded in the NT such as the tearing of the veil. The Talmud also records that in AD30 the gates of the Temple opened by themselves, apparently due to the collapse of the overhead lintel, a stone weighing about 30 tons [Ch TGT 115–116]. Comets at that time were held to be frightful omens of disaster, and there were two in the reign of Nero alone just prior to the AD70 events, one in AD60 and one in AD66. The first one caused Nero to murder potential successors to his throne (i.e.his own offspring) in order to avoid the upheaval portended by the comet, and the second one was just before his suicide. Gary DeMar states something interesting:

Historians have linked the appearance of Halley's Comet not only with the death of Nero, but with the destruction of Jerusalem four years later. A seventeenth-century print graphically depicts the phenomenon as it passes over Jerusalem. The following caption accompanies the print: "Halley's Comet of AD 66 shown over Jerusalem. . .  The Comet was regarded as an omen predicting the fall of the city to the Romans which occurred four years later." [De LDM 81–82]

Okay back to Matthew 24, we left off with. . . 

Matthew 24:9–13: Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Persecutions

Who would deny that first century Christians were persecuted, as Christ himself prophesized?

John 15:19: If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 16:33: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Matthew 23:34: Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city.

Much of this persecution is recorded in Acts with the stoning of Stephen, Saul's persecutions of the Church, the imprisonment of Paul and Silas, and the injunction against speaking the name of Christ with the punishment of being beaten for violations.

Notice:

Acts 8:1–3: Now Saul was consenting to his [Stephen's] death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

Saul did not do this as a lone ranger, he had the support of the Jewish leadership.

Acts 11:19: Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
Acts 13:50: But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
Acts 14:2:But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.
Acts 14:5: And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them.

I could go on and bring out more Biblical examples, but I just do not think it necessary. It is a fact of history that most of the disciples were martyred, and of course tradition has it that only John survived to see the destruction of Jerusalem though he was persecuted and exiled to Patmos.

Paul summarizes it well:

2 Corinthians 11:24–28: From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

Historically, Tacitus notes that the Christians in the first century were a "race of men detested for their crimes" and the monstrosities against the Christian perpetrated by Nero are infamous.

Note the following:

A vast multitude of Christians was put to death in the most shocking manner. Some were crucified, probably in mockery of the punishment of Christ, some sewed up in the skins of wild beasts and exposed to the voracity of mad dogs in the arena. The satanic tragedy reached its climax at night in the imperial gardens on the slope of the Vatican (which embraced, it is supposed, the present site of the place and church of St. Peter): Christian men and women, covered with pitch or oil or resin, and nailed to posts of pine, were lighted and burned as torches for the amusement of the mob; while Nero in fantastical dress, figured in a horse race, and displayed his art as a charioteer. Burning alive was the ordinary punishment of incendiaries; but only the cruel ingenuity of this imperial monster, under the inspiration of the devil, could invent such a horrible system of illumination. ("History of the Christian Church" by Phillip Schaff) cited in [Bra M24F 30–31]

Sidenote: an objection may be made that the first century disciples were not hated by "all nations"—merely the Roman empire, but that would be ignorant on several counts. First, the Roman empire was made up of "all nations" (there will be more on this as we continue on to the next verse section), and assumes that missionaries' journeys did not extend beyond the empire with persecutions following. It is also very interesting that when Jesus spoke those words, the disciples were opposed by certain of the Jews, but to state that this hatred would spread to "all nations" was quite a remarkable claim. [Cu Rap 160]

Betrayals and Apostasy

Now as far as betrayal of one another, it is evident that this would take place in these persecutions as families were torn apart by the newfound faith of other members. This also is nothing more than Jesus promised:

Matthew 10:34–39: Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law';and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

In the persecution under Nero, Tacitus records that, "Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large number of others were condemned. . . " (Tacitus "Annals") cited in [Gh Per 22]

And the NT records examples of betrayal and apostasy among the brethren (the book of Hebrews, especially chapter 6 is a dire warning to apostates). It is interesting that most of today's "modern" heresies are not new at all, but just reinventions of the ones that first reared their foul heads in the first century.

Examples include my doctrinal nemesis—NeoHymenæanism:

2 Timothy 2:15–18: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort,who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

Ugh! That's enough to give me the theological heaves!

Gnostics:

Colossians 2:8–9: Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

. . . the Gnostics thought that true Deity could have nothing to do with physical matter.

2 John 2:7: For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

Blatant Immorality and Anti-nomianism:

1 John 2:3–4:Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
1 John 1:8–10: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1 Corinthians 5:1: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father's wife!
Jude 4: For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

which interestingly enough Jude uses as proof that they were in the "last days" by stating:

Jude 17–19: But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.

John of course does the same thing:

1 John 2:18–19: Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Judaizers:

Acts 15:10: Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Gal 1:6–7, 3:1–4: I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. . . .O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

False Disciples and General Apostasy:

2 Timothy 1:15: This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
2 Timothy 4:10–11,16: . . . for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. . . . At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
Acts 20:29–31: For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
1 Timothy 1:3–7,19–20: As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine,nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. . . . having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy 6:3–5, 20–21: If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. . . .O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.
2 Peter 2:1–3: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

Of course the citations could be multiplied exceedingly. The heresies flooding the early church make mockeries out of those who believe to those who heretically believe in a first century consummation:

Ephesians 4:11–15: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ.

Now I dealt with the issue of false prophets in an earlier section dealing with Matthew 24:5. I would simply repeat these words of Scripture:

2 Peter 2:1–3: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
2 Corinthians 11:12–15: But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Acts 13:6: Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus.
1 John 4:1: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Lawlessness

Even today, orthodox Jewish scholars' apologetic for why God allowed the Romans to destroy the Temple is that the Jews of that day were grossly lawless. In fact, the Talmud says it was: "[b]ecause of groundless enmity between Jews" (see http://www. vaadua.org/VaadENG/NEWSEngl/Josef/J11.htm).

Josephus provides some narrative descriptions of the lawlessness among the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem at that time:

[The Zealots act] as though they had covenanted to annul the laws of nature along with those of their country. . . . every human ordinance was trampled underfoot" ("Jewish Wars" 4:6:3) exactly cited in [Gh Per 23]

and

". . .  in the first place, all the people of every place betook themselves to rapine; after which they got together in bodies, in order to rob the people of the country, insomuch that for barbarity and iniquity. . .  those of the same nation did in no way differ from the Romans; nay, it seemed to be a much lighter thing to be ruined by the Romans than by themselves." ("Jewish Wars" 4:3:2) exactly cited in [Gh Per 23]

and

"It is therefore impossible to go distinctly over every instance of these men's iniquity. . .  I shall therefore speak my mind at once here briefly:—That neither did any other city suffer such miseries, nor did any age every breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness that this was, from the beginning of the world." ("Jewish Wars" 5:10:5) exactly cited in [Gh Per 23–24]

and

"The Idumeans also strove with these men who should be guilty of the greatest madness! For they [all], vile wretches as they were, cut the throats of the high priests, that so no part of a religious regard to God might be preserved; they thence proceeded to destroy utterly the last remains of a political government, and introduced the most complete scene of iniquity. . .  in all instances that were practicable; under which scene that sort of people that were called Zealots grew up, and who indeed corresponded to the name, for they imitated every wicked work; nor, if their memory suggested any evil thing that had formerly been done, did they avoid zealously to pursue the same; and although they gave themselves that name from their zeal for what was good, yet did it agree to them only by way of irony, on account of those they had unjustly treated by their wild and brutish disposition, or as thinking the greatest mischiefs to be the greatest good." ("Jewish Wars" 5:10:5) exactly cited in [Gh Per 24]

and Tacitus recorded:

"Sacred rites were grossly profaned, and there was adultery among the great. The sea swarmed with exiles, and the cliffs were red with blood. Worse horrors reigned in the city. To be rich or well born, to hold offices or refuse it, was a crime: merit of any kind meant certain ruin. Nor were the informers more hated for their crimes than for their prizes: some carried off a priesthood or the consulship as their spoil, others won administrative office and a place at the heart of power: the hatred and fear they inspired worked universal havoc. Slaves were bribed against their masters, freedman against their patrons, and, if a man had no enemies, he was ruined by his friends. ("Histories" 1.2–3) cited in [Gh Per 24]

The cites already mentioned above regarding the apostasy, false doctrine, and betrayal all bear witness to the lawlessness that abounded. The lawlessness and wickedness of Nero and Caligula are legendary. Paul wrote that the mystery of lawlessness was at work back then:

2 Thessalonians 2:7: For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work

The verse that causes some to be troubled is "he who endures to the end will be saved." What does this mean? A lot depends I suppose upon one's soteriology. I believe that true apostasy is possible, and during that troubled time of the death of the Old Covenant and birth of the new, very tempting, as I believe the book of Hebrews (again particularly Chapter 6) demonstrates. Those who endure to the "end"—the complete destruction of the Old Covenant system—will be "saved" either from the very real temptation of apostasy back to dead rites or simply from the conflagration that consumed Jerusalem and from the persecution by the Jews. We should remember that the first persecutors of Christians were Jews. That is not meant to decry  any group, just man's sinful nature.

The primary meaning of this seems to be, that whosoever remained faithful till the destruction of Jerusalem, should be preserved from it. No Christian, that we know of, perished in the siege or after it. (Henry Alford, "The New Testament for English Readers") cited by [De LDM 86]

That is a remarkable historic fact isn't it?

As far as the disciples, good first-century Jews as they were, were concerned, there was no reason whatever for them to be thinking about the end of the space-time universe. There was no reason, either in their background or in a single thing that Jesus had said to them up to that point, for it even to occur to them that the true story of the world, or of Israel, or of Jesus Himself, might include either the end of the space-time universe, or Jesus or anyone else floating down to earth on a cloud. (N.T. Wright "Jesus and the Victory of God") cited by [De LDM 86]

And of course when Jesus said "the end," the disciples would have been thinking about "the end" that they already asked Him about, and to which this was His lengthy answer, this is "the end of the age" to which I already gave a lengthy exposition earlier in this commentary.

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

So WAS the gospel preached "in all the world" and "to all the nations" in the first century? Well not to be a wise guy, but we know it was before AD70 for one very simple reason. Jesus said it would happen with that generation. Now that may be convincing to those of us who just simply accept the Bible (okay that was a cheap shot and not accurate, but I couldn't resist—forgive me) but to others, not as convincing, and to those indoctrinated in futurism, not too convincing at all . . .  so what does the rest of the NT have to say about this??

Colossians 1:5–6: . . . because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.
Colossians 1:23: . . . if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven,, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul says that the Gospel was even preached to every creature under heaven at the time he wrote to the Church at Colosse and was even bearing fruit in the whole world.

When the Gospel was preached at Pentecost, who was there to hear it??

Acts 2:5: And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.

Representatives of every nation heard the Gospel then; and as Pentecost was a feast to which people traveled far and wide, they carried the Gospel back their homelands: "every nation under heaven."

Paul told the Romans that their faith was being proclaimed to all the nations and throughout the whole world.

Romans 1:5–6: Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ
Romans 16:25–26: Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.

Some may ask how this could possibly be. . . . well even if I could not explain it, it would still be true because that is how the Bible defines "the Gospel being preached to all the nations" and the Bible must be allowed to interpret the Bible. The word for "world" in Matthew 24:14 is "oikoumene" which means the "inhabited earth" which very often in the NT simply means the Roman Empire. We forget that Rome was the "world" of that time, made up of many, many nations. This same word is used in Luke 2:1 about the census that was ordered that caused Joseph and Mary to have to go to Bethlehem. No one teaches that even the American Indians were ordered to be censused as well, but that is the same word used in Matthew 24:14—oikoumene.

Also we must remember that the Jews were, and still are, a very colourful and passionate people. Their idioms and means of communication often employed hyperbole and exaggeration for effect. It was part and parcel of that culture. We are guilty of cultural snobbery or anachronism when we are being overly literal about such things. The Bible must tell us how to interpret the Bible even if it means we must topple the idol of "literalism" that we have erected today. Biblically literal means that we interpret things literally in the sense that they were intended to be understood.

If you were to say that "it is raining cats and dogs outside," you would literally mean that it is raining very hard. I would not be taking you literally in a proper way if I grabbed a kennel instead of an umbrella. You literally meant that it was raining very hard.

This kind of "globalization" is typical in the Scripture. . . 

Cyrus the King of Persia said, "The Lord, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth." (Ezra 1:2; 2 Chron. 36:23)

David writes, "All nations surrounded me." (Psalm 118:10)

God "brought the fear of David on all the nations." (1 Chron. 14:17)

It is written of Hezekiah King of Judah "that he was exalted in the sight of all nations. . . ." (2 Chron. 32:23)

The Chaldeans are said to "march throughout the earth." (Hab. 1:6)

"The people from all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph." (Genesis 41:57)

"All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon." (1 Kings 10:24)

"And all the nations shall serve him and his son, and his grandson until the time of his own land comes." (Jer. 27:7)

Nebuchadnezzar addresses his decree as "the king to all the people, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth." (Daniel 4:1)

For reference material on the above see [De Geo]

Some may be wondering, what about world missions today?  Are they still required?  Yes!  Matthew 24 has little to do with them.  They are still required. The lesson here is that the "world" is the frame of reference in view in any particular situation. In the first century, their "world" was the Roman Empire. Today our "world" is literally the planet. In two thousand years, our "world" may include human habitations on Mars.

The Church Fathers certainly understood the Scripture as being hyperbolic[Gh Per 26–27]:

And Paul, because of jealousy and contention, has become the very time of endurance rewarded. He was in bonds seven times, he was exiled, he was stoned. He preached in the East and West, winning a noble reputation for his faith. He taught righteousness to all the world; and after reaching the furthest limits of the West, and bearing his testimony before kings and rulers. . . " (Clement of Rome, 1 Clement 5) cited in [Gh Per 26]
A still more astonishing story follows a paragraph later, where it is stated that an oracle was found in their sacred writing to the effect that a man from their country would become monarch of the whole world: this oracle the historian himself believed to have been fulfilled in Vespasian. But Vespasian did not reign over the entire world, but only the part under Roman rule; it would be more justly applied to Christ, to whom the father has said, Ask of me, and I will give you the heathen world for your inheritance, and for your possession the ends of the earth. At that very time it was true of His apostles that Their speech went out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Eusebius, "Ecclesiastical History" 3.8) cited in [Gh Per 26–27]

It is also useful to ask why Jesus would emphasize this as something that needed to happen before "the end" (which I submit is the destruction of Jerusalem) came? To keep Rome from easily destroying the Church, as it would destroy Biblical Judaism (which hasn't existed since that time as modern Judaism is Rabbinic Judaism—a totally different species) by not centralizing His Church in one specific confined location.

Matthew 24:15: Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand). . . 

This passage may seem to be very difficult for preterism. However, the dispensational baggage we've been carrying make it much more difficult that it needs to be, though the text does present some problems that we will look at. I rarely get to debate that passage, because my futurist opponents almost never get away from thinking it is a silver bullet.

The Abomination of Desolation

I submit to you that one of the reasons we have an issue with this passage is because we are not first century Jews. There is a huge hint there that this warning about the "abomination of desolation" is something encrypted in a sense, in that the reader is cautioned to stop and understand. It is not something to gloss over. There are various translations of this phrase that may be helpful to review:

NIVSo when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand.

NLT The time will come when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about: the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place—reader, pay attention!

ISVSo when you see the destructive desecration, mentioned by the prophet Daniel, standing in the Holy Place (let the reader take note)

AMPSo when you see the appalling sacrilege [the abomination that astonishes and makes desolate], spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the Holy Place—let the reader take notice and ponder and consider and heed [this]

In dispensationalist circles, one hears that this refers to the antichrist who will disrupt a seven year treaty with the Jews halfway through and desecrate the Temple (the most popular scenario being that he will sacrifice a pig on the altar). This warrants a whole refutation of the dispensational view of Daniel 9, but for purposes of this discussion we simply need to ask, where in this Matthean passage is there anything even remotely like that stated? The simple fact is that it is not. A dispensationalist will though appeal to the fact that the reader is directed to go back to the book of Daniel for their referent, and I agree that the reference is to Daniel 9. But I submit to you that one is hard-pressed to find any reference to the antichrist in that passage either. In fact it is patently clear, as it is patently clear in this passage, that whatever is being referred to, it involves the city and the Temple that were rebuilt after Daniel's time, not a future rebuilt temple. The whole context of the Discourse was Jesus' pronouncement of doom upon the then-standing city and Temple, the disciples would have had no other thought of a different referent [Ge TGT 46]. Such a leap requires exegetical maneuvers worthy of having a dance named after them.

Now fortunately for us, the Spirit has not left us in the dark about what Jesus is speaking of. It is pretty commonly argued that while Matthew assumes the Jewish background of his readers, Luke very often explains the idioms to a more Gentile crowd. So what does Luke tell us about what Matthew was talking about?

Luke 21:20–21: But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. . . .

Interesting. Luke does several very helpful things. First he points out that it is Jerusalem that is to be desecrated not necessarily the Temple (though as a part of Jerusalem it would necessarily be included, but the converse is not true—it would be possible to destroy the Temple without destroying Jerusalem—dispensationalism misses the focus) and secondly Luke tells us what the "abomination" that will cause this desolation is. The Roman armies that will surround Jerusalem. The passage is now crystal clear.

We as "tolerant" moderns have no idea how much the Jews abhorred Rome's paganism. The religion and state were intrinsically mixed, thus the armies were not just a political threat, but a religious symbol as they served their various gods and deified Emperor. They carried with them idolatrous ensigns with which they claimed victory. The Roman armies with their idols and blasphemies would trod down the "holy place"—Jerusalem [Sch M24GT 29]. It is noted that this interpretation is not new but was held by various church fathers including Chrysostom, Clement, and St. Augustine [Bra M24F 50–51]. Tertullian noted: … "the entire religion of the Roman camp consisted in worshipping the ensigns, in swearing by the ensigns, and in preferring the ensigns before all the gods." (Tertullian Apologetic in Works of Tertullian translated by C. Dodgson—cited by [Cu Rap 165])

With this in mind there really is no need to provide extensive refutation of the dispensationalist alternative. Luke tells us what Matthew means. Of course Antiochus Epiphanes sacrificed a pig on the altar and this is referred to by Daniel as the "abomination of desolation"—a past event to the Discourse, but this does not make that phrase a technical term that has to mean an identical act. The phrase is much broad than that—meaning simply what it says. An abomination that causes desolation.

Now one may ask, how can one flee if a city is surrounded? That seems like a pretty inane command. Well, history gives a remarkable reason that shows Christ's foreknowledge of this event and why He why Christ gave this command. When the Roman armies led by Cestius Gallus first surrounded Jerusalem, they had to unexpectedly withdraw due to civil war and strife fomenting in Rome. At this point, the Christians (anachronistic as the great majority of them were Jews, following the Jewish Messiah, and thus the true Israel of God), remembering Christ's words, fled the city. History records not one Christian being lost in this siege. This is supported by Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. (There have been some who have doubted this account—for a good discussion see Julius Scott Jr.'s Did Jerusalem Christians Flee to Pella? http://www. wheaton.edu/DistanceLearning/Pella.htm) The apostate Jews of that time, more particularly the Zealots, mistakenly believed that God had miraculously delivered them and stirred up the city hardening it in its apostasy from Rome [Ge TGT 48–49] (apostasy does not only mean religious rebellion which they certainly did, but also political rebellion—this in fact is the apostasy mentioned by Paul in 2 Thess 2). This is quite remarkable and a goosebump-giving sign of Divine Providence. Also one must consider the timing of the beginning of the siege. . . . It was during the time when the Jewish people of that time flocked to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. It would have been highly counter-intuitive of the disciples to flee (a walled city offers much protection), but flee they did [Sch M24GT 28].

Eusebius tells us:

But before the war, the people of the Church of Jerusalem were bidden in an oracle given by revelation to men worthy of it to depart from the city and to dwell in a city of Perea called Pella. To it those who believed in Christ migrated from Jerusalem. Once the holy men had completely left the Jews and all Judea, the justice of God at last overtook them, since they had committed such transgressions against Christ and his apostles. Divine justice completely blotted out that impious generation from among men. (Ecclesiastical History III v3) cited in [Sch M24GT 28]

Reading that passage just now gave me an additional insight that now seems obvious (and going back through some books I have, I see they made this connection—I just never before "got" it—it was cool to come to this conclusion prior to going over that material). First in His oracle against Jerusalem he makes reference to Babylon, her ancient enemy and an ancient symbol of wickedness, a reference that His Jewish listeners could not miss. In so doing, the Jewish reader would remember that ancient Babylon was judged for, among other things, defiling the holy things of God's Temple when Belshazzar partied with the sacred vessels [Cu Rap 306]. This pattern continues in Revelation where Jerusalem is called "Mystery Babylon" and check this out:

Revelation 11:8: And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Where was Jesus crucified? In Jerusalem of course. Also take a look at:

Revelation 18:7: In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, "I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow."

Those are the words of "Mystery Babylon." Compare that statement with the words of Babylon in the time of Isaiah [Cu Rap 329–329]:

Isaiah 47:7–9: And you said, "I shall be a lady forever," so that you did not take these things to heart, nor remember the latter end of them. Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, who dwell securely, who say in your heart, "I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children."

There is a whole study that can be done (Richard Bauckman in God Crucified begins to explicate it, he only needs to embrace postmill Preterism to connect the dots)—on the typology of the Church in the NT as engaging in the New Exodus after the sacrifice of the Ultimate Passover. They wander for forty years until the apostates die, then come into the Kingdom awaiting perfection and consummation. The pieces all fit so beautifully. Currie made this point beautifully in commenting on Revelation 15:3–4:

The victors sing "the song of Moses" and "the song of the Lamb." The song of Moses was first sung by the Hebrews when God parted the Red Sea for them and destroyed their enemies in the flood of its returning waters. Its inclusion anticipates the exodus theme of the next vision: the church is the New Israel of God being freed from the tyranny of spiritual Egypt—physical Jerusalem. The song of the Lamb makes it clear that these are the citizens of the New Jerusalem: Christians on a spiritual exodus from the Old Covenant of Old Jerusalem. [Cu Rap 13]

Awesome! Also check out:

Jude 5: But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

However, where I was going as well is that this is also a very clever allusion to Lot and Sodom. God would not destroy the city until He had removed the righteous. Also, just as Jesus warned to flee Jerusalem, John also warned his readers:

Revelation 18:4: And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues."

Jesus warned them:

Luke 19:41–44: Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."

They would be destroyed for murdering and continuing to reject the Prince of Life (Acts 3:14–15).

An anticipated objection would be as follows, "How can you as a preterist say that Christ would still call Jerusalem holy?" That is a good question. However, Jerusalem was never holy because of its own merits or that of its people but was holy because God made it so. Even when she did not exist because she was destroyed for the abominations of the people, she was considered holy (because she typified the Bride, the New Jerusalem). This can be seen by Daniel 9:24 which while Jerusalem laid in ruins in punishment, Gabriel still calls it "your holy city." Even though Jesus lamented the hardness of the hearts of the people during his ministry and prophesied the destruction of the city, in the NT it is still called "the holy city" (Matthew 4:5; 27:53). In Revelation which speaks of the destruction of the city (and even futurists say that it is being destroyed by God because of the wicked and the defilement by the antichrist)—it is still called the "holy city" (Revelation 11:12) [Sch M24GT 29–30] [Ge TGT 46–47].

A more advanced form would note that it does not say "holy city" but "holy place" but a city is in fact a place, and a holy city is by definition a holy place. It is granted that this phrase in the OT refers to the Temple; however, the apocrypha does use this phrase to indicate the whole of the city [Bra M24F 54]:

II Maccabees 2: As he promised in the law, will shortly have mercy upon us, and gather us together out of every land under heaven into the holy place.

Now, this is not difficult to resolve, and we must submit to the inspired interpretation given by Luke. Matthew is speaking of a part of the whole event of which Luke gives the beginning, and gives the practical instructions that they would actually be able to flee the city once they "see it." This was a sign that everyone could see, not just those who were in the Temple. The desolation of the city did end with an actual desolation of the Temple as Josephus notes:

And now the Romans upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy. ("Jewish Wars" 6:6:1) cited in [Sch M24GT 30]

and

In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them. ("Jewish Antiquities" 10:11:7) cited in [Ge PT 59]

Remember Josephus was not a Christian nor did he have any disposition to record the fulfillment of Christian prophecy.

Matthew 24:16–20:. . . then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

Notice some very telling things here. . . .

First of all, what is the location? Judea. Not the whole world. If this was worldwide destruction, fleeing to the mountains would not do anyone any good. It is obviously a destruction limited to Judea from which the elect must flee. The parallel from Luke is instructive:

Luke 21:23: But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

This wrath is limited to the "land," an idiomatically Jewish way of saying "Israel" and "this people," i.e. the Jewish apostates. It is not a wrath upon the whole planet or upon all the unsaved peoples of the planet. The whole context leading up to the Discourse is the pronouncement of doom upon the Jewish apostates (see Matthew 23). There is nothing at all in the context speaking of the end of the whole world [De LDM 119–122].

This is further supported by the next verse in Luke

Luke 21:24: And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

The thoughts are parallel. . . 

There will be great distress in the land is equivalent to and Jerusalem shall be trodden down. Wrath upon this people is equivalent to they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive.

I have been told in a http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?p=1593005# post1593005 forum thread discussion (please see that thread for the participants that provided the below information) that there is an objection raised that this command would have been impossible as the "mountains" were in enemy hands so that one could not flee to them. This citation has been given as an example (this is the entirety of the information that I have as this was given second-hand and in this snippet it does not appear that the author is arguing against preterism per se but rather advocating some kind of errantist position):

It now becomes impossible to accept that this last phrase 'flee to the mountains' was written with reference to actual events , since the mountains of Judea were in fact already in enemy hands at the end of 67 AD. (cited to me as Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew—Gijs van den Brink)

The following snippet allegedly from Tommy Ice has also been proffered:

Moreover, as many commentators have observed, the biblical command to "flee to the mountains" (Matt. 24:16; Mk. 13:14; cf. Lk. 21:21) hardly agrees with the geographical setting of Pella in the low-lying foothills of the Transjordan valley on the other side of the River Jordan. Since Jerusalem is called "the Holy Mountain" (Psa. 48:1; cf. 87:1–2), "Mount Zion" (Psa. 74:2; 78:68–69), and is situated and surrounded by "mountains" (Psa. 125:1–2; cf. 48:2) "fleeing to the mountains" could not be interpreted as descending to a lower elevation and it is far more reasonable that "the mountains" of Jesus' reference would be those that immediately surrounded the city (i.e., the Judean hills, cf. Ezek. 7:15–16), since Jesus' command was not to flee from Judea but within it. (cited to me as Tommy Ice, unidentified work, I found what appears to be at least one source—http://web.archive. org/web/20070101003630/http://www.raptureready.com/featured/ AnInterpretationofMatthew24_25_14.html—and note that Ice attributes this quote to Randall Price, not to himself—see footnote three)

It was incredibly shallow of Tommy Ice to use said quote from Price without any critical qualification. Why? Because Tommy believes that Luke 21:21, mentioned in the above quote, WAS fulfilled in the first century!. Here are Ice's own words to that effect from a different article:

Preterists and Futurists, like myself, both agree that Luke 21:20–24 prophesied the a.d. 70 Roman destruction of Jerusalem. ( http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/biblical-prophecy/BP0700W5.htm, Preterism and Zechariah 12–14)

I will cite some of the responses given in the above-referenced TheologyWeb discussion (again the authors are cited but the works are not):

Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains—So the Christians did, and were preserved. It is remarkable that after the Romans under Cestus Gallus made their first advances toward Jerusalem, they suddenly withdrew again, in a most unexpected and indeed impolitic manner. This the Christians took as a signal to retire, which they did, some to Pella, and others to Mount Libanus. (cited to me as John Wesley, unidentified work, I found what appears to be at least one sourcehttp://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=40&c=24&com=wes —titled "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes)

and

. . . and it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus (a) takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden, without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made; and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over Jordan, as Eusebius says (b), to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city, but they had fled as they are here bidden to flee into the mountains; or any places of shelter and refuge: these are mentioned particularly, because they are usually such; and design either the mountains in Judea, or in the adjacent countries. The Syriac and Persic versions read in the singular number, "into the mountain"; and it is reported that many of them did fly, particularly to Mount Libanus (c). (cited to me as John Gill, unidentified work, I found what appears to be at least one source http://eword.gospelcom.net/comments/matthew/gill/matthew24.htm - identified as "John Gill's Exposition of the Bible")

Josephus was noted as stating (the researcher in the discussion thread referred to above he was drawing upon the IVP New Testament Commentaries):

So Cestius took part of his forces and marched hastily to Zebulun, a strong city of Galilee, which was called the City of Men, and divides the country of Ptolemais from our nation; (504) this he found deserted by its men, the multitude having fled to the mountains. ("Jewish Wars" 2.504, noted by "Joe the Burger" in the above-referenced discussion thread as referring to events happening in AD 66).

I have chosen only the quotes provided that deal with historical information and not just matter of interpretation, so, I think that anyone who would use this as an objection against preterism is just out of their tree.

Now lest I be accused of purposefully omitting "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled," I will comment. Now, futurists often point to this phrase "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" as proof that the Olivet Discourse was not fulfilled in the first century, but that is not necessarily so. If I were to say that next year you will married and live happily ever after, I am not suggesting that "ever after" is also contained within the period of the predicted year. What I am doing is speaking of the ongoing results of the time-delineated action. It is possible in a statement such as Christ's that the results will be within that time frame, but it is also just as likely not. It will take other Scriptures to help us decide, and a lot will hinge on one's view of earthly Jerusalem and ethnic Israel. As I believe the NT clearly teaches, the first century was a time of sweeping away of the earthly shadows and transformation into the heavenly realities, thus, after Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people dispersed, the finality of the Church as the "Israel of God" was fixed. Thus, in my view, Jerusalem ceased to be an issue after its destruction, and I limit the trodding to that time frame, for afterwards it is simply irrelevant. Do I have any other Scriptural warrant for placing the trodding in that period? Yes.

Revelation 11:1–2: Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months."

Second, notice the culturally determined time indicators. It was typical of life in the ANE to have roofs that were constructed as an additional living space. While this is practiced to some extent today, modernization has encroached. It was a fact of daily living of that time, incidentally, it explains this law

Deuteronomy 22:8: When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it.

Demar notes, quoting James Freeman, "Manners and Customs of the Bible," (Logos International 1972, page 375 [De LDM 111]:

In the Oriental houses there are stairs on the outside of the house landing in the court, from which one could escape into the street through the porch. Occasionally, though not often, we are told of stairs which come directly from the roof on the street side of the house into the street below.

Also note the difficulties of flight for those who are pregnant. While yes today pregnancy can be difficult, it is nothing compared to the ancient world. Flight for a pregnant women would be on donkey or on foot, truly a woe! Today it would be by jetliner or vehicle, nothing to warrant this special warning. But most tellingly, why the concern if the flight was on a Sabbath? This is a distinctly first century concern, the gates of the city were closed on the Sabbath (see Nehemiah 13:19–22), there were restrictions on the mileage that could be traveled, and violations of the Sabbath were punishable by death [Pa M24 96] . And in closing, note the concern about winter? Do you really think in today's world winter is really that big of an issue for flight? This is all clearly ancient, technologically primitive, concerns. Winters in ancient Judea made travel frightsome as they were wet and made primitive roads dangerous in combination with the shortened days [Pa M24 96].

Like most of Jesus' words in the Discourse, the command to flee from impending judgment and wrath is also a common Old Testament theme [Pa M24 94–97]. The almost archetypical example would be that Sodom was not destroyed until the righteous fled. This words of instruction to Lot bear striking parallels here [Bra M24F 61]:

Genesis 19:17: Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.

This brings into stark relief the comparisons in the Book of Revelation of apostate Jerusalem to the ancient embodiments of evil, Egypt, Babylon, and Sodom:

Revelation 11:8: And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

But even more to the point compare Jesus' word on the then-impending destruction of Jerusalem with a past destruction (that would surely be on the minds of Jewish disciples):

Ezekiel 7:15–16: The sword is outside, and the pestilence and famine within. Whoever is in the field will die by the sword; And whoever is in the city, famine and pestilence will devour him. Those who survive will escape and be on the mountains.

As noted in the Albert Barnes Commentary on Matthew 24:31 [Bra M24F 62]:

It is said there is reason to believe that not one Christian perished in the destruction of the city, God having in various ways secured their escape, so that they fled to Pella, where they dwelt until the city was destroyed.
Matthew 24:21: For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

The objection is often made that Jesus said that the tribulation of "those days" will be the worst in all of the past, the present, and the future. Notice, that this very statement makes it impossible to be an event that happens at the end of history (or even before a glorious Millennium of peace in which there are no tribulations—a time of unprecedented peace and rule) for there would have been no reason for Jesus to say "nor shall ever be." This is obviously an event in the stream of normal history [Pa M24 100] .

So what is in fact going on? Jesus was speaking in the prophetic "language" of the OT prophet. Hyperbole and proverbial dramatic emphasis were stock and trade of that "language." [Bra M24F 83–84] Jesus' language is nearly identical to Ezekiel 5:9:

Ezekiel 5:9: Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Indeed I, even I, am against you and will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again, because of all your abominations.

Ezekiel is warning about the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. [Ho CA]. The context of this passage is the Jews and Jerusalem. But even the futurists believe that the future Great Tribulation will be worse than that. So the "literalist" is in a pickle. Was God wrong in this passage or in Matthew 24:21? So how is this "apparent contradiction" reconciled?? (see also[Ho Hyp]) As Pastor Schwertly well said, "If futurist interpreters want to insist on taking Jesus' words literally (meaning that a future tribulation is coming that will be by far the worst thing to happen in human history) then they must argue that Ezekiel, Exodus, and Daniel were not meant to be taken literally while Jesus' words were. Such a view, however, is arbitrary and inconsistent" [Sch M24GT 31].

This same language is used again:

Exodus 11:6: Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again.

If this future Great Tribulation is as bad as futurism alleges, the cry in Egypt will be worse than back in the time of Moses, or at least for Egypt then, it will not be the greatest tribulation ever—will there not be just as great a cry through Egypt in this alleged worldwide judgment of God? Also, what about the Noah and the flood? The whole world was destroyed and all the animals, save eight men and two of each animal (and seven of each of the clean animals). No matter how bad the futurists paint the alleged future Great Tribulation, it is not as bad as that.

"Bernado," a fellow preterist friend ("Faramir" on TheologyWeb) actually "did the math" when a futurist argued that Jesus plainly said that the Tribulation would be the most horrific event in history:

Revelation 6:8 (All scripture ESV unless noted otherwise) "And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth."

And later 1/3 of the mankind:

Revelation 9:18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.

Now lets do the math.

If there are only 8 people left at the end of the tribulation with that number having been reduced by 1/3 previously that gives us 12 than number having been reduce [sic] by 1/3 gives us 16.

I have never heard it suggested that there are only 16 people "left behind" after the "rapture." It would make it impossible for there to be 144,000 witnesses, much less a 200,000,000 man Chinese army.

And even if you allow for death of people outside of the 1/4 and 1/3 it would take a horrific death toll to reduce that number to 8. A death toll far beyond anything described in Revelation. The only possible answer is that Revelation severely down plays [sic] how bad the tribulation actually is. Or the futurists are wrong [in their unqualified assertion that the Tribulation must be the most horrible event in history—editorial note by DDW] [Far post RR]

See also:

Joel 2:2: A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.

In this verse the specific enemy is not identified, but it is apparent that Joel is speaking to the people back then—the obvious choices either Assyria or Babylon [Ho CA]. Jesus' language is patently proverbial and hyperbolic, clearly alluding to the former passages.

See also:

Daniel 9:12: And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.

Is that disaster worse than the flood? The torching of Sodom?

Josephus also describes the loss of Jerusalem in AD70 in similar language to Jesus' pronouncement (proving it is common first century idiomatic hyperbole):

The war which the Jews made with the Romans hath been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those that ever were heard of.[Pa M24 101]

and

"the multitude of those that perished exceeded all of the destructions which either man or God ever bought upon the world. . .  No other city ever suffered such things, no other generation was ever more fruitful in wickedness. [Pa M24 101]

Eusebius described it thusly:

The calamities which at that time overwhelmed the whole nation in every part of the world; the process by which the inhabitants of Judea were driven to the limits of disaster; the thousands and thousands of men of every age who together with women and children perished by the sword by starvation, and by countless other forms of death; the number of Jewish cities besieged and the horrors they endured—especially the terrible and worse than terrible sights that met the eyes of those who sought refuge in Jerusalem itself as an impregnable fortress; the character of the war and the detailed events at all its stages; the last scene of all was when the Abomination of Desolation announced by the prophets was set up in the very Temple of God, once renowned, when it underwent utter destruction and final dissolution by fire—all this anyone who wishes can gather the precise details from Josephus' history.("Ecclesiastical History" 3.5) cited in [Gh PAR]

Even in our comparatively stale Western manners of speech, we do the same thing today. When a thing is particularly remarkable, it is very common to refer to it as "the greatest," "the highest," "the best," "the scariest," etc. [Sch M24GT 31]. There are other examples. Look at what is said of Hezekiah:

2 Kings 18:5: He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him.

Really?? He surpasses even Jesus? But funny, just a little while later in the same Book we read of Josiah—

2 Kings 23:25: Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.

Really? What about Jesus?? What about Hezekiah?? This again is classic OT hyperbole [Bra M24F 83–84] [Ho CA].

The Apocryphal work of 1 Maccabees follows suit [Pa M24 101] :

1 Maccabees 9:27: There was great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen amongst them.

But check this out [Low ESCH part 10]:

2 Chronicles 1:11–12: Then God said to Solomon: "Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king—wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like."

So Solomon's wisdom was to be unsurpassed in all history. Oh realy? What about Jesus?

Matthew 12:41–42: The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

Additionally, it is the reason and repercussions of this judgment that make it the greatest ever. "Greatest" is not measured solely in terms of lives lost, but in terms of eternal and covenantal significance. This was the greatest loss that could ever happen to the Jewish people. They recognized that the removal of the Temple was the ultimate sign of God's judgment and the worst possible calamity that could ever happen to them. This was the ultimate judgment upon ethnic Israel, it has never been worse, and it will not ever be worse. It was God's covenant lawsuit against them, the culmination of the curses of Deut. 28.

Jesus made this clear:

Matthew 21:33–41, 43–45: Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

"Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons. . .  "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

In analyzing also the scope of the "Great Tribulation" we absolutely cannot lose sight of the context that we have been speaking about. Who was condemned just prior to this pronouncement of Christ? The apostate Jews who lived back then that upon "this generation" may come all the bloodguilt of the ages (Matthew 23:36). What was pronounced desolate just prior to this Discourse? The Temple then standing (Matthew 23:38, 24:2). What is the context of the coming persecution that Jesus warned about? The disciples would be "flogged in the synagogues" (Mark 13:9, a Discourse parallel) [De LDM 120] . As I once said rather tongue in cheek in a debate with a particularly anachronistic opponent, "I am still waiting for the statistics of rampaging Jews trouncing Christians in synagogues and crucifying them. I live in a heavily Jewish demographic and need to know if I am in grave danger" [DDW BR].

We must also note that Luke is very often extraordinarily helpful for us in his parallel account of the Discourse, often "translating" Hebraic thoughts for his Gentile audience:

Luke 21:24: And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

Luke, first, shows that he did not anticipate a world-wide fulfillment here as in the whole planet but rather a Jerusalem-only context—that would be rather odd if this was a world-wide conflagration of the Great Tribulation as promulgated by modern evangelicalism. This verse falls in the exact spot in the discourse as Matthew's comment. The context does not allow for a world-wide conflagration, its context is limited to Judea, to such an extent that if one fled to the hills they could escape (Matthew 24:16). Fleeing to the hills does not help one from nuclear bombs and cobra helicopters and all the other fanciful interpolations of futurists into this passage [De LDM 119–122].

Also recall that the tactics were local and ancient as follows [Sch M24GT 32]:

Luke 19:41–44: Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."

There is no doubt this is the same event down to the very reference of not one stone being left upon another. However, again, what is the scope? Jerusalem, more specifically, everyone within the walls. What is the reason? They did not know the time of their visitation and rejected their Messiah. What is the method? Nuclear bombs? Lasers? Tanks? No. Siege mounds are built around the city, an ancient warfare tactic [Sch M24GT 32], the apostates would "fall by the edge of the sword."

Now correct me if I am wrong, but generally speaking, modern wars are not conducted with swords [Gh PAR 4] or siege mounds, or for that matter, on horseback. . . 

Revelation 9:16: Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million. . . 

Though I am sure not unheard of, I would also state that it is not a general practice of victors in modern battles to take the civilians captive among all nations. However, this was in fact what the Romans did to vanquished Jerusalem:

Of the youngsters he picked out the tallest and handsomest to be kept for the triumphal procession; of the rest, those over seventeen were put in irons and sent to hard labour in Egypt, while the great numbers were presented by Titus to the provinces to perish in the theatres by the sword or by wild beasts; those under seventeen were sold. ("Jewish Wars" 6.9.2) cited in [Gh PAR 4–5]
Luke 21:22: For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

There is a lot packed in that verse, and it puts paid to one dispensational wiggle out of the timing statements, that being the allegation that the Great Tribulation was delayed because the Jews rejected their Messiah, and thus would not get this "purifying fire" to give them their Kingdom. I was not planning on treating this with any depth as I usually only see it used by a very extreme form of dispensational doctrine until I recently read a variation of this theme in a book rightly rejecting heretical preterism edited by Keith A. Mathison ("When Shall These Things Be?") advocated by Richard L. Pratt in Chapter 3. It is just a patently bad way to deal with this particular passage, and here is why.

The proponent of the "delay theory" will often point out passages in the Bible where God turned away from previously stated courses of action, the classic example being the promised destruction of Nineveh. I, of course, believe in such conditional prophecy. But can that idea of conditionality be applied to the Jesus' prophecy of the Great Tribulation? Absolutely and unequivocally NO. This "escape clause" in prophecy has several underlying factors and presuppositions. Let's take a look at the passage that gives rise to this doctrine:

Jeremiah 18:7–11: The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, 'Thus says the LORD: "Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good."

There are a many interesting things here.

The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

The portion teaches that the threats to destroy and pull down and pluck up are God's response to the evil that a nation has done. If that nation then turns from its evil, God will not bring the disaster upon it.

And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

God here speaks conversely to the truth already taught. Just as he will prosper an "evil" nation that turns from its evil, he will destroy a "good" nation" that turns from its good. In other words in this passage God is not talking about blessing an evil nation: it is presumed that when the blessing is pronounced, the nation is good, but if it turns evil, then the blessing is withdrawn. Even if that obvious presumption is denied, it matters not. If we speculate that God is trying to entice an evil nation to turn with promises of good, IF they continue in evil, God will withdraw the promised blessing. Even if we want to speculate a "lukewarm" nation, the same applies, IF evil is done, the blessing is withdrawn.

All of this is very important in this conversation. At the time that Jesus spoke the Olivet Discourse, He was not speaking of a "good" nation (ethnic Israel) upon whom He was now going to pronounce some blessing (taking for sake of argument the IMHO twisted argument that the days of vengeance were God's blessing—more on that below). He was speaking of an evil nation that would soon demand that He be crucified rather than a bastardous murderer and cry out for His blood to be upon them and upon their children. They did not repent from those ways but continued in them; thus, even under the rubric of conditionalism there is no way out. The Great Tribulation was a first century event. That door is closed.

And continuing on the "escape" clause in prophecy, it is painfully apparent that this is ONLY valid when the reaction of the people prophesied about is not also the subject of the prophecy. For example, when God sent Moses to Pharaoh, not only did He tell Moses what to say, and what the consequences of Pharaoh's refusal would be, He also told Moses that Pharaoh would in fact refuse. That closes any escape hatch. God has spoken the whole thing. Likewise, the rejection of Christ by the Jews (except for a Remnant, which is all that ever really existed as the people of God to begin with) was also foretold. Their rejection was certain.

Matthew 23:31–36: Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

There is no way out of the context. The condemnation was placed upon the then living generation. The only way for it to be avoided (under any context) was for them to repent and not do those things: but they in fact did do them all. Their fate was sealed. All of those things did come upon that generation.

Remember what Luke told us Jesus said:

Luke 21:22, 24: For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. . .  For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

Vengeance and wrath. If we project this out into the future, we are unwittingly making either Jews of all times or some future generation of Jews guilty for the crime of a specific first century group. Paul wrote:

1 Thess 1:14–16: For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.

This is not Judeans of all times, nor some future group of Judeans. It is a very specific group of criminals and apostates—even in later Jewish writings, the wickedness and corruption of the pre-AD70 generation is noted, they recognize that God brought judgment upon their Temple for crimes and abominations, they just don't agree that it was the crime of rejecting the Messiah, but that particular crime did not happen in isolation, as Jesus called them a "wicked and perverse generation." (Matthew 16:4) I quote David Chilton:

Josephus bears eloquent testimony to this, writing repeatedly of God's wrath against the apostasy of the Jewish nation as the cause of their woes: 'These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of man, and laughed at the laws of God; and as for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers; yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning the rewards of virtue, and punishments of vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country.' 'Neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world. [Ch TGT 117]

But to gore another ox, we cannot forget the second part:

Luke 21:22: For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

Heretical preterists try to use that phrase to justify squeezing ALL of prophecy into that juice cup. In fact just before I was putting up this part of the commentary, a heretical preterist wrote me somewhat smugly that this verse was the deal-killer. Does it work? Ironically the heretical preterist has to lapse into a wooden hermeneutic, and fortunately the Bible saves us from this rank hyperliteralism [DDW DD]:

Ezekiel 12:23: The days are at hand, and the fulfillment of every vision.

Does anyone really believe that every vision that anyone had was fulfilled in the time of Ezekiel???? Really???? Even Numbers 24:17? I doubt it. Or how about all things written by the prophets about the Son of Man? Even the heretical preterists don't have a shoehorn that large. Thus, the argument falls flat.

Luke 18:31: Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished."

We must remember that in the past when God had destroyed the Temple or the nation, it was always a sign of God's infliction of tribulation upon the people for their covenant faithlessness. In stating that THIS is the "great tribulation" Jesus is expounding upon the fact that this time, the destruction is permanent. He clearly intends to connect this predicted judgment with judgments upon the city in the past and bring them to mind:

Luke 23:28–31: But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!' For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?"

. . .  which is a clear allusion to the historical judgement upon the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C.: [Fr JOT 71]

Hosea 10:8: Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars; They shall say to the mountains, "Cover us!" And to the hills, "Fall on us!"

This is repeated in Revelation:

Revelation 6:15–16: And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!"

Now to the second part of this section:

Matthew 24:22: And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

"Ahh haaa," says the futurist, "I have got you, you preterist knnniigit. Jesus said NO flesh would be saved. Only nuclear war or something could do that."

Okay, deep breath now. . . .with regards to the claim that Matthew says that no human (even no flesh!) would have survived. . . Isaiah declared in Isaiah 13:20 that Babylon would never be inhabited again. . . . yet there are people still there, and in fact, in futurist thought, Babylon will be revived and be a key player in end times events. See also:

Isaiah 66:15–16: . . . behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

Really? God judged by the sword "all flesh" back in Isaiah's day?? And yet the slain were only "many"?? Did He miss with some?? Were the Aztecs or Mayans judged then too? They were made of flesh then right? Further "all flesh" is used in Acts 2:16–17 to describe upon whom the Spirit was poured out on Pentecost. Did even the American Indians speak in tongues on that fateful day of Pentecost? Or what about the donkeys and horse? Are they not flesh?

In a related example of exaggeration:

1 Samuel 15:8: And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

. . . . Yet this same people that were utterly destroyed come back later to make trouble for Israel! The same sort of language can be found in extra-biblical writings of the time. [Ho Hyp]:

I slew the Denyon in their islands, while the Tjekker and Philistines were made ashes. The Sherden and the Washesh of the sea were made non-existent, captured all together and brought on captivity to Egypt like the sands of the shore.

Clearly when Ramses tells us his enemies were "made non-existent," he was not meaning this literally, since he goes on to indicate that they were captured.

Now that we know this is not necessarily worldwide in scope, it still is left for us determine what is in view. Is it speaking of God shortening the days so that all of Jerusalem was not destroyed? Or is He speaking of shortening the days so that the wars and bloodlust of the Romans did not spill into the whole countryside where the Christians had fled? Either explanation would work, though the latter is more likely considering the reference to sparing the "elect." The Jews in Jerusalem were not the elect, but the judged. However, it is possible that the reference could be to sparing them so that their descendants would be born, including some of the elect.

Matthew 24:23–26: Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. "Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it.

And I am going to add. . . 

Matthew 24:27–28: For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

. . . .mainly because futurists put this grouping together. Now though a short commentary. . . . we are heading into the group of passages that form the backbone of the reasons why people are futurists, generally speaking. If the Discourse only contained predictions/passages such as what we have already examined, I do not think that there would be too much issue with the point of view I have been presenting. People are not futurists because they are dumb or cannot read the Scriptures. I do think they are misreading the Scriptures, but being a former futurist, I understand why they believe as they do, and the upcoming grouping of passages is in fact why. However, I think I have already given strong evidence, in fact pretty irrefutable evidence, in very clear passages that we are speaking of a first century event, which will include (as we shall see) a very emphatic timing reference, so this must guide us through these shoals. While in my early journeys into preterist thought these passages were incredibly difficult, I now find them a bulwark of the position. DeMar, in several tape series, showed that what seemed at one time to be weaknesses, turned out to be strengths.

Continuing . . . .

Christ is once again warning about false christs and false prophets as previously discussed in Matthew 24:4–5. Christ makes it emphatic, do not be deceived, there will be false teaching and impostors in the midst of the "Great Tribulation." Now, Messianic expectations began even before Christ's birth and increased through his times. There are two main Scriptural reasons for this belief: Daniel 2 START HERE and Daniel 9. These are the only two Old Testament passages which definitively place the coming of the Messiah at not only a certain point in time, but also in relation to world empires. Daniel 2 broadly places the Kingdom of the Messiah as starting during the days of the Roman Empire while Daniel 9 narrows down the time period [Kl FoT]. These expectations became even stronger through the time of tribulation after Christ's death. That is one reason why the Jews fought on. When the Roman army suddenly withdrew, they thought that God had come to their rescue once again [Sch M24GT 32]. As the idea/hope that God would send a military/political figure that would rescue them from the Romans was already strongly present during Christ's earthly ministry, a time of relative peace, how much more during a time of great distress?

I once again quote Schwertly:

The importance and accuracy of Jesus' prophetic warning can be seen by observing Josephus' account of the fall of Jerusalem. He writes: 'A false prophet was the occasion of these people's destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now, there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose upon the people, who announced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God. . . ' Like the false prophets of old who gave the people a false sense of security during the Babylonian invasion (Jer. 5:2ff,; 6:14; 8:11; 29:9), the various false prophets of the great tribulation caused incredible misery.[Sch M24GT 33]

Now it is interesting to note in this verse that the NASB renders the Greek word for "desert" as "wilderness" for they are equivalent ideas. This is directly in line with research into prophetic movements of that time period:

The action prophets led movements of peasants in active anticipation of divine acts of deliverance. The hostile Josephus suggests that there may have been several such [peasant] movements around the mid-first century C.E. In his general comments we can discern some of the principal characteristics of these movements. . . . Impostors and demagogues, under the guise of divine inspiration, provoked revolutionary actions and impelled the masses to act like madmen. They led them out into the wilderness so that there God would show them signs of imminent liberation. (J.W. 2.259; see also the parallel in Ant. 20:168: For they said that they would display unmistakable signs and wonders done according to God's plan). . . . Large numbers of people, inspired and convinced of the imminence of God's action, abandoned their work, homes, and villages to follow their charismatic leaders out into the wilderness. They knew from the sacred traditions that it was in the wilderness that God has shown signs and wonders of redemption in earlier times, and that the wilderness was the place of purification, preparation, and renewal. [Hor BPM 161–162] (all emphasis mine)

Crossan deals with the issue of "millennial prophets" who very often couched their language and acts with the desert/deliverance theme, and with promises of sign or tokens to prove divine deliverance. Examples had been given earlier. See also [Cr THJ Chapter 8].

Let's look at some specific candidates, first up would be Simon Magus of Acts 8:9–24. I am indebted to a TheologyWeb poster by the name of Etcetera for these insights (this research is almost entirely his) [Etc FC]:

Acts 8:9–10: But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."

So this man had practiced wonders such that the power of God had been ascribed to him. Church tradition holds that his conversion in Acts was false, and that he went on to great apostasy and continued sorcery:

But faith in our savior and Lord Jesus Christ having now been diffused among all men, the enemy of the salvation of man contrived a plan for seizing the imperial city for himself. He conducted thither the abovementioned Simon, aided him in his deceitful arts, led many of the inhabitants of Rome astray, and thus brought them into his own power. . . .[Now citing Justin Martyr:] And after the ascension of the Lord into heaven the demons put forward certain men who said that they were gods, and who were not only allowed by you [Romans] to go unpersecuted, but were even deemed worthy of honors. One of them was Simon, a Samaritan of the village of Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar performed in your imperial city some mighty acts of magic by the art of demons operating in him, and was considered a god, and as a god was honored by you with a statue, which was erected in the river Tiber between the two bridges, and bore this inscription in the Latin tongue: Simoni deo sancto, that is: To Simon the holy god. (Eusebius, "History of the Church" 2.15.1, 3) (emphasis added)

The next candidate for the role of "false christ—miracle worker" would be the Roman Emperor Vespasian. While Vespasian may not have fancied this role for himself, there were certainly others who did believe that he was in fact an expected messiah:

But what lifted them up especially toward the war was an ambiguous oracle likewise found in their sacred writings, as at that time someone from their country should rule the inhabited earth. This they took as belonging to their own house, and many of the wise men were misled in their judgment. But this oracle pointed to the leadership of Vespasian, who was appointed autocrat in Judea. (Josephus, "Jewish Wars" 6.312–313)

There is only one book in the OT that places the time of coming of the One who would rule the inhabited earth, and that is Daniel, and in two places, Daniel 2 and Daniel 9, are highly charged Messianic passages.  The latter specifically refers to the "anointed one."

Tacitus recognized and affirmed this belief:

Which things a few drew upon with dread; in most there was a persuasion that there was contained in the ancient books of the priests that it would be at that very time that the Orient would grow strong and rulers of Judea would come into possession of the world. These ambiguous things had predicted Vespasian and Titus, but the common folk by their habit of human desire had interpreted such magnificence of fate of themselves, nor were converted to the truth even by disasters. ("Histories" 5.13.2)

There are also ancient records that Vespasian did in fact work wonders:

Vespasian, the new emperor, having been raised unexpectedly from a low estate, wanted something which might clothe him with divine majesty and authority. This, likewise, was now added. A poor man who was blind, and another who was lame, came both together before him, when he was seated on the tribunal, imploring him to heal them, and saying that they were admonished in a dream by the god Serapis to seek his aid, who assured them that he would restore sight to the one by anointing his eyes with his spittle, and give strength to the leg of the other, if he vouchsafed but to touch it with his heel. At first he could scarcely believe that the thing would anyhow succeed, and therefore hesitated to venture on making the experiment. At length, however, by the advice of his friends, he made the attempt publicly, in the presence of the assembled multitudes, and it was crowned with success in both cases. About the same time, at Tegea in Arcadia, by the direction of some soothsayers, several vessels of ancient workmanship were dug out of a consecrated place, on which there was an effigy resembling Vespasian. (Suetonius, "Life of Vespasian" 7.2–4)
In the months during which Vespasian was waiting at Alexandria for the periodical return of the summer gales and settled weather at sea, many wonders occurred which seemed to point him out as the object of the favour of heaven and of the partiality of the Gods. One of the common people of Alexandria, well known for his blindness, threw himself at the Emperor's knees, and implored him with groans to heal his infirmity. This he did by the advice of the God Serapis, whom this nation, devoted as it is to many superstitions, worships more than any other divinity. He begged Vespasian that he would deign to moisten his cheeks and eye-balls with his spittle. Another with a diseased hand, at the counsel of the same God, prayed that the limb might feet the print of a Caesar's foot. At first Vespasian ridiculed and repulsed them. They persisted; and he, though on the one hand he feared the scandal of a fruitless attempt, yet, on the other, was induced by the entreaties of the men and by the language of his flatterers to hope for success. At last he ordered that the opinion of physicians should be taken, as to whether such blindness and infirmity were within the reach of human skill. They discussed the matter from different points of view. "In the one case," they said, "the faculty of sight was not wholly destroyed, and might return, if the obstacles were removed; in the other case, the limb, which had fallen into a diseased condition, might be restored, if a healing influence were applied; such, perhaps, might be the pleasure of the Gods, and the Emperor might be chosen to be the minister of the divine will; at any rate, all the glory of a successful remedy would be Caesar's, while the ridicule of failure would fall on the sufferers." And so Vespasian, supposing that all things were possible to his good fortune, and that nothing was any longer past belief, with a joyful countenance, amid the intense expectation of the multitude of bystanders, accomplished what was required. The hand was instantly restored to its use, and the light of day again shone upon the blind. Persons actually present attest both facts, even now when nothing is to be gained by falsehood. (Tacitus "Histories" 4.81)

What is interesting in all of this is that Vespasian did not at the first believe these things of himself. He did not believe his "Messianic" role until being persuaded by Josephus who functioned as a "false prophet" of sorts in that he prophesied about Vespasian's future, and while those prophecies were correct in their outworking (i.e. Vespasian did become emperor), they were false in their spiritual claims, Vespasian was not the Messiah of Daniel.

There are objections to Vespasian fulfilling Christ's words in that Vespasian was very modest of his own claims. In response:

"Thus, Vespasian could be regarded in the East as a ruler who usurped Messianic expectations and legitimated himself through prophets and miracles. It made no difference that he himself was a modest man. As a usurper, he had to rely on loud and vigorous propaganda. The warning against pseudo-messiahs in Mk 13:21–22 could have been formulated against the background of such a "propaganda campaign" for the victorious new emperor, who created peace by subduing the Jews and whose legitimacy was supported by signs and wonders. . . .The future expectations expressed in Mk. 13.14ff. can thus be located with ease in the circumstances around 70 C.E." (Gerd Theissen, The Gospels in Context, pages 267–268, ENDNOTE ENTRY FORTHCOMING)

As Etcetera (the person to whom I owe this information) noted [Etc FC]:

"Theissen, a liberal scholar, is arguing (as quite a few other liberal scholars do) that Mark 13.22 is a vaticinium ex eventu, a prophecy made after the fact, and then placed fictitiously on the lips of Jesus some 40 years earlier. This is a clue that perhaps the author of your snippet (to which I cannot at present gain direct access, as I am not a member of that board) has missed something crucial in the argument. When secular scholars begin positing vaticinia ex eventu, it is because they have difficulty imagining such a thing being predicted years in advance; it is not that the match is not tight enough, but rather that it is suspiciously too tight (for those who do not believe in the possibility of predictive prophecy)."

On a related note, Revelation describes the False Prophet having the ability to call down fire from heaven and to cause the image of the Beast to speak by giving it breath (Revelation 13:13–15). This has been interpreted various ways. Chilton recognized that the trick of fire from heaven may have been an actual wonder but argues that giving utterance to the image of the Beast is to interpreted symbolically as mockery of the creation story (in which man was intended to be the image of God, was animated by the breath of God, and was to speak and exercise dominion) [Ch DOV 338–341]. However, it can be noted that these two specific activities, producing fire/lightning and causing statues to speak, were not uncommon feats in ancient Rome, though documented in many cases as being done through clever technological trickery.

Speaking Statues: In his work, Alexander the False Prophet,skeptic Lucian describes in great detail how Alexander of Abonuteichos used elaborate trickery involving horsehairs and a theatrical setting to make it appear as if a serpent idol was flicking out its tongue and moving its mouth. This idol also was able to "speak" through a trick of using the windpipe of a crane and having an accomplice speak through the device [Sche SW 601–602]. Hippolytus recorded similar feats by other convincing charlatans in Refutation of All Heresies [Sche SW 602]. Others, such as Seutonius and Athenagoras record talking statues without any mention of trickery, with the latter attributing such to demonic activity [Sche SW 602–603]. Interestingly for our prior mention of him, Simon Magus is credited as claiming that he had the power to animate statues in the context of attempting to entice Peter to worship him [Sche SW 604].

Smoke on the Water, Fire in the Sky: Pyrotechnic feats involving fire and the simulation of lightning are also recorded as part of pagan religious practices. Hippolytus recorded a magician creating a fiery demon that shot through the air and amazed the crowds. He also, along with Suetonius, recorded the imitation of thunder [Sche SW 604–605]. In the ancient world, thunder and lightning were powerfully associated with the gods (specifically Jupiter), and to appropriate that imagery was to appropriate divinity [Sche SW 605, 608]. Plutarch noted such imitation in art and in auditory effects. Julius Pollux actually reported a device to simulate lightning to be used in conjunction with the thunder effect. Heron of Alexander mentions a similar device used in theater and attributed to be used by Gaius Caesar [Sche SW 605–606]. Now for our subject, was it possible that Nero used such trickery and devices? Certainly. He was a vain and lavish man who indulged in extravagant displays. Seutonius recorded that Nero had a revolving room (or ceiling) to mimic the revolution of the heavens across the sky [Sche SW 609–610]. If such technological marvels were available, and knowing Nero's boldness in claiming divinity before his death, it would not at all be unusual to have such means used for his self-glorification.

I find it necessary to include the following verses in this section:

Matthew 24:27–28: For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

Futurists often use these verses to prove the "visibility" of the "coming" as if this somehow disproves preterism. They argue that little is more obviously visible than lightning bolts that cross the entire sky. However, in so doing, they smuggle in certain presuppositions. Their argument proceeds as follows: Christ's return would be visible to all. Yet Christ warned against "secret" or "hidden" false prophets that are in "desert" or "hidden rooms." That argument is wrong for the following reasons: (1) How can anyone be secret or furtive who performs signs and wonders that are supposed to wow crowds, including the elect, and who wants to lead them around? (2) Jesus may be only warning against seeking prophets in every nook and cranny using typical hyperbole for effect. (3) The "coming" in the verse may only mean "presence made or become visible" in the context. The Greek word translated "coming" in the verse (parousia, Strong's number 3952) is listed in a Strong's lexicon with "presence" as the first meaning. It is anachronistic to assume that if someone proposes that this verse is not speaking of the bodily return of Christ then it must refer to something hidden or secret as if the only realities that are significant are physical. Just as a family patriarch can "make his presence known" though his acts, not necessarily his bodily person, so Jesus can demonstrate His rule and presence through His acts of judgement. (4) The destruction of Jerusalem and the judgment upon the nation was horrifying visible and obvious, like the flash of lightning or the sight of a crowd of flying eagles above a corpse. It is right here that I very often run in a presuppositional wall in dialog with futurists—i.e. their presumption of the equivalency of "visible" and "obvious" with "bodily." My counter of "you don't think the destruction of Jerusalem was invisible do you?" is often met with stony incomprehension, obviously not due to intellectual deficiencies, but instead, deeply ingrained doctrinal biases.

By reviewing that extensive Horsley quote above, we can see that the "wilderness" was not meant to imply furtiveness but played into an archetypical redemptive portrait of an eschatological prophet. The disciples could easily fall prey to such schemes. Why? Because (at least in the opinion of some scholars) there is evidence at that early time of a belief in two separate Messiah figures, the Son of David and the Son of Joseph. Hence, with time running out, Jesus prepared His disciples against trickery in the future.

Ironically this argument can be made in an entirely different way, I could argue that by using physical examples of possible deceptive claims, Christ was warning them that this "coming" would not be physical such that He could be in an inner room or desert, but like the lightning it would be swift and destructive out of heaven [Sch M24GT 33].

But let's explore some more of the imagery here. . . 

Lightning

Why the reference to lightning? The Old Testament judgment imagery is once again instructive—and like clouds, lightning refers to. . .  you guessed it, wrath, judgment, and displays of God's power [De LDM 124] [Sch M24GT 33–34].

Deuteronomy 33:2: He said, "The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them [NASB].

In a verse we quoted before, when David is praising God for his deliverance from Saul, he says of this event:

2 Samuel 22:14–15: The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. He sent out arrows and scattered them; Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.

In judging ancient Assyria:

Isaiah 30:30: And Jehovah will cause his glorious voice to be heard, and will show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and the flame of a devouring fire, with a blast, and tempest, and hailstones [ASV].

In vanquishing the sons of ancient Greece:

Zechariah 9:14: Then the LORD will be seen over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning.

Lightning is shown throughout the Scripture to be a demonstration of God's power and presence (see Ex 19:16, 20:18; Rev 4:5, 11:19, 16:18) and, as a matter of fact, the judgment upon Jerusalem in the form of the advancing Roman armies did come from the east to the west [De LDM 124] [Sch M24GT 34].

The Gathering of the Eagles

This reference here to the corpse that attracts the birds should clue us in even further to the nature and referent of these statements, that they are not to prove the physicality of a "coming" but the wrathful and destructive nature of it. It is well noted that the translation as "eagle" is too specific and actually refers to any scavenger bird, most notably the vulture, a common sight in the aftermath of carnage [De LDM 126] [Sch M24GT 35]. Again the Old Testament enlightens the symbolism of the large bird bringing judgment and covenant curses [Bal Bab 37]:

Deut 28:49–57: The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you.

"They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you. You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.
Hosea 8:1: Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law.

. . . and it was accursed to have one's body be left exposed and be denied a proper burial so that the scavengers feasted:

Jeremiah 19:7–9: And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hands of those who seek their lives; their corpses I will give as meat for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. I will make this city desolate and a hissing; everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues. And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the desperation with which their enemies and those who seek their lives shall drive them to despair."

And note that Jesus' words sound back to this passage:

Jeremiah 7:33–34: The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away. 34 Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate.

This verse though is not referring only to the obvious carrion-eating that would take place upon the bodies of the slain, but to the reference to Rome itself as the bird of prey as the verses above also allude, and as God had called another foreign king that was His servant in His hand:

Isaiah 46:11: Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country.

An invading army, especially in ancient warfare, was very appropriately symbolized as a bird of prey as the conquerors despoiled the "carcass" of the vanquished cities. Gentry noted, "The soldiers gather as bickering eagles over a corpse, picking it apart and gorging on its valuables." [Ge PT 75] cited in [Gh Par 12]

And what was the symbol borne on many of the idolatrous ensigns carried by the Roman armies? An eagle. This proverb by Christ is rich with terrible meaning of the covenant curses of God.

Matthew 24:27: . . . . so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

As I did not delve deeply into the "coming" language earlier in first addressing this verse, this will be the place to do so. Many Christians, because of the very real promise of Christ's future bodily return, i.e. His Second Coming, pour that meaning into "coming" each time they see it in an eschatological context. But does it have to mean that? Well let's look at a ridiculous example in an eschatological book, Revelation.

Revelation 2:5: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent.

Wow! [sarcasm]Christ was threatening the Second Coming upon first century Ephesus if they did not repent? He would have torched the whole world because of the misdeeds of that one church?[/sarcasm] Obviously not. He was speaking of "coming" to that assembly in judgment.

The fact is that ALL Christians confess "comings" of Christ that have nothing to do with the Second Coming.

John 14:16–17: And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Christ is speaking of the indwelling of the Spirit. This is not the Second Coming.

John 14:18: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

He then equates this indwelling of the Spirit as Him "coming" to the disciples. He would not leave them orphans. He is not speaking of an event long after they are dead.

John 14:23: If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Again, this is not the Second Coming but the indwelling of God in the life of the believer. This all started off with the promise of the Spirit though whom God fills the life of the believer.

This is no different than. . . 

Revelation 3:20: If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Now that we have that common and non-controversial groundwork covered, what kind of "coming" is spoken of in the Discourse?

It is at this point necessary to bring in the next verse and tie a few concepts together.

Matthew 24:29: Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

At first blush, with our modern understanding, it appears as if Jesus is teaching that the universe itself is going to literally be shaken. Other NT eschatological passages could be brought in which sound like the very fabric of creation will be dissolved. I mean, as it is often said, if we can't take the Bible "literally," how else can it be taken? Well, let's take a look at this sacred cow of literalism. The futurist often prides himself on being "literal" as if that somehow were a badge of honour. Well, then give the woman at the well a prize who thought Jesus was speaking of literal water, or the Pharisees who thought that Jesus was going to raise up the literal Temple in three days, or the disenchanted wanna-be disciples who thought they had to eat Jesus' literal body and drink his literal blood, and don't forget Nicodemus who thought he supposed to literally crawl back into his mother's womb. So what's a person to do? First. . . 

DON'T PANIC [teeth] The Bible itself give rules for how to interpret it. For instance, here is an interesting passage that demonstrates my point. David is describing how God delivered him from Saul, and he says:

2 Samuel 22:8–13: Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seen upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him coals of fire were kindled.

This passage, and others like it, bear remarkable similarities to the Olivet Discourse. Now, no one believes that YHWH actually saddled up a cherub and rode on it to Dodge to rescue David. No one believes that the heavens bowed down and the whole wide world shook. No one. However, these very same futurists who recognize Hebrew idiom and hyperbole in the OT all of a sudden turn daffy when the exact same language is used by a Hebrew prophet in the NT!!! The argument often goes, "But the text says the stars will fall from the heavens. . . " etc. But that misses the point entirely. We can ALL read what the text says, what we need to determine is what it means by what it says, and we must allow the Bible to interpret the Bible wherever possible, and throughout the whole OT, "collapsing universe" language is used to describe God's temporal judgments [Ch PR 98–100; 133; 224] [De LDM 147–153][Sch M24GT 35–38].

Basic principles of interpreting the Bible presented in http://defendchrist.org /hermeneutics.html state that passages are not to be taken in a wooden literal way.  Rather, they are to be considered in context, not just the words surrounding the passages, but their cultural context as well.  We should try to read them the way the first-century Jew would.  One could state that we should read them not literally but Biblically.

So when we go back then to the "de-creation" imagery used in Jesus' descriptions, the disciples would immediately have recognized almost the exact same words used of past judgments in the OT. Thus if we allow the Bible to interpret the Bible, and apply the basic principles of hermeneutics, Jesus is clearly making an allusion to God's historical past judgments on nations described in the OT and telling His astonished disciples that that is exactly the fate of Jerusalem [Ch PR 98–100]. The language is identical to things happened to ancient Babylon, Egypt, and Edom:

Isaiah 13:9–10: Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.

The context makes it clear that this is a description of a past judgment on Babylon. The language is almost identical to Jesus' words in the Discourse, and the NAS even has Jesus' words indicated as being a direct quote from this passage. This is a major interpretive clue.

Also

Ezekiel 32:7–8: When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, and bring darkness upon your land,' says the Lord GOD.

Again, this is a past judgment on Egypt. Did all this LITERALLY happen back then?

Isaiah 34:3–5: Also their slain shall be thrown out; their stench shall rise from their corpses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree. "For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; Indeed it shall come down on Edom, and on the people of My curse, for judgment.

And this is a past judgment on Edom. Did the world not know that it and the universe suffered utter dissolution back then?? Have we found evidence of these melted mountains? [Blu M24] I have for my entire Christian life used The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version as my primary study Bible, and as you may note, nearly every Scriptural quote has been taken from that translation unless noted otherwise. It is no secret that the authors of the commentary notes have a premillennial futuristic bent. The Old Testament editor was Ronald B. Allen of Dallas Theological Seminary and glancing among the names of contributors one see Thomas Ice, Stanley D. Toussaint, and John F. Walvoord [NSB vi–vii]. So how does the commentary for the above passage explain the melting mountains? Well first, the passage is futurized without any apparent reference to its past fulfillment. Secondly, while the passage plainly says that the mountains will be melted with their blood, our distinguished (the entire list is truly impressive) commentators interpret that passages thusly: "The blood of the slain would be so great that it would create mud slides." [NSB 1163] Excuse me? So are we saying that great masses of people are all going to be at high altitudes of mountains, and there they are killed in numbers to such a degree that that their blood, flowing copiously, created mudslides? And exactly how is that a literal interpretation? If that is not possible literally, the student of Scripture should consider that the rest of hyperbolic imagery might not be either.

Jeremiah 4:23–26: [go back to verses 14 and 16 to see the context] I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; and the heavens, they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth. I beheld, and indeed there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were broken down at the presence of the LORD, by His fierce anger.

This is a historical judgment on Israel.

The Sybilline Oracles (post-AD70), written by Jews, depicted the fall of Jerusalem in the same language: "He seized the divinely built Temple... For on his appearance the whole creation was shaken and kings perished." (cited as 5:150–150 in [Cu Rap 177])

Thus. . .  Jesus' words are no different. He is describing a cataclysmic judgment to occur upon the nation of Israel. However, as a push-back, it is readily confessed that it is of course possible that those past judgments were hyperbolic prefigures of a future "literal" fulfillment, and that is in fact the position that many futurists take. The answer to that position is that although it is, in isolation, possible, it is arbitrarily speculative as this NT passage gives no indication that the usage is being radically altered and gives explicit indications to the contrary [Tr TLAC]. Thus the very high burden of proof is upon the futurist to make that case. The more reasonable position is that the passage was indeed fulfilled in the first century but will be an eschatological model for the consummation. I do not have a great issue, strictly speaking, with that approach as long as it is also confessed that typological models do not walk on all fours, and we are now enjoined to realize that it would teach only broad thematic outlines.

Once in a while a futurist may point to a parallel passage in Luke as follows:

Luke 21:25–26: "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

and state that this passage indicates that the earthly "political" signs (which were clearly mentioned in verses Luke 21:20–24) are seen as separate from the "stellar" signs. Further, the futurist objects that the "stellar" signs follow AFTER the political signs in the texts. and as such, they cannot be one and the same. I can approach this objection in multiple ways. First, this blithely ignores the biblical stellar symbolism for Israel as "the sun, moon, and stars" (examples below) which would then be distinct from "the nations"—thus there would be signs, turmoil, and distress in both Israel and the nations, which in fact was exactly the case.

Genesis 37:9–11: Then he [Joseph] dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

which appears again

Revelation 12:1–2: Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

Stellar imagery for nations and kingdoms persists to this day. The American flag, for example, has fifty stars representing each of the states which hail back to pre-Civil War America when the states were truly sovereigns unto themselves (the Civil War was about a whole lot more than the abhorrent racial enslavement of fellow human beings and in gaining freedom for men, some would say we lost a great deal of the governmental structure that the founders intended.) Japan's flag bears the rising sun and many other national flags retain this cosmic imagery [De LDM 143] [Blue M24]. . N.T. Wright explained this well, "God-given kings and rulers are to provide light to the world as the stars in the firmament were made, according to Genesis 1, to give light to the earth." [NTW Rez 112–113]

Second, there were indeed astronomical signs during that period of time, most notably an appearance of Halley's Comet. Demar notes:

Historians have linked the appearance of Halley's Comet not only with the death of Nero, but with the destruction of Jerusalem four years later. A seventeenth-century print graphically depicts the phenomenon as it passes over Jerusalem. The following caption accompanies the print: "Halley's Comet of AD 66 shown over Jerusalem. . . .. The Comet was regarded as an omen predicting the fall of the city to the Romans which occurred four years later." [De LDM 132–133]

However, there is a simpler way to address this objection. The phraseology need not indicate strict chronological progression but, in typical ANE fashion, may be equating the two ideas of cosmic and political disturbances to the largely non-Jewish audience. For a similar thought see [Gh Par 15]

Continuing. . . .

Matthew 24:30: Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Now I will deal with the "coming" language. We must keep in mind that the disciples were having a hard time even understanding that Jesus had to go, much less come back in the sense that futurism is requiring of this passage. In fact, in the week preceding the Discourse, they didn't even understand that He was to die: [Daw Mat]

Luke 18:31–34: Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again." But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.

Why did Jesus' pronouncement of judgment upon the Temple prompt the disciples to ask of His "coming"?? Because they understood such an event to be the definitive establishment of the Messianic Kingdom and Christ's acting as Messianic judge. Jesus words to them in response were a direct allusion to Daniel 7:13–14 which passage would have immediately come to a Jewish mind steeped in the OT [De LDM 159–165] :

Daniel 7:13–14: I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.

I cannot over-stress the importance of this association, it is THE key to removing the difficulty of this passage. Notice the direction of this "coming" is not down but UP!! This is not speaking of the Final Advent, but of Christ's coming up to the Father to receive His Kingdom and rule from heaven. This is a painfully obvious fact that many futurists miss.

This then makes perfect sense of Jesus' words to the then-living High Priest that he would from that point on see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven:

Matthew 26:64: Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."

Notice the "sitting" (in heaven) and the "coming" are intimately connected. This dovetails perfectly with the scenario above. The "coming" is a coming to the throne, to assume His kingdom and dominion, this definitively happened at the Resurrection/Ascension, and was vindicated and proven by the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem to those who murdered Him.

Again, remember that the disciples would have interpreted Jesus' words in light of their OT imagery and context. Jesus had just used typical cosmic imagery used to describe severe judgment, and then used coming language from a passage speaking of His receiving the Messianic Kingdom. The OT is replete with language of YHWH "coming" in judgment, and not once did it mean that He literally set foot on earth or arrived in any bodily form. For example:

Isaiah 19:1: The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.

If we were to interpret this passage the way that futurism handles the Discourse, we would be forced to believe that YHWH (or at least the Angel of YHWH) actually sat atop a cloud, rode on into Egypt, dismounted, and then started kicking over idols. Why don't the literalists do this? Why aren't they consistent?

For some other passages connecting clouds and judgment, see 2 Samuel 22:12; Jeremiah 4:13; Ezekiel 30:3; Nahum 1:3; Zephaniah 1:14–15.

This cosmic imagery is not limited only to ideas of judgment and cursing, the exact same imagery is used when a nation is blessed [De LDM 153–154] [Tr TLAC]:

Isaiah 60:19–20: The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.
Isaiah 30:26: Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound.

I don't think I need to stress that having the light of the sun increased sevenfold would not literally be a good thing. Can anyone say SPF ten million? This is using language that has even carried over to our day. When someone is at the end of their life they are in their "twilight years" - when a celebrity is involved in a scandal "their star has fallen," and when a new celebrity is in the making, he is "a rising star," and a boxing champion could say, "I am going to punch your lights out" without your lamps being in danger.

In dealing with these highly wrought apocalyptic passages, I often get accused of abandoning the "plain and normal reading," but I ask, plain and normal to whom? Us moderns? Or normal to the first century audience [Ch TGT 1]? This is not an issue between a "literal" and a "symbolic" reading of the text because no one interprets every text in either manner. The Bible is an inspired literary work and must be read as such using sound hermeneutical principles [Ch PR 15–16]. David Chilton (who unfortunately slipped into apostasy at the end of his life) gives this extreme example to prove a point:

"The Book of Revelation describes a woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, and laboring in childbirth while a dragon hovers nearby to devour her child. A radically speculative interpreter might turn first to news of the latest genetic experiments, to determine whether a woman's size and chemical composition might be altered sufficiently for her to be able to wear the sun, he might also check to see if the Loch Ness monster has resurfaced recently. A Biblical interpreter, on the other hand, would begin to ask questions: Where in the Bible does this imagery come from? Where does the Bible speak of a woman in labor, and what is its significance in those contexts? If we are going to understand the Bible, we must acquire the habit of asking questions like this." [Ch PR 17]."

So any comments about a "normal" reading are presupposing that normal=woodenly literal. If I say it is raining cats and dogs outside, I don't literally mean that cats and dogs are falling down on top of our heads, but I do literally mean that it is raining very, very hard out. How do we know that? It is a common idiom of our culture and background. We must delve into the common idioms and background of the first century audience if we are going to understand the NT.

Chilton again is edifying:

"In order to understand the meaning of Jesus' expressions in this passage [the Olivet Discourse], we need to understand the OT much more than most people do today. Jesus was speaking to an audience that was intimately familiar with the most obscure details of OT literature. They had heard the OT read and expounded countless times throughout their lives, and had memorized lengthy passages. Biblical imagery and forms of expression had formed their culture, environment, and vocabulary from earliest infancy, and this had been true for generations.
The fact is that when Jesus spoke to His disciples about the fall of Jerusalem, He used prophetic vocabulary. There was a "language" of prophecy, instantly recognizable to those familiar with the OT. As Jesus foretold the complete end of the OT system, which was in a sense, the end of a whole world—"He spoke of it as any of the prophets would have, in the stirring language of covenantal judgment." [Ch TGT 17–18]

We dealt with the clouds, the cosmic signs, and the coming, but next up I will deal with the "sign of the Son of Man," the explicit timing reference, and the "seeing" aspect of this verse.

Matthew 24:30: Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

First on the timing issue, there is a bit to talk about. Many futurists will concede that a great deal of what we have discussed did in fact refer to AD70 in its primary sense. However, they then state that the "coming" is disconnected from the rest of the passage and refers to the yet future Second Coming. This cannot be done. The passage says that "immediately after the tribulation of those days" this event would happen, and guess what? Immediately means immediately [Ch PR 97] . This should, though, to the careful reader raise the question of how the coming could be the destruction itself, and also then after the destruction.

This is not a simple question to answer in modern modes of thinking. First, ancients did not think in strict linear (or chronological) fashion the way that we tend to, but grouped matters conceptually and holistically. That does not give any credence to inserting multi-millennia gaps in the middle of defined blocks of time, but it does allow more fluidity then we would generally allow. Our minds immediately think: well was it before? was it during? or was it immediately after? The answer?? Yes. This was all of one event. Remember again Jesus' words to the then-living High Priest:

Matthew 26:64: Jesus says to him, "You said [it]; nevertheless, I say to you, from now on you will see 'the Son of Humanity sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven [or, the sky].'" [Psalm 110:1; Dan 7:13,14] ALT

I switched versions from NKJV to ALT to show what the verse literally says. . .  "from now on you will see." The coming started from that point on—it was a coming of judgment and vindication. I am thankful to John Reece for providing this quote:

"'Coming on the clouds of heaven' (together with the phrase 'the Son of man') is a clear allusion to Daniel 7:13, already similarly alluded to in 24:3. . . . . .  We have seen that its natural application in terms of its Old Testament source is the vindication and enthronement of the Son of Man in heaven, not to a descent to earth. It is therefore in this verse a parallel expression to 'seated at the right hand of Power'; the two phrases refer to the same exalted state, not to two successive situations or events. In this verse the appropriateness of this interpretation is underlined by the fact that this is to be true 'from now on' ('hereafter' is a quite misleading rendering of the more specific phrase 'ap' arti,' which, as in 23:39 and 26:29, denotes a new period beginning 'from now.' Indeed it is something which Jesus' inquisitors themselves 'will see' (an echo of Zc. 12:10, as in 24:30?), for it will quickly become apparent in the events of even the next few weeks (not to mention the subsequent growth of the church) that the 'blasphemer' they thought they had disposed of is in fact now in the position of supreme authority." [Fr M 381]

R.T. France is also instructive here:

[referring to Mark 14:62, a parallel verse]. . .  Again the allusion to Daniel 7:13 is not in question. What has been very much in debate in recent years is the sort of fulfillment for which Jesus looks. Until recently it was almost universally assumed that this was a prediction of the Parousia, but this interpretation is now frequently questioned. It is suggested instead that in Mark 14:62 Jesus is taking Daniel 7:13 in just the sense it was originally intended, that is, as describing his imminent vindication and exaltation to supreme authority. His judges may accuse and condemn him, but they will soon see that the one they condemn has become their lord and king. The sitting at God's right hand and the coming with clouds are not, then, two events separated by an indefinite period of time, but two figures for the single idea of the vindication and exaltation of the Son of man. His 'coming' is not a coming to earth, but, as in Daniel 7:13, a coming to God to receive power and glory, and is, of course, not to be interpreted literally: a literal 'sitting' and a literal 'coming' could hardly be envisaged together![Fr JOT 140–141]

Thus, thinking holistically, this coming was before, during, and after. In fact, and this is the subject of a new thesis of mine, it is true NOW. Christ's "sitting" and His "coming" are being outworked even now until all His enemies are made His footstool, at which time He will return to destroy the last enemy, death (1 Corinthians 15). This puts paid to in an even more extreme form the myopic and bankrupt heresy of the NeoHymenæan hyperpreterists who wish to squeeze the glory of redemption into an outdated jar with an expiration date of AD70 [barf] As an interesting sidenote, it can be observed that Revelation 1:7, "Behold, he cometh with clouds. . . " (KJV) is in the present tense. At the time of the writing, He was coming. His Messianic reign is in fact His coming. It had a beginning, it has a duration, and it will have an end.

This entire context explains precisely why His audience went so completely ballistic at His words:

Matthew 26:65–66: Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think? They answered and said, He is deserving of death.

They understood exactly what He was claiming. He was the coming ruler of all peoples prophesied in Daniel 7. How could He have been explicitly claiming something (i.e. his rulership over all people) that He never explicitly stated in so many words? The fact is, that within the rhetorical customs of that culture, He did. In the Scripture-seeped, oral community of Judaism, all one had to do was quote or allude to a portion of Scripture, particularly a highly-charged portion, to bring to bear the entire context of that Scripture. Atheists often miss this point when they point out Jesus' words of seeming defeat on the cross when He quoted the first line of Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me." (Matthew 27:46) However, Jesus was not simply referring to the despair of the Psalmist in the beginning, but the entire Psalm, which included triumphal vindication at its end, and a deep trust in the redemptive plan of God throughout. This is a typical New Testament use of Old Testament passages, for example:

When Matthew uses this prophecy of Isaiah [7:14] in Matthew 1:23, he points to more than just the virgin birth. He includes in his view the entire series of events surrounding Isaiah's time These events included the salvation of the believing remnant and the destruction of the unbelieving majority that occured much later than the actual birth of the child [in the initial fulfillment of this passage in Isaiah's time]. [Cu Rap 62]

Now this becomes even more clear when we look with even more care at the verses in question:

Matthew 24:30: . . . and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Now if we grant that this is not the bodily coming from the sky of the Second Coming, but rather the event that I have just painstakingly laid out, then it is not that His coming "happens" precisely at that moment, it is at that moment that "they will see." Does "seeing" require then a physical appearance of Christ? No. They will see His coming in the smoldering ruins of the apostate city in whom the blood of the prophets were shed.

Revelation 18:24: And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.

For those who would object that I am making a huge leap to identify Mystery Babylon with Apostate Jerusalem (in addition to all the allusions I have already mentioned):

Matthew 23:37: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her.

Furthermore, "seeing" does not have to mean simple physical sight [De LDM 168–169]. The answer to this is implicit in the answer to the "coming" issue for how could those ancient writers speaking of judgments of God describe something of which they were unaware or which was "secret," for they did not "see" it? They could not.

However. . . 

Rev 1:7: Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

This is often brought forth as irrefutable proof that this "coming" must be BODILY (which remember as I dealt with before, visible is illegitimately connected oftentimes in futurist thought with "bodily"). However, those that "pierced" Him are long dead and no longer on the earth, and thus no longer have "eyes"—those being long dead and rotted in the earth. Futurists simply paint themselves into a painful corner with such hyperliteralism. Now remember the verse I keep quoting about the then-living High Priest:

Matthew 26:64: Hereinafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the Right Hand of Power and coming on the clouds of Heaven.

Jesus told the then-living High Priest that from that moment onward He would "see" the Son of Man sitting on the Right Hand of Power AND coming. Hmmmmm, very interesting. How could Jesus "come" when He hadn't even left? How could a long-dead High Priest see the Second Coming from that point on? More importantly, how could anyone simultaneously see Jesus sitting in Heaven (that is where the right hand of power is as per Psalm 110) AND coming down to earth at the same time?? The answer is they can't!!! The answer is that the coming IS THE SAME AS the sitting at the Right Hand of Power, which makes then perfect sense out of Daniel 7 and Matthew 24 in which Jesus quotes Daniel 7. No gap or twisting of time statements into a nasty pretzel required.

So we have Jesus' proclamation that the "coming" is the "sitting" and it would be "seen" by the then living High Priest (and that generation). Now since the throne of heaven is not "seen" in the hyperliteral way that futurists suggests obviously something else is in view. And that something else is that "seeing" is equated hyperbolically with "understanding"—something we even do today. Here are some modern examples courtesy of http://www.dictionary.com:

To understand; comprehend: "I see your point."

To know through firsthand experience; undergo: "He saw some service on the king's side" (Tucker Brooke).

To take note of; recognize: "She sees only the good aspects of the organization."

Do you SEE what I MEAN?

Other Scriptures shed light on this as well.

John 6:40: And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Oh boy we are sure out of luck since we have never "seen" Jesus and thus by Hyperliteral Logictm we cannot be raised up at the last day.

And Paul tells us:

Ephesians 1:18: . . . the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling

Doesn't Paul know that "eyes" can only mean those orbs flanking our nose?

Okay dissecting some more:

The sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. . . .

On first blush this sure does sound like some physically visible sign will appear in the sky, though the passage is fantastically vague about exactly what is being spoken of. This is further complicated by the fact that there are several ways to correctly translate this verse, and the futuristic bias of the majority of Biblical translators have led them to translate that verse in that manner. So what would be my position? Well that would be that the location of "in heaven" (which is translated "in the sky" by many versions) is not to be applied to the location of the "sign" but rather to the location of the Son of Man. Further it is not the Son of Man that is "to appear" but the sign which is to appear (and not necessarily in the sky)[Gh Par 15]. Thus in my view, this verse is saying, "then shall appear the sign that the Son of Man [is] in heaven," meaning the utter destruction of the apostates and the survival of the Church is the sign that the Son of Man is indeed the Messianic figure in Daniel 7, and He is indeed enthroned at the right hand of the Father judging among creation (Psalm 110, Psalm 2). Notice how tightly this dovetails with everything taught so far. This is the vindication of Christ [Ch PR 100–101] [Ge PT 79–80][Sch M24GT 38–43]. The destruction IS the THE sign. [Gh Par 15]

Smoke as a sign occurred frequently in the Old Testament (Ex. 13:21; Judges 20:38; Isaiah 14:31). Other verses also mention the smoke rising from destroyed cities (Gen. 19:28; Josh. 8:20; Judges 20:40; Psa. 37:20; Isaiah 34:10; Revelation 14:11, 18:9) [Gh Par 16], especially Sodom, of which Jerusalem had become a type. The Sodom instance is specifically meaningful and useful to Jesus' first century audience.

Keep in mind that the "coming" language here is a direct quote from Daniel 7:13–14 in which Jesus claims that He would approach the Ancient of Days and receive His Kingdom. When that is kept in mind, the context of this statement is hair-raisingly clear. . .  the destruction of His enemies shows that He did receive that Kingdom and is exercising His authority, He is indeed enthroned in Heaven [Sch M24GT 40].

And also remember again the most-often quoted or alluded OT passage in the NT:

Psalm 110:1–2, 5–6: The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!. . .  The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries.

As Greg Strawbridge has noted:

The importance of the Dixit Dominus (Psa 110) and particularly the first two verses are paramount. . . . This title is the traditional title for Psalm 110 from the Latin Vulgate. Exegetical Summary: The Dixit Dominus is an announcement about a Ruler. The author (David) presents a picture of one greater than himself whom he addresses as his "Lord" (Psa 110:1). This Lord is called to sit enthroned beside the Covenant Lord (YHWH) while His enemies are being subdued (110:2). This enthroned ruler has dominion or "rule," but in the context of enemies (110:2). Still, His victory is assured because all His enemies shall be subdued (110:1).The later section of the Psalm teaches this "Lord" is more than a king; He is also a priest (110:4). He is a priest, not of Aaron, but eternally after the order of Melchezidek . . . The first verse of Psalm 110 is directly quoted or referred to at least 21 times in the New Testament—more than any other Hebrew Scripture verse. Including references to the later verses of the Psalm in Hebrews (Heb 5:6, 7:17, 7:21, 5:10, 6:20, 7:11, 7:15), the Psalm is referred to some 28 times in the New Testament. It is quite an understatement, then, to say that this passage is highly significant for a theology of Messiah and His Kingdom [Str Ex].

And as such, it is NOT an overstatement to say that the proper understanding of that Psalm is one of the keys to understanding NT eschatology (and usefully to show the vapidity of modern Hymenæan mythology).

Paul speaks of this heavenly enthronement:

Ephesians 1:20–21: . . . which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

The promise and claims of Christ that were rejected by the first century apostates:

Acts 2:30–33, 36: Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. . . . Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

It was declared to Israel that Jesus was both LORD and Christ, and it was proven to those who denied this in the utter destruction of their city and the removal of the Kingdom, just as Christ said that it would [De LDM 165].

Matthew 21:33–40; 43–44: Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers? . . .Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.

I have something else, though, to add to this whole mix which I do not recall any author that I have read commenting on in this context (someone please email if my recollection is faulty because I zealously try to endnote all of my sources) and that is Jesus, in His ministry DID promise Israel a sign, and I believe this is very, very important.

Matthew 12:38–41: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here."

First notice once again the equivalency of "this generation" with those who are rejecting Christ. After He denounces them, He declares that He will indeed give them a sign, and it is a sign of their condemnation—the sign of Jonah. Nearly all Christians recognizes the applicability of this to Christ's resurrection from the tomb but completely neglect the other meaning, that of a time of waiting in which a people may choose life or death.

Jonah 3:1–4: Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"

Now keeping all that in mind re-read the words of Christ. He would preach to them for three YEARS rather than just three DAYS. Ninevah, through the preaching of Jonah, was given forty DAYS to repent before destruction, Jerusalem was given forty YEARS and didn't repent. The Ninevites will quite justly rise up WITH "this generation" and condemn it. I emphasized "this" because whatever happened to long dead Ninevites will happen concurrently with THAT generation and the end result is condemnation, which requires either (1) that this is an event that will happen after all of "this generation" of vipers were dead or (2) any Jew who rejected Christ and survived the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 would have NO chance to repent for they were "resurrected" unbeknownst to them to damnation at that point though they may still live (and we know that many lived and fled to Massadah).

Thus, while we are considering the "sign" of His coming—remember what "sign" He promised, that of Jonah—that those who would not repent would be destroyed within a specified period of time. The utter desolation of Jerusalem was indeed that sign. This buttresses Holford's contention that "the destruction of Jerusalem is irrefutable proof of the divine origin of Christianity." [Hol DoJ]

Whose Army is it Anyway?

Matthew 22:2–7: The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding." ' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

In the parable above, spoken to the Pharisees who were already well aware that Christ's parables of doom were directed to them (Matt. 21:45), it is obvious that the King represents God the Father, and it is the King's (i.e. God's) army that is sent out to destroy their city. And lest it slip our attention, these two parables above are speaking of the same event—yet in one it is the actual vinedresser that "comes" to avenge, while in the other, the King sends out his armies. When an army comes, they are the agent of their commander, and are as if the commander came himself, in this case—God.

Can this understanding help us to interpret another much-abused passage?

Daniel 9:26: And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

There is no doubt that the Olivet Discourse is bound up with, at least in part, the book of Daniel as Jesus specifically refers to "the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet. . . " which was dealt with earlier in this commentary. The majority of the Church throughout history has held that Daniel 9 described first century events; thus, this is not a uniquely preterist view. In fact, the only current view for which this is an important eschatological passage (if we are specifically referring to "end of the world" issues—I hold that after the Fall, the entire Bible is eschatological) is dispensational futurism. In fact, some dispensational teachers such as John Walvoord designate Daniel 9 as the "key" to understanding prophecy. This is unfortunate as firstly, we have the fuller revelation of the New Testament which should be the grid through which we interpret the Old; and secondly, this passage has been considered exegetically difficult with multiple interpretations even within the premillennial camp [Ge HSHD 310].

In the dispensational understanding, the "prince who shall come" is none other than ole scratch himself, embodied in the form of the antichrist. To completely analyze the numerous errors with that idea (including assigning the work of Christ to the work of satan) would entail a commentary in and of itself (which I am seriously considering writing). However, we will analyze one error: dispensationalists allege that "the prince that shall come" must not be Christ since it is his (the prince that shall come) "people" that destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, and it certainly cannot be imagined that an army of Christ's people (i.e. Christians) would be doing such an act.

Okay—but as we have seen above, Jesus prophesied of the coming destruction parabolically, and the armies that would come would be the armies of God, which in this case were the Romans, who certainly were not a bunch of Church-going Christians. In fact, God has in the past used ungodly armies as His own instruments of wrath. For example, Assyria, an extremely ungodly nation, was described by God as "the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation"(Isaiah 10:5) who was sent to execute God's judgment upon "the people of His wrath," who were, at that time, Judah. Later in Isaiah, specifically the diatribe against idols and idolaters, God declares, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country." (Isaiah 46:10–11) Likewise Nebuchadnezzar is designed as "My Servant" by the Lord as he was used to destroy and lead Judah into captivity. (Jeremiah 25:9) Thus it is almost painfully clear that each time God judges Israel using an ungodly nation, He designates them as His agent for that specific purpose, even though He may later go on to judge them as was the case with Assyria. [Blu M24]

Another possible preterist understanding is that in which the "people of the Prince who is to come" is the Jewish people themselves, Christ's ethnic people. How is this possible? It is remarkable during the siege of Jerusalem that the Jews fomented their own destruction by dividing into murderous factions and slaughtering each other from within while the Romans compassed them from without. A Jewish tradition preserved by Josephus noted that the people had massive repositories of grains—enough for 21 years—but that in the internal strife, they burned the grain themselves, presumably to spite the other factions and keep them from getting the food. [Cu Rap 124 citing to Wars of the Jews V. 1:14, Whiston translation]. Consider the following commentary from Josephus:

[no other] age ever [did] breeed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was ... they overthrew the city themselves. [Cu Rap 124–125 citing to Wars of the Jews V. 10:1, Whiston translation>
The writings of the ancient prophets… foretold that this city should be taken when somebody shall begin the slaughter of his own countrymen …. It is God, therefore, it is God Himself who is bringing on this fire, to purge that city and Temple by means of the Romans. [Cu Rap 125 citing to Wars of the Jews VI. 2:1, Whiston translation]

And then all the tribes of the earth will mourn. . . 

This verse, like the parallel (I believe) in Revelation, is a direct allusion to Zechariah 12:10–11 which refers to Israel looking upon the Pierced One and mourning. This presents, though, an interesting situation for John has already told us that this verse was fulfilled, not at the "coming" event prophesied here, but at the Cross:

John 19:31–37: Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, "Not one of His bones shall be broken." And again another Scripture says, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced."

An objection might be had that John does not mention the mourning, but in Zechariah the two events cannot be separated. The "looking" leads to the mourning by those who looked and saw. Thus through the interpretive power of preterism, we now see, crystal-clear, the organic connection between the entirety of Jesus' earthly ministry and His judgment upon the apostates. They are two views of the same thing, or as non-preterist Richard Bauckman has noted, "Salvation and Judgment are two sides of the same coin." Israel was divided, the remnant of Israel was saved, the rest were lost. Matthew, as mentioned before, out of all the Gospels, has this theme of foreboding completely intertwined with the proclamation of salvation beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist, which Malachi prophesied even earlier:

Malachi 3:1–2: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap.

Notice the strong judgment theme in this "coming" of the Lord. . .  and notice the location of His coming. HIS temple. John the Baptist was well aware of this impending judgment:

Matthew 3:1–12: In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire : Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Notice the strong pairing in the last verse between salvation and judgment. John the Apostle evokes powerful imagery in the same vein by speaking of the wrath of the Lamb in Revelation. The lamb imagery speaks of salvation, yet this same salvation brings wrath upon those outside its protective circle. Even the great evangelistic verse of John 3:16 turns immediately to judgment in verses 18 and 19.

See also. . . 

Matthew 21:43–44: "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Christ is the same rock, but there are differing destinies to mankind. As Schwertly well stated, "The coming of the kingdom in power has two sides. The Holy Spirit is poured out by the enthroned Mediator to save and sanctify as well as to judge and destroy" [Sch M24GT 40].

Now to bring this full circle, Jesus in the Discourse, with calculation, conflates Daniel 7:13 (discussed earlier) and Zechariah 12:10 to serve a precise polemical purpose [Sch M24GT 41] which ties directly into His statement (which conflates Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1) to the High Priest so that he would see BOTH His coming and His sitting from that point on [Sch M24GT 39]. His reign will bring judgment and salvation, because His reign necessarily includes the subjugation of His enemies as promised by Psalm 110, Psalm 2, and finally in the consummation of 1 Corinthians 15:25:

1 Corinthians 15:25: For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.

Now this Zechariah passage is also the backdrop of Peter's Pentecost sermon in which he quotes the prophet Joel as speaking of the great outpouring of the Spirit that would happen as the herald of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Peter's listeners mourned in repentance, as they were cut to the heart (Acts 2:37), but note carefully, while the tongues were a sign of deliverance and grace to those who believed, Paul tells us that tongues were a sign to unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22) . A sign of what? Connect the dots between Paul, Peter, and the Old Testament where in Isaiah 28:11–12 (quoted by Paul), the sign of tongues was a sign of impending destruction to willful and disobedient Israel.

John 16:7–11: Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

So specifically with this portion of the Discourse alluding to Zechariah 12:12 we see then, in this dual reference pattern, that it refers to the mourning of repentance at Pentecost, and the mourning of judgment and destruction at desolation of Jerusalem [Sch M24GT 41]. Lest we doubt the impact of the mourning of judgment, it is notable that this destruction is remembered and mourned to this day by Jews on Tisha B'Av [Cu Rap 183].

Now, though, the futurist may object that this is all well and good, but Matthew records Jesus as saying that all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and that necessitates a much greater event than happened in the first century. Again, however, translator's choice and potential bias come into play. The Greek word translated "earth" here is "ge," and while it is often rendered as "earth" it can also be rendered as "land" which once again points this passages back to the tribes of Israel, the tribes of "the land." This same Greek word is used in the phrase, "the land [ge] of Israel" in Matthew 2:20–21 [De LDM 166] . This interpretation is strengthened exponentially by the fact it appears in an allusion to Zechariah 12:12 which is explicitly referring to the tribes of Israel [Sch M24GT 41] and the fact that the warning to flee was only out of "Judea" (Matthew 24:16). Notably those last chapters of Zechariah are full of Messianic prophecy which refer to first century events (ie the Triumphal Entry in Zech. 9:9, the thirty pieces of silver and the purchase of the potter's field in Zech. 11:13, and the striking of the Shepherd which will cause the sheep to scatter in Zech. 13:7). Notice that verse 12:10 would be smack dab in the center of all of that with an explicit first century fulfillment already proclaimed by John [De LDM 167] . With one exception, the Greek term translated "earth" is used elsewhere in the New Testament as referring to the land of Palestine, which also is observed repeatedly in the LXX [Fr JOT 237]. Also, as noted before, even if there were not great reason to limit this explicitly to the tribes of Israel, it just as easily could be ANE hyperbole as noted before where known local judgments were given universal, even cosmic, dimensions [Pa M24 141].

Matthew 24:31: And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

To start this analysis, take a look at how Young's Literal Translation renders the verse:

. . . and he shall send his messengers with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the heavens unto the ends thereof.

One problem with approaching this passage is that we automatically assume that the word translated as "angels" MUST mean heavenly beings—but like with the rest of our study, this is easily cured by recognizing the flexibility of the language, and the distinct OT allusions made by Jesus. The fact is that the Greek word "angelos" simply means messenger and is used throughout the NT to refer to mere men such as John the Baptist (Mark 1:2; Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:24–27) and others (Luke 9:52, James 2:25) [Sch M24GT 43]. Interestingly in Luke 9:52, these were human "angels" sent to prepare the way for the message of Christ. Furthermore, in Revelation, John sends Christ's words to the "angels" of each of the seven churches. What need would an angelic being have of these exhortations? Were these "angels" to come and tell the congregation? No, more likely these "angels" are the preachers/messengers of the Gospel to the flock, i.e., the pastors [Sch M24GT 43]. The LXX also shows this same usage, as messengers of God to His people [De LDM 175]:

2 Chron. 36:15–16: And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers (Greek: Angelos), rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers (Greek: Angelos) of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy.
Haggai 1:13: Then Haggai, the LORD's messenger (Gk. Angelos—LXX), spoke the LORD's message to the people. . . 
Malachi 2:7: For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger (Gk. Angelos—LXX) of the LORD of hosts.

Now it is possible that angelic beings are being referred to here, but I have another view. I believe that our focus needs to be on the idea of "gathering" and see how the Bible instructs us to view that concept. . . ..

Consider this passage:

John 11:49–52: And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

Both of these passages (John 11 and Matthew 24:31) are allusions to:

Deuteronomy 30:3–4: The LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.

and

Isaiah 11:11–12: It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

and

Isaiah 27:12–13: In that day the Lord will start his threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. And it will come about in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

and

Isaiah 60:3–4: The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. "Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side."

and

Zechariah 2:10–13: Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst," says the LORD. "Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!"

Notice something interesting.. this is a gathering, even in the OT, of all nations into "Jerusalem." What does the New Testament teach us about Jerusalem?

Hebrews 12:22–24: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

David Currie summarizes this well:

The "four winds of Heaven" is a common image in the Old Testament. When God providentially scattered a people, the Old Testament described it as being scattered to the "four winds" of Heaven. In other words, God was thorough. In Jeremiah, we read of God's scattering Elam to the four quarters of Heaven with the four winds: "There shall be no nation to which those driven out of Elam shall not come" (Jer. 49:36). This can happen even to political dynasties, as Daniel describes the split of the kingdom of Alexander the Great as being "divided toward the four winds of Heaven" (Dan. 11:4). Conversely, when God regathers His scattered people after tribulation, He is said to be gathering them from the four winds of Heaven. In Zechariah 2:6 and Isaiah 11:12, God regathers His chosen people after spreading them to the four winds (or "corners"). [Cu Rap 184]

These promises and the gathering cannot be understood without submitting to the Apostolic interpretation of "Jerusalem," "Israel," and "covenant blessings," which no longer revolve around a people and a land, but around a Person—Christ who is the True Zion, the true Temple, the True Israel and the embodiment of the entire OT. This verse sums it up:

Ephesians 1:7–10: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

and. . . 

Ephesians 2:11–13, 19–21: Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ . . .  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The Old Testament taught the very "New Testament" idea that ALL of the faithful (redeemed), whether in Israel or not, were "gathered" together in one body:

Psalm 107:2–3:Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

The "gathering" is a gathering into the community of faith of all true believers [Sch M24GT 44–46] Jews and Gentiles, just as anticipated by Isaiah. The word used in some of these passages are variants of "sunago" which is where we get the word "synagogue." You can see this idea in . . . .

Hebrews 10:25:. . .  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

The word here for "assembling" is the same word found in our passage under discussion. While Jerusalem was still intact, it was still the center of the Christian faith as the daughter was still tied to her mother—apostate Judaism. But when Jerusalem was destroyed the Christians were thoroughly scattered throughout the world and began the gathering of God's elect into His Kingdom. This continues the two-fold salvation/judgment theme we have been noting, that the destruction of Jerusalem is the flip-side of the growth of the Kingdom [Sch M24GT 43]. That process continues through our day. Here is an interesting reference from a popular-level television program on the Bible:

I don't think really you can talk about Christianity as a separate religion until after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. [sic]. Sometime after that, Christianity becomes a distinct and separate religion from Judaism. [Re SOB]

All of these are a reference to the gathering of the true Israel of God from all nations in fulfillment of the Great Commission. This is made especially clear in that the New Testament nowhere even hints at the restoration of a "fleshly" Jerusalem or earthly centralized place of worship to be restored, in fact, it teaches the opposite (John 4:21, Galatians 4:25, Revelation 3:12).

The mention of the great trumpet is simply the call of the gospel. It is an allusion to the Isaiah passage already mentioned above. R.T. France offers this insight:

Isaiah 27:12–13 predicts the end of a period of disaster and dispersion for Israel, when the true Israel will be weeded out within the ideal limits of the promised land (verse 12), and the great trumpet will summon those dispersed to Assyria and Egypt to return and worship Yahweh in Jerusalem. [Fr JOT 64]

. . .  thus, after the calamitous judgment on ethnic Israel, the true Israel will be gathered out of the lands of darkness into the true Jersualem—which is going on right now.

Note also Numbers 10:1–10 where trumpets are used to summon the people for worship and battle. Notice the symbolic use of trumpets in describing the call of God's messengers for repentance:

Isaiah 58:1: Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
Jeremiah 6:17: Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, 'We will not listen.'

These are not literal, and this type of symbolism is not unusual [De LDM 176]. Its importance goes even deeper when the Messianic Jubilee imagery is considered. It was the trumpet that called the people to Jubilee, and as per Daniel 9, it is the FIRST coming of the Messiah that ushers in the Ultimate Jubilee [Gh PAR 19]. Remember that Jesus, in His earthly ministry, read the following passage from Isaiah and declared it was fulfilled back then:

Isaiah 61:1–2The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

A periodic objection I get to this is trying to take the preterist scheme and subject it to rigid constraints as follows:

[quote=objector]Hey wait a minute, if you guys are so big on time references, then this whole gathering had to be completed before that generation passed away too.[/quote]

I submit that such references are not so rigid. All that is required to be fulfilled is the act of sending and the act of gathering—there is nothing that requires it to be completed at that time (and I submit in a later thesis to be developed by me that nothing requires that Christ's "coming" be completed at that time either—only that it had to happen). Also to address the futurist idea (and by strange implication the noxious NeoHymenæan heresy) that this "gathering" is the rapture/resurrection, and that is that Jesus was very clear and forthright on the issue of resurrection in earlier talks and never used this imagery to refer to the event we know as the physical resurrection. He does not speak here of the "last day" or any of the other issues surrounding the resurrection—in fact the idea of the resurrection is present here only by its absence, and the straightforward application of OT imagery here has nothing to do with resurrection. Furthermore the weight of the NT chronology shows that the rapture/resurrection was to happen at least an "age" away—for Christ must reign until ALL his enemies (not just apostate Israel) were put under his feet which Paul taught would not happen until the end of the "age to come" which of course is consistent with Revelation 20 which also teaches a great length of time "the thousand years" which were to pass before the Final Judgment and General Resurrection.

Matthew 24:32–33: Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!

This verse is the darling of some in the dispensational crowd. They claim that the fig tree always represents Israel and that this verse is giving a sign - when Israel once again starts blooming (variously interpreted as becoming a nation again, regaining Jerusalem), then that is the beginning of the countdown. It is THAT generation that will see Christ's return. This sort of thing was much more popular prior to 1988 when forty years had passed since the "rebirth" of Israel, and Christ had not yet returned. Some place the countdown at 1967 when Israel regained Jerusalem in the Six Day War, so they still got a few more years until they will have to give up that ghost.

Unfortunately for that certain dispie set, Jesus explained the fig tree parable in the Discourse, and it has nothing to do with the rebirth of Israel as a nation. To see this, we must look at the parallel verses in Mark and Luke.

Mark 13:28–29: Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!
Luke 21:29–31: Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.

Jesus is simply making an agricultural analogy through the use of parable. He never says that the fig tree is one of the signs because the fig tree is NOT one of the signs. He makes a comparison, that just like in seasons of nature when fig trees start to sprout leaves, in the very same way, when all these things that He has already described as the signs (the fig tree is NEVER presented as a sign) then they know that that "it" or "He" is near. It is a comparision through analogy; it is not a sign!! He does not say that when they see the fig tree budding that the fulfillment of His prophecy is near. He does not say that at all. He says that when fig trees bud, summer is near, and IN THE SAME WAY, when His words begin to take place the fulfillment of His Discourse is near. The fig tree is NOT a sign. [De LDM 178–179]

Luke makes that even more clear in not making a big deal out of the fig tree at all. . . . but pointing out that the disciples know about the seasons of nature by looking at the budding OF ALL THE TREES.

But as an interesting sidenote, if someone wants to insist that the fig tree here is Israel, it is interesting to see if they are consistent in this use of a fig tree by Jesus:

Matthew 21:18–19: Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away.

Ironically, I do think that this is in fact a reference to national Israel, and her being cast off of her special privileged place as an ethnocentric entity is repeated spoken of in Matthew. This would bear out in that in Scripture, each time the fig tree is used as a symbol of Israel, it is always in the context of judgment [Sch M24GT 50] such as Jer. 8:13; 24:1–10; 29:17; Joel 1:7; Hosea 9:10, 16.

Lastly, not that Jesus says that when the fig tree buds SUMMER is near, not WINTER. The destruction of Jerusalem will signal the time of growth and expansion for the Church—harvest time. [Mor Des]

Next up—are you excited? It is the verse that rumour has it is tattooed on my rump:

Matthew 24:34: Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

Okay this is going to be a big one and we are coming full circle in this argument to the second "bookend" of this passage, as it is commonly called, with the first bookend being:

Matthew 23:36: Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Most futurists have to make "this generation" in the first reference mean something entirely different than the second in Matthew 24:34. I daresay the everyday futurist has not given it much thought. I know I didn't when I was a futurist—nor did I give much though to what the "gap" theory of Daniel 9 did to the significance of The Cross and of Christ.

I have used four-prong argument in past debates as follows: So I am going to follow a format that I have used in past debates and that is to present a four-pronged approach to this verse using four "proofs." Here are the four prongs that we will be exploring.

PROOF NUMBER ONE: The phrase "this generation" everywhere else it is used in the NT refers to the generation then living, and the near demonstrative "this" makes it indisputable.

PROOF NUMBER TWO: The destruction the Temple then standing in AD70 limits the fulfillment of the rest of the passage to the same time frame.

PROOF NUMBER THREE: The other "near" temporal indicators in the Gospels support the first century referent for "this generation," specifically Matthew 16:27–28 and Matthew 10:23.

PROOF NUMBER FOUR: The context of the Olivet Discourse is a clear first century Judean context, NOT the "end of the world" it is made out to be in modern prophecy thought.

Okay before I get started note that Jesus introduces His timing statement with the very emphatic "I tell you." The literal rendering of His words from the Greek original to English is, "Truly I tell you that by no means passes away this generation until all these things have happened." The "by no means" is a very strong double negative (ou me) which in the Greek creates added emphasis. Jesus is staking His very reputation upon these words.

PROOF NUMBER ONE: The phrase "this generation" everywhere else it is used in the NT refers to the generation then living, and the near demonstrative "this" makes it indisputable.

Those who deny that "this generation" refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking in the Matthew 24 context must maintain that "this generation" there means something different from the way it is used in every other place in Matthew and the rest of the NT. Matthew 23:36 clearly refers to the Pharisees and their associates [Ge TGT 818–182]. Why should we interpret "this generation" in Matthew 24:34 in a way different from 23:36 since Jesus is answering His disciple's questions regarding His statement in Matthew 23:36 that their house—the temple—is being left to them desolate [Sch M24GT 56–57]? The usual rejoinder is "All of Matthew 24 could not have been fulfilled during the lifetime of the apostles. There must be a future fulfillment even though 'this generation' seems to refer to those who lived between AD30 and 70."

But this is not the way we should interpret Scripture. If Jesus had said that all the events prior to Matthew 24:34 would occur before the contemporary generation passed away, then we must take Him at His word—even if we still hold to a future "fulfillment"—the primary fulfillment must be within the scope given by the Prophet. Dispensationalists insist on literalism. Why not in this instance? If "this generation" is taken literally, all of the predictions were to take place within the lifespan of those living at that time. The integrity of the Bible is at stake in the discussion of the Biblical meaning of "this generation."

Secondly, the use of "this generation" throughout the Gospels makes it clear that it means the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. The following is a list of every occurrence of "this generation" in the New Testament [De ETF 68–69]:

Matthew 11:16: But to what shall I liken this generation?
Matthew 12:41–42: The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
Matthew 23:36: Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation
Matthew 24:34: Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
Mark 8:12: But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation"
Mark 13:30: Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
Luke 7:31: And the Lord said, "To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like?
Luke 11:29: And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, "This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Luke 11:30: For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation
Luke 11:31–32: The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
Luke 11:49–51: Therefore the wisdom of God also said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
Luke 17:25: But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Luke 21:32: Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.
Acts 2:40: And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."

Without exception these verses describe events within the lifetime of the then present generation. All the evidence points to the generation of Jews who heard Jesus' words and would suffer the same judgment as the scribes, Pharisees, and chief priests if they did not heed Jesus' warning.

I am focusing on the entire phrase "this generation" rather than just "generation" as the near qualifier does add an important emphasis. However, even if we were to take a NT survey of "generation" one would be hard pressed to find any example where it departs into meaning anything other than a specific group of people living at a specified time within a human lifetime [Sch M24GT 51-52]. There is only one possible exception, and that is Luke 16:8, and I would argue emphatically that it is not either. 1st Peter 2:9 is NOT an exception though it is often alleged ignorantly. The Greek word for "generation" in 1st Peter 2:9 is NOT "genea," the word at issue here. It is "genos" - meaning nation. If Matthew 24:34 had said "genos" instead of "genea," we may be looking at a whole different kettle of fish.

A survey of Bible commentators will show for centuries prior to the advent of dispensational premillenialism, "this generation" was interpreted as the generation of Jesus' day and not a distant generation. In addition, these same commentators understood that all the events prior to Matthew 24:34 referred to events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Here are some examples (there are many more):

John Lightfoot: "Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment, but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples, particularly John, who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matthew 16:28 compare John 21:22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things that lived until the city was destroyed." "A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica" cited in [Sch M24GT 54–55]
Thomas Newton: "It is to me a wonder how any man can refer part of the foregoing discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem, and part to the end of the world, or any other distant event, when it is said so positively here in the conclusion, all these things shall be fulfilled in this generation." cited in [Bra M24F 198–199]
Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene A. Nida: "The obvious meaning of the words "this generation" is the people contemporary with Jesus. Nothing can be gained by trying to take the word in any other sense other than its normal one. In Mark, the word always has this meaning." (I have lost my citation of this work from my notes)
John Gill: "This is a full and clear proof, that not any thing that is said before verse 34, relates to the Second Coming of Christ, the day of judgment, and the end of the world, but that all belongs to the coming of the son of man in the destruction of Jerusalem, and to the end of the Jewish state." ("An Exposition of the New Testament") cited in [Sch M24GT 53]
D.A. Carson: "This generation can only with the greatest difficulty be made to mean anything other than the generation living when Jesus spoke." ("Matthew") in the Bible Expositor's Commentary, cited in [De ETF 69]
William Lane: "The significance of the temporal reference has been debated but in Mark "this generation" clearly designates the contemporaries of Jesus and there is no consideration from the context which lends any support to any other proposal. Jesus solemnly affirms that the generation contemporary with His disciples will witness the fulfillment of His prophetic word, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the temple."("The Gospel of Mark") cited in [Sch M24GT 56]
Adam Clarke: "This chapter contains a prediction of the utter destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and the subversion of the whole political constitution of the Jews; and is one of the most valuable portions of the new covenant Scriptures with respect to the evidence which it furnishes of the truth of Christianity. Every thing which our Lord foretold should come on the temple, city, and people of the Jews, has been fulfilled in the most correct and astonishing manner. . . " ("Clarke's Commentary," 3 vols) cited in [De LDM 183]

This is not some new, Johnny-come-lately concept—all of which should be taken with a large grain of salt—it is a historic interpretation of the Church.

But let's build upon this puzzle. If it is possible that Matthew 24:34 can mean something else, and even though the context is clearly first century, what other texts illuminate this? The clincher for me is when we compare . . . .

Matthew 24:33–34: So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

with

Luke 21:31–32: So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.

And then add in

Matthew 16:27–28:For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

This combination of verses tells us exactly what time frame Matthew 24:34 is referring to. Let me explain. Matthew 24:33 mentions that when all these things happen "it" is near. What is "it"? Luke equates "it" with the "Kingdom of God." The Kingdom of God would be near, AT THE DOORS. Matthew 16:28 tells us that there were some standing there that would not taste death until they saw the Son of man coming in His kingdom. The parallels are seemingly inescapable. Thus—Matthew 16:28 gives us then the definition of "this generation not passing away," it means "some of those standing there will not taste death until…."

This CANNOT mean the Transfiguration as some try to do to avoid the obvious implications here. Why? Two reasons at a minimum. Verse 28 does not stand alone. It is intimately connected with verse 27 which CANNOT be said to refer to the Transfiguration. Second, the Transfiguration happened only 6 days later. Can you imagine that Jesus would say something so inane as "some of you standing here will still be alive in six days"? I bet ALL of them were still alive. Jesus introduced this prophesy with a solemn preface; … "Most assuredly I say …" That ALWAYS introduces very heavy and profound stuff, not inane prophecies that even Jean Dixon would have a shot at getting right. He must have been speaking about an event that was far enough in the future that many of his listeners would be dead, but not so far away that all of His listeners would be dead.

DeMar notes a somewhat novel explanation by Tommy Ice who claims that since Jesus spoke these words to "His disciples" (see Matthew 16:24) declaring that "some" of these same disciples would not taste death before the described event. Since only John survived until the destruction of Jerusalem, only one disciple survived, not "some" of them, did not survive, and thus this saying must mean something else, namely the Transfiguration, which suffers from all the flaws noted above [De ICET]. Additionally it can be noted that Jesus did not say they would get a preview or foretaste of this "coming" but that said coming would in fact happen with rewards. DeMar also rightly notes that Ice is incorrect in absolutely declaring that "His disciples" must of necessity be only referring to the twelve as there are other instances in which that word is used of those who were following His teaching (see Matthew 5:1 with Matthew 7:28, Matthew 8:21)[De ICET].

On another point—remember that what is being spoken of is the "Kingdom of God." Is this some earthly, geo-political rule from Jerusalem? at which time the ethnic Jews will once again be elevated as God's chosen people above all others?

Apparently not [Gh PER 7–10]:

Luke 17:20–21: Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

Jesus affirms the present reality of the Kingdom of God in His presence—it is an internal spiritual reality, not an external one.

John 18:34–37: Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Notice, Jesus' Kingdom is not of the sort that His disciples would achieve by force, nor is it of an earthly character comparable to Rome with a ruler and earthly territory— which is exactly what pre-millennial futurism requires.

Now we know what the Kingdom isn't—what is it?

Mark 10:23–26: Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"

Interesting, I never noticed this until my friend Hitch pointed it out, but the disciples equates the Kingdom with salvation, and Jesus did not correct them

Mark 1:14–15: Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

I can't say it any better than Hitch who commented, "The theme is repentance, not real estate."

Romans 14:17: The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

You mean it isn't a literal reign from a literal earthly throne in earthly Jerusalem? [Doh!]

Further, ethnicity assures nothing:

Matthew 8:10–12:, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The "sons of the Kingdom" are those born into Israel, and at this time Jesus is pronouncing doom upon them and granting Kingdom privileges to far reaches of Gentiledom[Gh PER 8–9]

Matthew 3:7–10: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

Pedigree is worthless without repentance and fruits.

But what about the idea that Paul was preaching a different message to the Gentiles as the "millennium" is primarily a fulfillment of promises to ethnic Israel? First, I already dealt with ethnicity, but is the other part correct? No.

Acts 28:17–20: And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."

What Paul was preaching, and that for which he was persecuted, was the hope of Israel, not simply Gentiles or those converted in the "Church age" which has nothing to do with (allegedly) with ethnic Israel. There is not one Gospel passage where Christ offers a literal earthly Kingdom to the Jews nor does He ever offer to sit on a literal earthly throne. The one passage (not in the Gospels) that is often brought up is:

Acts 2:30–32: Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit upon his throne. . . 

Which seems all well and good taken alone, but really take a close look at the following text . . . .

..seeing this beforehand, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor would His flesh see corruption, God raised up this Jesus, of which we all are witnesses.

Peter is making the point that the resurrection of Christ fulfills this prophecy!! Notice the tight connection between the phrases "raise up" in the one verse. This is not speaking of some future throne but to the state of Christ at the time that Peter spoke those words.

Peter continues. . . ..

Acts 2:33: Therefore being exalted to the right of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which you now see and hear.

The position of being at the right hand of God indicates PRESENT rulership and authority. While earthly kings were only figuratively at God's right hand, the ultimate King did away with the shadows and types and is literally at God's right hand, exercising ultimate cosmic rule.

Acts 2:34–35: For David has not ascended into the heavens, but he says himself, "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand until I place Your enemies as a footstool to Your feet."

Peter goes on to explain that David NEVER achieved the heights of rulership prophesied about, but that his seed would, and would sit and rule in the heavens.

Acts 2:36: Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

This is the concluding statement of the whole sermon. Ponder the reason why Peter said Jesus was made BOTH Lord and Christ. The title "Lord" is the title of His current Messianic reign. Christ is not just the Savior, He is the King.

Another interesting passage is in Acts 15:16:

After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David which has fallen down; and I will build again its ruins, and I will set it up.

Peter once again states that the rebuilding of David's house and tabernacle is fulfilled then!! It was not an earthly tabernacle, just as it is not an earthly throne.

PROOF NUMBER TWO: The destruction the Temple then standing in AD70 limits the fulfillment of the rest of the passage to the same time frame.

Okay this is the Big One in the words of Fred Sanford. It is this one that I think demolishes futurism singlehandedly. I am going to be using the opening round in a long-ago debate I did on the Great Trib for the bulk of this post.

When I make the statement that the Great Tribulation spoken of in Matthew 24 is over, futurists are inevitably drawn like a magnet to Daniel 9. Now this is understandable since Jesus mentions the phrase "the abomination of desolation" which finds its place in either Daniel 9:27 or Daniel 12:11 or both. However, the futurist then inserts a handy-dandy gap in between the 69th and the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy (which is illegitimate and has blasphemous implications for other reasons) and through somewhat circular reasoning uses this to "prove" that the Great Tribulation is future.

This makes absolutely no sense and does great violence to the text. When Daniel receives this prophecy, Jerusalem and the Temple are in ruins. He is told that the city will be rebuilt (and by implication the Temple will be rebuilt also). Within the same prophecy he is told that Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed. Gabriel also exhorts Daniel in verse 25 to know and understand this vision. Is there any chance in a billion years that Daniel knew and understood that it was not the city and Temple that he was just told would be rebuilt that are also spoken about as being destroyed?? Would he have any idea without any textual clue whatsoever that the destruction of THAT city and Temple would be skipped over and omitted. . .  the city and Temple would be rebuilt again (without any mention of this event in the text), and it is THAT future city and Temple that are referenced as being destroyed?? This is simply unbelievable. Only one city and Temple are in view in this prophecy.

However, further to the demise of futurism, Jesus makes it clear what Temple and city are in view beyond any shadow of a doubt in the Olivet Discourse, which futurists believe is speaking of the 70th week of Daniel (preterists don't believe that it has anything to do with the 70th week of Daniel, but does have to do with events spoken of in Daniel 9, such as the abomination of desolation, which happen "outside" of the 70 weeks). In the Olivet Discourse the disciples ask Jesus certain questions, and these were not asked in a vacuum. They weren't just standing around and decided to barrage Jesus with questions. The questions were prompted as follows (my commentary is in black —God's Word is in red):

First using Mark as a source: Then as He went out of the temple (the Temple that existed back then), one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" (they are asking about the Temple that existed back then) And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (referring to the Temple that existed back then!)

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, (that existed back then) Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, "Tell us, when will these things be?. . . ." (it does not matter that they asked Him more questions, obviously one of the things that they wanted to know was when the Temple that existed back then would be destroyed)

Next using Luke as a source: Then, as some spoke of the temple, (the Temple that existed back then) how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, "These things which you see—(the Temple that was before their very eyes right then) the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down." So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? (again, part of "these things" MUST include the destruction that He just prophesied that prompted their questions to begin with)

Lastly using Matthew as a source: Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. (the Temple that existed back then) And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? (the Temple that existed back then) Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here (notice the word "here" it is referring to those actual stones, the ones that existed then) upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

All these of the Synoptics of the Olivet Discourse contain the very solemn declaration by Jesus, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." (Matthew 24:34, Luke 21:32, Mark 13:31)

Now we know when the city and Temple were destroyed. It was in AD70. If that is "one" of "all these things," then ALL of the rest of that passage, at least up to Matthew 24:33, Luke 21:31, and Mark 13:31 happened in the first century as well. It is inescapable. The destruction the then existing Temple is a completely unique, datable, and nonrepeatable event. If the prophecy was not primarily fulfilled in the first century, it can never be. This also ties in with the "abomination of desolation" and Daniel 9. Jesus in identifying what Temple He was referring to totally destroys any notion that the Temple being referred to in Daniel 9 is any other Temple than the one that existed when Christ gave His Discourse. There is NO way around this. It is an intractable problem for futurism.

Now a recent attempt at futurist explaining away Proofs One and Two has been the "well all the other uses may mean those then living but this is a prophetic use and thus a horse of a different colour." Tommy Ice is the most well known guy that uses this and other usages I have seen are merely parroting Tommy:

It's true that every other use of the phrase "this generation" in the New Testament, does refer to Jesus' contemporaries because the context supports that. But, those are historical uses and Matthew 24 is a prophetic use. Therefore, if Matthew 24 is talking about a future time, then the timing of the phrase "this generation" is related to whatever time frame Christ is speaking of, right? [Ic DVP 393]

[Sigh] First it is nice to see Tommy conceding that every other use does mean Jesus' contemporaries - and that would include Matthew 23:36 which is part of the kick-off setting to this whole Discourse as already demonstrated at length earlier in this commentary.

However, as seen in the preceding Proof, even if we were to grant that "this generation" refers to the generation that "sees the signs" etc—the one unrepeatable event occurred in the first century thus the whole enchilada up to that point is thrust into the first century. This alone defeats this whole nonsense. But I have a devilish streak that just loves to see arguments implode so let's take another shot at it shall we?

Tommy claims that yes, all the other usages mean contemporaries, but since they are historical and not prophetic usages then there is a distinction. Really?

Matthew 23:31–36: Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Well were all those things happening right then? Noooo. . . . . .  was Jesus then telling them about something that was going to happen at some point in the future to them? Yes. . . . well guess what that means? It means that Matthew 23:36 is ALSO a prophetic use, and it is part of this same background that bookends the whole narrative, and means, by Tommy's own admission, the dudes then living. So much for this "prophetic use" exception.

PROOF NUMBER THREE:The other "near" temporal indicators in the Gospels support the first century referent for "this generation," specifically Matthew 16:27–28 and Matthew 10:23

I dealt with Matthew 16:27–28 above, so now we can take a quick look at Matthew 10:23:

Matthew 10:23: When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

The issue with this verse is obvious. Jesus, speaking to His disciples, tells them that they will not finish their assigned task (even if it was yet to be assigned in Acts 1:8) until He "comes." Now there are several ways to explain this passage as well that deny a preteristic understanding, and I will reiterate, almost every futuristic explanation makes sense or is possible in isolation. However, preterism is a holistic and cumulative case and not just based on verses in isolation.

But one cannot just look at this verse; it is necessary to back up a few verses.

Matthew 10:17–23: But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.

This is strikingly reminiscent of Jesus' words that introduce the Olivet Discourse:

Matthew 23:34: . . . some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city. . . 
Mark 13:10–13: But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

This primary first-century referent seems certain. So what is Jesus telling them? Time is short for geographical and ethnic Israel. Hurry. You will be persecuted, but keep going and do not lose heart, for you will not even finish going through the cities before He comes to judge.

In a recent debate, one futurist tried to say that all Jesus was saying was that He would meet up with them before they were done with their task. However, this is impossible, and quite ridiculous. The context is clear, and it is not during Christ's earthly ministry. This explanation would have us believe that the disciples, during the three years of Christ's ministry were hated by all and fleeing from city to city. There is absolutely no record of that. And Jesus' mention of enduring to the end there makes that interpretation impossible. Jesus is speaking of an intense period of persecution and tribulation that would not end before He comes, and they would not have time to finish their task. No Christians were put to death during Christ's earthly ministry, nor were they threatened. Such an explanation also puts inanities in Christ's mouth and forgets the issues of lack of modern transportation. In no way would the disciples have thought that Christ was right then sending them expecting to make it through ALL the cities of Israel for which He would have to correct them to let them know that He would meet up with them well before that was done. That is really silly.

I note the following typical footnote (this one was taken from John MacArthur's study Bible)— These verses clearly have an eschatological significance that goes beyond the disciple's immediate mission. The persecutions he describes seems to belong to the tribulation period that precedes Christ's second coming, alluded to in v. 23.

That is one giant unsupported assertion and begged question. How in the world do the persecutions seem to belong to the future? Didn't those things indeed happen back in the first century? Does any of us feel threatened by the local Jews or synagogue? What happened to the much-vaunted plain and literal rendering? These verse only seem that way due to an a priori commitment to an eschatological system. Now that is not necessarily wrong and bad, but one cannot claim that the meaning just proceeds naturally from this one text, or that such would have been obvious to the first century listener steeped in OT "coming" imagery.

PROOF NUMBER FOUR: The Olivet Discourse clearly concerns first century Judea, NOT the "end of the world" it is made out to be in modern prophecy thought.

Nothing at all in the context gives any whiff of a hint that the end of the whole world, as we understand it, to be in view. The entire context of the passage is limited to Jerusalem. As a reminder:

Matthew 24:15–16:Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Luke 21:23: But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.
which the elect must flee.

This wrath is limited to the land, and idiomatically Jewish way of saying Israel and this people, i.e. the Jewish apostates. It is not a wrath upon the whole planet or upon all the unsaved peoples of the planet. The whole context leading up to the Discourse is the pronouncement of doom upon the Jewish apostates (see Matthew 23). There is nothing at all in the context speaking of the end of the whole world.

I have previously detailed the undoutedly local context—click click here to go back to that part of the commentary—so I will not repeat it here.

Can Generation in Matthew 24:34 Mean "Race"?

That explanation is less popular now. Most futurists today eschew it, but some notable persons still do, and it is in fact used by notable historicist Tony Warren (though he doesn't use "race" but rather "kind" which is an important distinction)—http://members. aol.com/twarren14/generation.html

I am going to use some of his points as anchors for my argument since Tony is articulate (even though wrong) and his points are not uncommon. However, I find it disturbing that Tony still has not corrected something that I blasted him on several years ago which is blatantly and inexcusably misleading. First he quotes:

1 Peter 2:9: But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Tony then sez: "Here we see the 'truth' of the matter. We have two distinct generations coexisting at the same time. A Generation of Evil, and a Chosen Generation. They don't last simply a lifetime, they last until Christ returns. One shall not escape the damnation of Hell, and the other is a special people who shall escape the damnation of Hell."

Bad, bad Tony [whip] using an English translation to prove a Greek point. Everywhere else in his article, and in Matthew 24:34, the Greek word is GENEA. In this passage, the Greek word is GENOS. Tony knows this, so why didn't he tell his readers? He does earlier mention that there are two words that are translated generation, but doesn't tell his readers that one of them, GENOS, does mean race or kind every time, and in fact it is the English translation of it as "generation" that is questionable, not that it means that any Greek word that is translated "generation" can mean "race" or "kind." This is inexcusable from a person of Tony's standing. I was hoping he would have changed this by now. It is not uncommon to see this Petrine passage misused in this way—but it supports nothing, it is a different Greek word.

Tony's next strongest argument (and one used by some futurists) is:

"It is self evident that if this word meant that physical generation were all vipers who couldn't escape the damnation of hell, then it would mean all, including the Apostles who themselves were part of that 'time generation.' But obviously, Christ is not talking about all that physical generation, He is talking about those who are children of Satan, these are the generation of vipers (Psalms 140:1–3). Evil and wicked men who out of the evil in their hearts bring forth evil things. And so we see that there is not only precedence for the word generation not to be understood to mean that particular time, but many times the context itself demands it not be understood that way. Generation of vipers did not mean everyone there, so it could not mean that physical Generation. It is most obviously speaking about a spiritually wicked family [gennema], not a time period or literal generation there."

and

Luke 11:50: "That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation."
"Is all those people standing there (the physical generation) guilty of the blood of all the Prophets, and will be judged of God for it? God Forbid! The Apostles and all believers there won't have the Blood of the Prophets required of them. That is quite obvious to anyone who knows scripture. God says every man is responsible only for his own sin, not the sins of others (Deuteronomy 24:16). Which is why The Blood of these prophets will be required of 'that generation.' ..How? Because Those who killed the Prophets, though they lived hundreds of years before, were part of 'that Generation.' They are part of the family of Satan their father, for the generation of evil spans time."
"This couldn't either logically, rationally, or Biblically mean everyone physically there at the time, so what it does mean should be evident with a little thought. It is a kinship of evil. Those of the lineage of Satan. Jesus called them, 'Children of the Devil.'"

Well, I have already shown how connected Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:31 to Matthew 16:28 indisputably shows what "generation" means in this context. An examination of its usage in the NT will also show that it means the ordinary meaning in most of its usages there as well (there is only one possible exception). The NT authors had "genos" (like Peter did) to use if they wanted to mean a kind of people over a long period of time. [Sch M24GT]

Also examining Matthew 23 will also inform us as to what generation is in view. Christ is berating the Pharisees and promises them that all of these things would come upon that generation. Is He referring to the literal generation of the Pharisees standing there or the more generic "generation" of the offspring of satan? Well the context tells us besides the fact that I have the more natural usage of the word on my side. That is always a weighty consideration in a hermeneutical discussion. What would have been the understanding of the first-century audience without any additional clues from Christ? Well let's go back to the context with the introductory remark in Matthew 23 that lead up to Matthew 24.

Christ is literally speaking to the Pharisees and condemning them. He is pointing out THEIR specific sins. And here is the climactic passage:

Matthew 23:31–36: Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. ASSUREDLY I SAY TO YOU ALL THESE THINGS WILL COME UPON THIS GENERATION.

Now Tony makes some points which on a surface level seem valid about this passage (technically he used a similar passage I suspect because the context kills him on this one more blatantly). First he objects that it would be unjust of God to repay that current generation for the blood of all the prophets (though ironically he has no issue with blaming ALL the unregenerate—hello!!!!). Now that is simply not true in a Biblical sense. All of the Old Testament testified about Christ. All of the prophets testified about Christ. Now Christ was there. In denying and murdering Christ, they confirmed and recommitted all of the lesser sins of their fathers who just denied the messengers. It is key that Christ tells them to fill up then on the measure of their father's guilt. God tells us in the OT that He visits the iniquity of the fathers unto the children if the children confirm and continue in their father's way. Their guilt is greater as they have the witness of their fathers and did not learn their lessons. He said that same thing when condemning the nation of Judah for not learning the lesson from watching her wicked sister, the nation of Israel, fall into harlotry. The condemnation is greater. Jesus spoke of this when talking about the levels of punishment in hell, and how those who just rejected His messengers and not Him personally would receive lesser punishment that those who rejected Him while He walked among them. And lastly it brings to mind Genesis 15:16 when God mentioned that the "iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full" and that it would take many generations (in the normal sense of the word) for that to be complete. Christ is making a direct allusion to that passage and in fact to Daniel 9:24. His first century audience would have immediately recognized that. Also remember that God took vengeance on the people in the land generations later who victimized the Israelites during their Exodus by killing the stragglers and the sick. Why? Because they continued in and confirmed those sins. So for Tony to claim it isn't Biblically logical is flat out false.

Now with his other point, Tony is somewhat onto to something, but is again, straitjacketing Scripture when he states that if "this generation" meant the contemporaries of Christ, then the disciples would be included. That is again putting such a stricture on the words that the context itself does not require, and in fact, as I have shown the context is clear. However, there are overtones of a division between the righteous generation of that time and the wicked generation of that time but then it is an unwarranted leap to say that must mean that "generation" must span millennia. No, the division could exist and the word can still keep its ordinary sense of the meaning. That is the most natural reading of the passages. The disciples were saved out of that wicked generation. All the phrase needs to mean is the majority of the Jews at that point in time, and the fact is that the majority of the Jews, especially the leadership (and God throughout Scripture in the concept of Federal Headship corporately categorizes people in light of their established representatives, the leadership) did reject Christ. They were properly characterized as a wicked generation.

The same thing happens today when some speak of America. We claim that America is a post-Christian culture, that we are pagans, that we are immoral, that we murder our babies, etc. No one says that to mean that there is not one person that may be excepted from these indictments. It is a description of our society as a whole in general. That is all that Christ is doing. This over-wooden literalization sucks all of the life out of the Scriptures. Also Hebrews tells us how God was angry with the generation of the Israelites that distrusted Him to bring them into the Promised Land during the Exodus so they died in the wilderness. Obviously generation there is in the normal sense of the word since all wicked people of all time did not die during that period of time. And obviously it is possible to speak of a generation of people as wicked and still have exceptions since Caleb and Joshua did not die in the wilderness and were not wicked, yet were part of that generation.

Comparing other uses of "this generation" in the mouth of Christ also proves helpful. For example:

Luke 11:31–32: The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
Luke 17:25: But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

An frank assessment of the texts makes it obvious to whom Jesus was referring. If this phrase was not present in a key eschatological context with embarrassing implication for futurism, this would never be an issue. It is an objection driven by a desire to force a "system" unto the text.

Also let's notice something that is implied in what Jesus said, He said that "this generation will not pass away UNTIL all these things take place," which implies that after these things take place that generation WOULD pass away. Now this objection would not harm Tony's case as he is an amill historicist who would say that this event is concurrent with the destruction of the wicked who are the ones identified as "this generation," thus will indeed pass away. However, for the dispensationalist, it would mean that Jesus is implying that the Jews as a race will pass away after the Great Tribulation—a conclusion their system could not tolerate. And lastly, for the historic premill, it would mean that this event marks the destruction of "children of the devil" (Tony's view) or the Jews neither of which can work in their system which still has "children of the devil" and presumably Jews still alive and kicking in the Millennium.

Now, on to the fatal flaw in the typical use of "race" by a dispensationalist in addition to the arguments above. A portion of the argument follows the same twist as Tony, i.e. the blood of all the prophets could be required of that one first century generation, and the argument above would apply, but there is another angle that defeats this explanation from a dispensationalist. To repeat, Matthew 23 is the record of Jesus' calling down seven woes upon the first century scribes and Pharisees. It is undeniably talking about them (using the personal pronoun "you" 26 times) NOT unbelieving Jews of all time. Beginning in verse 31 it gets really personal with Jesus telling them that they are witnesses against themselves that they are sons of their murderous "fathers." Jesus then tells them to "Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt." (verse 32) Note that phrase very carefully. Jesus declares THEM guilty of their father's crimes which include the murder of all the righteous blood upon the earth. Because he has declared them guilty (and there is no doubt there that He is speaking of THEM), Jesus then lays to their charge the actual murders. In saying that "you murdered Zechariah" Jesus is restating what he already said. . .  that they have filled up the measure of their father's guilt. Their father's guilt is theirs. Their father's crimes are theirs. This interpretation of generation as "race" lays the guilt of the ages upon unbelieving Jews of ALL TIME, instead of the unique generation that Jesus said would "fill up" those iniquities because the murder of Him would be the greatest of all crimes. It was THEM that filled up on the measure of their father's guilt, not my unbelieving Jewish next door neighbor Murray Goldstein.

In one debate I personally had [DDW BR], my dispensationalist opponent claimed some heavy gun support for the rendering of "this generation" as "this race" by insinuating that Greek scholar Thayer concurs. This error has been perpetrated in some dispensationalist circles by an erroneous reference to such support by Thayer in the Scofield Reference Bible [doh!]. Thayer actually defines "genea" as "the whole multitude of men living at the same time" and cites Matthew 24:34 as an example of such!! [Th GEL 112]. Arndt and Gingrich concur and also cite Matthew 24:34 in support [Ar GEL]. The lexicons are overwhelming on my side as evidenced by the fact that NO major Bible version translates that verse as "race" in the text, and believe me, that is not because they are eager to throw preterists a bone.

Consider once again the utter inanity that this position puts in the mouth of Christ. The dispensationalist agrees that Jesus is prophesying concerning the Jewish people. And then in a dramatic statement opening with "Most assuredly I say to you," what does Jesus say?? Drum roll please. . . . . . .. "The Jewish race will not pass away until all these things happen to the Jewish race." Huh?? That is nonsense and is a complete tautological truism. Remember the disciples asked Jesus when would these things be. This view has Jesus completely ignoring their question and giving a prediction that even Benny Hinn could get right. Wait a minute, I'm feeling prophetic. . . .. "Most assuredly I say to TWeb, TWeb will remain online until it goes offline." I never knew being a prophet was so easy. [Sch M24GT 57–58]

Now some miscellaneous tidbits. . . 

Here is an interesting reference study by an atheist source:

http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/2000/4/ 004genea.html

In this rant by Tommy Ice (I say rant because it is supremely illogical at some points and pulls a dirty bait and switch IMHO) [Ic DVP]:

What's happening is that Preterism is challenging futurism. Idealism is not a factor out there and Historicism is not a factor. Preterists are rising up, coming mainly out of the Reconstructionist Movement, to do this. What is their theme verse? Does anybody know? Let's all say it together, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled." So, when you talk to a Preterist, get ready to hear the words, "this generation" at least eight dozen times if you have an extended conversation.

Oh and

The latest convert to Preterism is R. C. Sproul. That declaration grabbed the attention of many people. Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute, is leaning toward Preterism, although he won't say exactly where he is on that issue.

Wonder no longer. Hank has come out of the preterist closet (though he does not claim the title "preterist" for himself).

But here is the bait and switch. Ice does go through the various groups that claim the label preterist in his introduction and mentions the heretical variety. Very good. He then is on about his contra-preterism arguments and mentions Sproul, Gentry, DeMar—all orthodox men but then ends his address with:

If the Preterists are correct, then there is no longer any sea; no longer any death, crying or pain. Tell that to all the people who experience those things regularly.

Whoa there Tommy back up that horse a bit. You wouldn't want to make your audience think that all who claim the label preterist believe this now would you? That the consummation has happened? (and it is even unfair to the heretics he is refuting since it paints them as oblivious to reality when they are just oblivious to proper interpretation of redemptive history and salvation—IOW Tommy is refuting them by pointing to his own interpretation, which although correct, is not their interpretation and is missing then multiple steps to avoid being an emotional strawman—I hate to defend heretics or a view I probably hate more than Tommy does but poorly done arguments help no one). So Tommy by implication smears the orthodox men with a heretical brush.

Tommy is not alone in this kind of tactic as DeMar pointed out in his review of John MacArthur's work, The Second Coming, http:// theologyweb.com/article/MacArthur_review.

It's All Greek to Me

If you spend any time at all debating this matter with laypersons, you will find a tremendous amount of practising Greek without a license proving that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I will list the brief description of the errors here with a link to a separate article dealing with them to save space here and not to bore the more casual reader with the nuances of Greek.

Greek Error 1: Matthew 23:36 and Matthew 24:34 have two entirely different words for "this" in the phrase "this" generation.

The answer to the above can be found at http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/ warrengreek.html

Greek Error 2: The phrase "until all these things take place" is better understood as "until all these things begin to take place" since the Greek verb 'genetai' is an ingressive aorist.

My first objection is practical. It amounts to "so what?" There are always wars, famines, pestilences, persecutios, and the like. The only distinct and non-repeatable event, the destruction of the Temple then-standing, didn't "begin" to take place in that generation—it took place. The "coming of Christ" (in a futurist bodily sense which I reject for that passage) didn't "begin" to take place? So this is really spitting into the wind. But on the level of Greek, it is just downright wrong. Greek scholar John Reece supplied me with this answer to this assertion:
Here are criteria which indicate that a verb may perhaps be an ingressive aorist: The aorist subjunctive (genetai) of the verb ginomai in Matthew 24:34meets none of those criteria; rather, It would be a rather significant and noteworthy grammatical phenomenon if it were true, none of the advanced Greek grammars that I have at hand (Robertson, Blass-Debrunner-Funk, Dana & Mantey, Wallace, Smyth) mention any possibility of such a take on the occurrence of genetai in Matthew 24:34. (or Mark 13:30. or Luke 21:32). [personal correspondences with John Reece May 2008]

Is there any indication that the early church saw this "coming" this way?

That is a good question with many layers of response. First, our records from the "earliest" church, with the exception of the New Testament (which is of course the earliest of the early church and is to my Protestant understanding the ultimate source on the subject), are scanty. We don't have anywhere near a majority of the literary material from that time. Further, the earliest church Fathers didn't seem to have a problem with contradicting themselves in discussions of different verses, i.e., they didn't seem to have the wholesale concern for a neat and tidy systematic theology that we have today.

We do have a tantalizing bit of evidence in the recorded testimony of Jesus' half-brother James at his martyrdom as recorded by Eusebius (himself holding to preteristic views, though with fair warning, he appeared to hold an arian view of Christ) in his much-respected Ecclesiastical History, the earliest systematic history of the Christian Church in our possession. According to this account, James was questioned about this "coming" event and responded thusly:

He is now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven.

That statement, which carries with it a statement (or at least an apparent statement of nearness), was controversial enough that it got him thrown off the top of the Temple and then,to add insult to injury, beaten to death with a club. This event took place in approximately A.D. 62. James' statement appears to be a very clear conflation of Matthew 24:30 and 26:64.[De TEN].

Bait and Switch?

I had promised that although I am not dogmatic beyond verse 34 that I would explore the issue of Matthew 24 past that point a bit. However, though I may build on this section in the future, it is not intended to be comprehensive as was the prior section. There are two primary camps within preterism on this issue: one view holds that there is a break in Matthew 24 beginning with either verse 35 or 36 [Switch-On], and another that holds that the entire enchilada primarily belongs to the first century [Switch-Off]. Proponents of the former view include Dan Trotter and Gary DeMar, and proponents of the latter include Kenneth Gentry and Marcellus Kik. Frankly there are strong arguments for both, and I have held both positions, in fact in writing this piece I have waffled - when I started writing I was becoming very convinced of a Pro-Switch view, now upon writing it I am back to my former position of a No-Switch view. If in fact there is any change after verse 34, this would be what I would propose (I have not—or my poor memory is not allowing me to recall—read anyone who has made this type of the characterization): the entire Discourse has primary and typological ramifications as does almost the entirety of the Bible, properly understood. The subject matter up to verse 34 is strongly primarily speaking of the first century and only very loosely can have thematic application to the future. After verse 34, Jesus speaks much more loosely, doesn't give a strong time referent and refers in ways that can refer to either the first century, the consummation, or both. I have swayed in various positions so it is unknown if this will be my final resting place. . . . (after completely writing this piece, I am saying probably not).

So let's get to the verses:

Matthew 24:35: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

[eek!] Immediately the problems start! Actually that is a bit of exaggeration, but this verse to me (rather than the following one) is the beginning of the transition into a possible blended reference, and is a prime example of the "now/not yet" phenomena of Scripture. Since I don't think that I have lectured you guys on this in this commentary so far, I will necessarily digress:

There is a phenomena in Scripture called the "now/not yet" phenomena where the Biblical writers often, in almost the same breath, say an event is done, and then say we are waiting for the event to be done. Some examples are:

The Kingdom of heaven: Christ says it was among them right then (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:21), but then also said that they were waiting for it (Matthew 6:10, Luke 21:31)

The Adoption: Paul says that we have now received the spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15), and John says that we are now children of God (1 John 3:2), but Paul also says that we are waiting for the adoption (Romans 8:23, see also 1 John 3:2)

Salvation: We have been saved (Eph 2:8, 2 Tim. 1:9), we are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, Phil 2:12–13), we are waiting to be saved (Acts 15:11, 1 Peter 1:9)

Glorification: We have already been glorified by virtue of being elected and justified (Romans 8:30) and we will be glorified after we have suffered for Christ (Romans 8:16)

Eternal Life: We have it now (John 6:47), we are waiting for it (Mark 10:30)

Judgment: the world has been judged (John 12:31), the world is being judged (Matthew 25), the world will be judged (Matthew 12:41, Hebrews 9:27)

Death: It has been abolished (2 Timothy 1:10), it will be abolished (1 Corinthians 15:26)

So, these types of events are progressive and consummational. David Chilton described it in this manner:

"This introduces another basic Biblical pattern, a threefold pattern. . .  Scripture presents salvation in terms of a definitive-progressive-final structure, and this is why Biblical prophecies often seem to overlap. Salvation was definitely accomplished in the perfect, finished work of Christ; it is progressively and increasingly applied during this age, personally and institutionally; and it will be finally achieved, in its highest fulfillment, at the end of history on the Last Day." [Ch PR 24]

I often note that this must be kept in mind as we examine the relationship of AD70 to the Cross, but it equally must be kept in mind as we examine the relationship between the "end of the age" in the first century and the Consummation. The destruction of the "Jewish" (and I put "Jewish" in quotes because I believe that "Christianity" is the true expression of the Old Testament faith as intended by God) apostates was the beginning of Christ's actual, and in history, subjugation of his enemies. What was done judicially at the Cross is now being worked out in history, and this pattern will continue through the consummation. In this sense, this judgment is a firstfruits of Christ's conquering power in history.

Now back to the verse of the "heavens and earth" passing away. Did that happen in AD70? Yes. I refer the reader back to the "collapsing universe" symbolism of prior verses. Old Covenant Israel was a "heaven and earth" that was done away with—but we also know that the entire creation, of which earthly kingdoms are only microcosms, will also be done away with and be put in actuality under Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20–28). So yes, it happened, yes it is happening, and yes it will happen. Also note that in the establishment of "Zion"—which the New Testament teaches us has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled and will be fulfilled in the Church—Isaiah speaks of it as God "planting the heavens" and "laying the foundations of the earth." (Isaiah 51:16) It is indeed a "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). Many respected commentators make this type of application such as Henry Alford, John Lightfoot, and John Owen [De LDM 192 and endnotes] .

N.T. Wright has articulated an interesting thesis on the beginning of the New Creation as follows:

The first meal mentioned in the Bible is the moment when Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. The direct result is new and unwelcome knowledge: 'the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.' (dienoichthesan hoi ophthalmoi ton duo kai egnosan hoti gymnoi esan, Genesis 3:7). Now this other couple, Cleopas and his companion (most likely his wife, one of the many Marys in the gospel story), are at table, and are confronted with new and deeply welcome knowledge: 'their eyes were opened, and they recognized him' (auton de deinoichthesan hoi ophthalmoi kai epegnosan auton, 24:31). This, Luke is saying, is the ultimate redemption; this is the meal which signifies that the long exile of the human race, not just of Israel, is over at last. This is the start of the new creation. . . . John declares from the start, with the obvious allusion to Genesis 1:1, that his book is about the new creation in Jesus. In chapter 20 he makes the point by stressing that Easter was 'the first day of the week' (20:1, 9). . .  [NTW Rez 652, 667]

There is also the possibility, however, that Jesus was not intending to teach that "heaven and earth" would in fact pass away and that His words were simply an idiomatic way of stressing that His words are indestructible which would then imply that though heaven and earth will last and last and last, in comparison to His words, even they will pass away. [Daw Mat] There is Old Testament precedent for this:

Isaiah 54:10: "For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

The immediate context is not teaching about any future dissolution of the planet but the faithfulness of God, in fact, teaching it is eternal. It would be equivalent to me saying, "Even if I should live a million years, I will never stop loving you." That would not suggest that I will live a million years and actually says nothing about my lifespan, but is speaking of the steadfastness of my loyalty.

But that is not the verse that causes me to see to possibly a switcheroo of some kind—I have little trouble incorporating the "passing away of heaven and earth" into a first century context though it is patently obviously to the orthodox that it can only be a foretaste of a yet future event of the cleansing of the entire creation that was subjected to futility (Romans 8:19–25). The clue for me is:

Matthew 24:36: But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Initially, this verse may appear to weaken Jesus' prior words; however, upon further reflection it clearly does not. Even if we posit a future "generation"—then they would "know" the same thing that a past generation would. So the typical preterist response is that at that point Jesus did not know the "day" but know it was within their lifetimes. That is certainly highly possible.

So what are the primary arguments in favour of a switch, and the counterpoints against it? I will use Gentry's rationale as the primary source for the "switch" arguments and note the comments of others to supplement, see [Sch M24GT 65–78]. Also of particular relevance will be Appendix B: Excursus Typology.

Switch On!—The Big But

It is noted that Jesus in verse 36 uses a Greek phrase that tends to indicate a change in topic:

Matthew 24:36: But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

This phrase is rendered in the English as "but of" indicating a switch in topic from the concluding verses of 34 and 35. This argument does not stand alone but in conjunction with the rest that follow and fairly cannot be argued in isolation.

Switch Off!

There is indeed a switch in topic—from giving the description of what is going to happen to the necessity of not being lulled into complacency and being watchful. In other words, the No-Switch view just as easily handles the Greek phrase, and in fact, uses that as well to support its counter to the supporting Pro-Switch points.

As an interesting aside, this same Greek phrase is used in 1 Thess 5:1 wherein all orthodox preterists argue that Paul is switching topics or focus from the resurrection to the soon-approaching judgment. This observation does cause me some pause here to wonder if Jesus does shift focus even though His disciples at the time would have been clueless about it, and it would only be later that it be understood. This would not be unthinkable, but the bottom line is that the issue can be accommodated by both views.

Switch On!—You Can Go With This, or You Can Go With That

Once again, focusing on verse 36 (and in several instances in following verses), the Pro-Switcher notes that the emphasis switches from the near demonstrative "this" (i.e. this generation) to the far demonstrative "that" (ie that day and hour) showing a change in time focus. R.T. France notes thusly:

 . . . we are introduced, it seems, to a new subject. There is, first, the fact that whereas the preceeding verses have described an event shortly to occur, and definitely within a generation, this verse introduces an event of the date of which Jesus explicitly disclaims any knowledge. Further, the phrase "but of that day" is a new one in this chapter. The events of AD 66–70 have been described as "all these things", and as "those days", but the singular has not yet occured. The inference is clear that a new and distinct day is being described. [Fr JOT 232]

Switch Off!

In context we see that the disciples could not possibly have understood at all a "second coming" in this passage, and the "coming" that Jesus already addressed was the coming in judgment to destroy the temple, the city, and the apostates, thus, there is zero referent for a "that" other than "that" event which He was already talking about. It is perfectly natural to use "this" to describe the generation for the generation did then exist and was "near" to His listeners, but the events described were in fact yet future, thus "that." This is supported by Arndt and Gingrich—"[T]his, referring to something comparatively near at hand, just as ekeinos [that] refers to something comparatively farther away." cited by [De LDM 193 endnote 12]

Switch On!—These are the Days of Our Lives

Prior to verse 36 a period of time is clearly spoken of and the word "days" is employed; however, at the transition, the focus switches from "days" [of judgment] to a singular day [the day of His Second Advent]. The fact that the disciples did not understand a "second coming" in the way that we would have doesn't falsify this view. They certainly understood the concept of a Messianic consummation, and like many other Biblical texts, the temporal judgment upon Jerusalem could have been a natural springboard to speak of the ultimate judgment upon all that ever lived.

Switch Off!

Now DeMar says of this issue this very flawed statement (not all of his argument, mind you):

"The description of the Great Tribulation leads up to the heart of the discourse which is found in 24:29–31. This is why Matthew describes the "coming of the Son of Man" as following the "days" of the Great Tribulation. The "coming of the Son of Man" in 24:30 parallels the "Son of Man" who comes up "to the Ancient of Days" in Daniel 7:13. This "coming" was not a multi-day event; it happened on a certain day known only to the Father. The collapse of the social, religious, and political world of Israel (Matthew 24:29)—witnessed by tens of thousands as they saw their beloved city and sanctuary turn to ashes amidst the flames—was evidence that the Son of Man had come "up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him" (Daniel 7:13; cp. Matthew 24:30) [De PA]

DeMar appears to be saying that "the day" that was known to no man was the day of presentation to the Ancient of Days. But that certainly cannot be the referent of the unknown day for we know in fact exactly when Jesus ascended to that Ancient and Days and was presented—it was at the Ascension. It hardly seems likely that Jesus was teaching that the day of His Ascension was this great unknown. His ministry was already predicted in the Old Testament (such as in the seventy weeks prophecy) and the New Testament (such as in the parable of the unfruitful tree) to last three and one-half years. His Ascension was forty days following, and a great case can be made that this was also clearly prefigured in the Old Testament. Additionally, DeMar's arguments in other works assume that very fact and argue that the destruction of Jerusalem was the proof that the Son of Man was already enthroned—i.e., that event was not the presentation of Jesus to the Ancient of Days, it was the proof that such presentation had already occured—at the Ascension. It was only at the Ascension that the actual "day" of presentaiton occurred, the rest of the "comings" are the proof of that event which appears to be rightly viewed as continuous in line with Jesus' words to the High Priest that "from that point on" He would be seen both "sitting at the right hand of power" and "coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64)—His sitting and coming are two facets of the same thing. Thus, that day of presentation cannot be the unknown "day."

In my opinion, if this No-Switch schema is to work, the "day" has to be the last day of escape for the Christians to escape being entrapped in the city—it was that day that was to be watched for in the midst of the carrying on of life. In fact this would be the only way to escape many of the criticisms of the "no-switch" position, and would make great sense out of why Jesus appears to take way with one hand ("you don't know when this will happen") what He already very strongly gave with the other ("this generation will not pass away")—although He just gave a lot of signs, they would progress within the normal scope of life- remember the frog that got boiled alive in water that only slowly got hot—the waiting believers might just in time go with the flow and grow lazy and negligent. In this view, He would be warning and spurring them to alertness, that the critical day for them would come suddenly and they needed to be prepared and wise.

Another point can be made that the phrase "day" does not need to refer to a singular and literal day but to a related and tight period of time. That is true enough, and that alone shakes the Pro-Switch argument; however, Mark's parallel of cockcrow etc. does seem to indicate that this is indeed speaking of a shorter and unexpected event. That too though can be viewed not as necessarily literally speaking of a night, but again of the ebb and flow of daily life.

Switch On!—What's Your Sign? or Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

Pastor Schwertly believes this to be the best argument in favour of a subject switch, and that is that Jesus goes from giving many signs that inspire feelings of dread and unease to speaking of an apparently "signless" period of time where life is going on as normal with such activities as marriage and daily commerce. It does seem very inuitive to me that there is such a stark contrast between such a definite time statement—"this generation shall not pass away until"—and the ambiguous time statement—"of that day and hour no one knows." There were definitely specific signs given prior to verse 34, but things get quite vague afterwords with further repititions that the timing will be characterized by a lack of knowledge as to its span. [Cu Rap 190]

Switch Off!

There is no need to repeat the signs already given. Life was not to be totally disrupted as these signs increased. We as people can take in and assimilate a great deal of turmoil into life, especially, when, as many of these signs were not directly affecting the subject audience, but was news and rumours happening in the background. A direct analogy is to be found today. Here in America we hear constantly that we are living in the signs of the end times by those who sincerely believe that, but realistically, people are living, giving and being given in marriage, etc. So we are told to be alert, even though we are allegedly in the midst of these signs. So while these sincere folks have sincerely wrongly placed these events in our generation, it goes to show that the ideas communicated both pre-verse 36 and post-verse 36 are not mutually exclusive requiring a radical shift in subject matter. The subject matter is switched, as said before, from one of signs, to one of watchfulness.

Switch On!

While the events prior to verse 34 are dogmatically said to be near, and within that generation, in contrast the events following are said to be far and happen "after a long time."

Switch Off!

It is indeed correct that the phrase "after a long time" does occur in the verses following verse 34—however, the length of time is still measured in the space of an ordinary human lifetime. Forty years IS a long time in a person's life. Jesus leaves certain servants to exercise their gifts and returns to evaluate those very same servants, not their remote descendants. In all fairness though, I would agree that this is an example that cannot necessarily be pressed so literally. The resurrection of Christ is referred to as a first-fruits using crop imagery yet the crop has yet to happen thousands of years later—ridiculous if one is going to be pedantic about the metaphor (and despite the NeoHymenæan attempts to use this in their favour, forty years is a ridiculous amount of time to wait for a crop as well thus this is not by any stretch an argument in their favour). The only that can be said is that this can really go either way.

Switch-Off Note—a major argument for the No-Switch position

A problem for the Pro-Switch position is that Luke 17:20–37 appears to be another occasion where Jesus was speaking on the same subject and yet mixes together elements from prior to verse 34 with those that follow verse 34 of Matthew 24.

For example:

Luke 17:23–24: And they will say to you, 'Look here!' or 'Look there!' Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.
Matthew 24:26–27: "Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Luke 17:26–27: And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Matthew 24:37–39: But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Luke 17:31: "In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.
Matthew 24:17–18: Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
Luke 17:35–36: Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left."
Matthew 24:40–41: Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
Luke 17:37: And they answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?" So He said to them, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."
Matthew 24:28: For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

Now Kenneth Gentry has answered this by noting that identical phrases and terminology can be used for different events and that it is proper to use similar or identical terminology due to the fact that the two events (AD70 and the Second Coming) are organically related [Ge Tran]. I completely agree, and it is possible this is indeed the case. Gene Cook performed an interesting demonstration of this by comparing Luke 11 with Matthew 23 which no one considers to be "parallel" passages [Co PP].

Luke 11:39: Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.
Matthew 23:26: Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Luke 11:40: Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
Matthew 23:26: Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Luke 11:42: "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Matthew 23:23: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Luke 11:43:Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. . . 
Matthew 23:6: They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues.

This exercise shows that the exact same language can be used without being "parallel"—i.e. Jesus is not giving the same Discourse in Luke 17 that He was giving in Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13. It is possible that the subject is the same, as the subject of the apostates was the same in the above example, but it certainly is not a "parallel" passage as it sometimes touted to be.

However, there is just no hint in the contexts itself that two different events are being referred to unlike other NT passages in which the "resurrection" plays a major event—the resurrection in these passages is noticeable only by its absence. Furthermore, the context of Luke 17 is about the timing of the Kingdom of God, which leads me to consider the statement in the Lukan version of the Discourse, Luke 21:31, "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near." I certainly would apply all of this typologically to the Second Coming, but primarily? I don't know, it just doesn't seem to flow with the context, yet Jesus may have said something that indeed would not make sense until the fullness of revelation was complete.

Switch On!—THE Judge Jesus

Matthew 25:31 and following describe Jesus sitting on His throne and judging the nations, separating the sheep from the goats. This event certainly cannot said to have happened in the first century. Many nations did not even yet exist at that time.

Switch Off!

The Pro-Switch argument is powerful against the NeoHymenæans who pitifully reduce the work of Christ to Gnostic proportions, but it is not really that powerful against orthodox preterists. Why? "Judging" and "reigning" are intimately tied in the OT [Mo BDJ 8–11]. Christ's reign is His judging reign, in fact His act of "coming" against the apostate Jews is His first act of national judgment, thus, this separation of the sheep from the goats is not an activity that takes place at one event but is an ongoing activity of Christ's rule. He currently is separating out the sheep from the goats and placing them on one side or the other. The one event happens when all the separating is done, the two sides are complete, and then He pronounces the verdict.

This dovetails perfectly with 1 Cor 15 and the nature and purpose of this period of time from Ascension to Return—he is putting all of His enemies under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:20–24)—that is the separation, as an enemy is subjugated he gets puts with the rest of his goatish buddies.

So how do NeoHymenæans handle this passage and its scope? They shoehorn it into the first century of course! One hyperpreterist commentator stated thusly (hold your nose, it is a stinkeroo):

"But," someone says, "Mt. 25.32 says "nations." How can a judgment which involves nations speak of just a national judgment on Israel?" This is a notable objection until we realize that the land of Israel comprised many nations. We normally think of Israel of Jesus' time as one nation, but not so. For example, the Jewish historian Josephus referred to the nation of the Samaritans, the nation of the Galileans, and the nations of Idumea, Perea, Trachonitis, Iturea, and Abilene. Judea was spoken of as a distinct nation, with a king of its own. The Greek term ethnarch (literally, "ruler of a nation") described the rulers of these nations. [Daw Mat]

Where do I begin? First, "the nations" is ALWAYS used in Scripture to denote the Gentiles as opposed to the Jews. Dawson is subtly equivocating on geographical divisions and "people group" divisions. While the "land" of Israel may have sat in multiple geographical regions, the "people" of Israel are Scripturally one "nation" (with the exception of the divided kingdom of the Old Testament, but even then the Jewish people were always placed in opposite identification from "the nations" which was idiomatic for "the Gentiles.") Thus Jesus is speaking of something other than the judgment of Israel, He is speaking of how His judgment will turn to the entirety of humanity.

It is particularly devasting for the hyperpreterist argument that this very fact is emphasized in an Old Testament eschatological passage (yeah that pesky comparing Scripture with Scripture hang-up):

Zechariah 12:3: And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.

Rome is "the nations" in Zechariah, in Matthew 24, and in Revelation—i.e. the Gentiles. It is no different here. The New Testament offers multiple examples of interpreting the Old Testament designation of "the nations" as "the Gentiles. For example compare (thank you to TheologyWeb poster Enhas for these verses):

Isaiah 42:1: Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. (NASB)

with

Matthew 12:17–18: This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN; MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED; I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM, AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES. (NASB)

and

Isaiah 49:6: He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (NASB)

with

Acts 13:47: For so the Lord has commanded us, "I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH." (NASB)

and

Amos 9:11–12: "In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the (AF)days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name," declares the LORD who does this. (NASB)

with

Acts 15:15–18: With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, "AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME," SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO. (NASB)

Okay now to tie up some loose ends, I get questioned a lot about the following verses—and these are ones that until recently when I became more and more comfortable in my preterist skin that I have been able to really get into:

Matthew 24:38–44: For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

So how in the world can THIS refer to the first century? Actually quite easily, and I am focusing in on the "one taken and the other left" portion as the other concepts have been dealt with already above. First of all, even in a futurist context, this cannot be referring to the "Rapture". The comparison is to the days of Noah in which the godly were preserved, and the ungodly were "taken" in judgment. With all due respect to Tim LaHaye, if this is future, you will definitely want to be one of those "left behind."

In a first century context, this is referring to the fact that families and friends (those working together, those sleeping together) will be irrevocably divided and judgment will be meted out on one group in the course of life, and the other will be preserved. It is a hyperbolic example of separation and judgment. Two people in identical circumstances and classes of life shall meet two different fates. One will be taken, and the other left. This judgment is not a respecter of persons, but of faith.


Conclusion

So What's at Stake?

There is nothing less at stake here than the veracity of Christ. Our faith would be wrong if Christ's admonitory statements turned out to be useless or wrong.  Christ would have turned out to be a false prophet [Gh Per]. If these astounding predictions, made with bold assertions as to timing, did actually take place, our faith is strengthened. In fact, it is my position that this is more than a mere exercise in prophecy—Christ was not merely foretelling the future, He was teaching about His vindication and absolute right to His astounding claims. He WAS exactly who He said He was, and He was going to prove it and exact the penalty on those who would reject the King of Glory—in the same way that the OT described YHWH as doing.

We must remember well this admonition:

Deuteronomy 18:17–22: And the Lord said to me: "What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." And if you say in your heart, "How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?"— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

It is fascinating that the very same passage which warns against false prophets is the one that prophesies of the coming of the Ultimate Prophet who also shall be vindicated by the accuracy of His Words. With all due respect to the brethren that disagree, by futurizing this passage, one of the strongest proofs for the truth of Christianity is removed [Hol DoJ] and ammunition is given to the skeptics. It is even more dreadful, in my opinion, when this passage is futurized to appeal to fleshly desires and ethnic vanities to vault an Israel of the flesh over the Israel of God which is made up of ALL ethnic groups, with none inferior and none superior to the other—all as one man to come to Mount Zion. The prophecy, placed in its proper first century fulfillment, is a powerful Testimony to the heart of the Jewish seeker who can see both the dreadful hand of God in the judgment of his nation at that time which parallels the judgments in the Old Testament and His mercy in the redemption offered and made sure by the judgment.

This "finishes" a long-standing project for me. However, as this is to be an evolving commentary, it is never truly finished and will be updated regularly. This has been one of the most fantastic learning experiences of my life—in writing this piece and going through the source material I have found that many arguments were nuanced distinctions of my own, and I have truly internalized the source material. I THOUGHT I had mastered this topic before, and now that I probably have mastered it more than ever, I realize that Scripture can only master us, not us it, and in our growing knowledge, we learn all the more how little we know. This allows me to discard many of the scrap note files I have kept for years of the snippets of debates here and there, the best material is here, and any worthy arguments will be added. Not only this is a personal accomplishment for me in my Biblical studies, but along this journey I have gone from being absolutely retarded with computer issues, to only being semi-retarded, learning html, xhtml, and CSS decently enough to craft this site and commentary.

I do have tentative future plans to put this commentary into audio form as I just KNOW you guys want to listen to my wonderful voice while cruising around in your car.

If you are orthodox and the ultimate destination (website, book, etc.) is an orthodox medium, you may quote and repost freely anything from this commentary without any prior permission from me provided the following information is retained:

Dee Dee Warren, The PreteristSite (www.preteristsite.com) "Resources for orthodox preterist study, and exposing the hyperpreterist heresy since 2004"

An actual link to the commentary would also be nice (www.preteristsite.com/docs/warrenend.html), and I would love to get an email at preteristsite@gmail.com letting me know where my material is posted.



Scripture Index

This is an alphabetical index of all Scripture citations, whether quoted in full, or simply mentioned in passing. Multiple entries mean that the passage is mentioned more than once, with the first link being the first mention, and so on.

View Scripture Index in a separate window or Tab if you are one of the cool kids using Firefox like you should be [Turn Images on or I'm telling Mommy on you]

Scripture Index—It's Not the End of the World!
by Dee Dee Warren

Plain Text/Printer Friendly Version

Apocryphal References


Bibliography

View Bibliography Index in a separate window (or Tab if you are one of the cool kids using Firefox like you should be [Turn Images on or I'm telling Mommy on
you]

[Ar GEL] A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature [computer file] : a translation and adaptation of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer's Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur,  William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich.-electronic ed. of the 2nd ed., rev. and augmented ,University of Chicago Press, c1979; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996.
(Logos Library System)

[Bal Bab]Babylon: The Great City of Revelation, Joseph R. Balyeat, Covenant House Books, 1995.

[Bau GC] God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament, Richard Bauckham, William B. Eerdmans's Publishing Company, 1999.

[Blu M24] Understanding Matthew 24 in Light of Old Testament Knowledge, http://mikeblume.com/matt24.mp3, Mike Blume—I would disagree with Mike on Christology, but am in full agreement with his prophecy material thus far

[Bra M24F] Matthew 24 Fulfilled, John L. Bray, John L. Bray Ministry 1996. (caveat—author slipped into NeoHymenæan apostasy and has an addendum to the end of this book announcing such—however, this book is fully orthodox)

[Ch DOV] The Days of Vengeance, David Chilton, Dominion Press, 1987.

[Ch PR] Paradise Restored, David Chilton, Dominion Press, 1994.

[Ch TGT] The Great Tribulation, David Chilton, Dominion Press, 1987.

[Co PP] Parallel Passages?, http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/cookchart.html.

[Cr THJ] The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan, HarperOne, 1993.

[Cu Rap] Rapture: The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind, David B. Currie, Sophia Institute Press, 2003.

[Daw Mat] Matthew 24–25: Destruction of Jerusalem vs. Final Judgment http://www.gospelthemes.com/ Mt24.htm, Samuel G. Dawson warning: hyperpreterist author.

[De ICET] Thomas Ice and the Time Texts, Gary DeMar.

[De ETF] End Times Fiction, Gary DeMar, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.

[De LDM] Last Days Madness, Gary DeMar, American Vision, 1999.

[De Geo] Limited Geography and Biblical Interpretation, Gary DeMar, http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/demargeo.html

[De PA] The Passing Away of Heaven and Earth, Gary DeMar, http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/demarpassing.html.< /p>

[De TEN]A Ten-Minute Guide to Bible Prophecy, Gary DeMar http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/demarten.html

[De WATV] "But What About This Verse?" Biblical Worldview January 2005, Gary DeMar, American Vision http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/demarthisverse.pdf< /p>

[Etc FC] Two False Christs Who Worked Wonders, "Etcetera" http://www.theologyweb.com/forum/showthread.php?t=40049.

[Far RR] Responding to Top Ten Objections Against Preterism (thread no longer exists at the Rapture Ready forum), "Faramir" aka "Bernado"

[Fay GG]Jesus, who is coming... http://www.roncfay.com/wordpress/?p=4, Ron C. Fay, on the Greek Geek blog (http://www.roncfay.com/wordpress/)

[Fr JOT] Jesus and the Old Testament, R.T. France, Regent College Publishing, 1998

[Fr M] The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, volume 1), R.T. France, Inter-Varsity Press, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985

[Ge PT] Perilous Times: Studies in Eschatological Evil, Kenneth Gentry, Covenant Media Press, 1999.

[Ge TGT] The Great Tribulation: Past or Future, Kenneth Gentry, Kregel Publications, 1999 (co-authored with Tommy Ice)

[Ge Tran] On the "transitional verses" in Matthew 24, http://www.forerunner.com/beast/ X0003_Gentry_on_Matthew_24.html

[Ge HSHD]He Shall Have Dominion (1st edition), Kenneth Gentry

[Gh Par]True or False Prophet? The Great Tribulation and Parousia Shock, http:// preteristsite.com/docs/ghostparousia.pdf, Ghost on the Net

[Gh Per]True or False Prophet? Perilous Times, the Last Days, and the Abomination of Desolation, http:// preteristsite.com/docs/ghostperilous.pdf Ghost on the Net

[Gr FAT]Facts & Theories as to a Future State (2nd edition), F.W. Grant, Pickering & Inglis, London and Glasgow, Undated

[Ho CA] Come Again?  The Olivet Discourse and Prophetic Fulfillment, James Patrick Holding, http://www.tektonics.org/olivet01.html.

[Ho Hyp] Exclusive or Hyperbolic Language in the Bible, James Patrick Holding, http://www.tektonics.org/hyperbole.html.

[Hol DoJ] The Destruction of Jerusalem: An Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity, , George Peter Holford, Covenant Media Press, 2001 (reprint of 1814 6th American edition)

[Hor BPM] Bandits, Prophets, & Messiahs, Richard A. Horsley, Trinity Press International 1999.

[Ic DVP] The Destructive View of Preterism, Tommy Ice, The Conservative Theological Journal, 48, Volume 3.

[Ka TOTE]Toward Old Testament Ethics, Walter C. Kaiser, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983.

[Kl FoT]In the Fullness of Time/span>, Fred Klett, http://www.chaim.org/fullness.htm.

[Low ESCH]Eschatology Sermons Series—19 audio files from the Village Seven Presbyterian Church http://www.sermonaudio.com/ search.asp?sourceOnly=true&currSection=sermonssource&keyword=v7pc& keyworddesc=Village+Seven+Presbyterian+Church&subsetcat=speaker& subsetitem=David+Lowman

[Mar SOT]Signs of the Times in the First Century, http://askelm.com/prophecy /p040701.htm, Ernest L. Martin.

[Mi ME] Messianic Expectations in 1st Century Judaism,http://www.christian-thinktank.com/messiah.html.

[Mo BDJ] The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment, Leon Morris, The Tyndale Press, 1960.

[Mor DES] The Destruction of Jerusalem http://www. preteristsite.com/mp3/morecraft1.mp3 and http://www. preteristsite.com/mp3/morecraft2.mp3, Joe Morecraft 2006.

[NSB] The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Earl D. Radmacher, ed., Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

[PA M24] Matthew 24: First Century Fulfillment or End-Time Expectation?, Stanley W. Paher, Nevado Publications 1996.

[Re SOB] Science of the Bible, "The First Christians" date aired 7/27/06, The National Geographic Channel, Prof. Jonathan L. Reed, University of La Verne

[Rop Rise] Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?, Albert L. Roper, Zondervan, 1965.

[Sche SW]Signs and Wonders in the Imperial Cult: A New Look at a Roman Religious Institution in the Light of Revelation 13:13–15 (Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume 103, 1984)

[Sch M24GT] Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation, Brian Schwertley, http://reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/Tribulation .htm

[Str Ex]An Exegetical Defense of Postmillennialsim from 1 Corinthians 15:24–26: The Eschatology of the Dixit Dominushttp://www.wordmp3.com/gs/ postmill.htm

[Th GEL] Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Joseph H. Thayer, Baker Book House, 1977

[Tr TLAC] Is Tim LaHaye the Antichrist? An Orthodox Preterist Antidote to Dispensationalist Dementia, Dan Trotter (tape series)

[DDW BR] Battle Royale III with Commentary by JP Holding, Dee Dee Warren, Jerry Shugart, JP Holding, http://www.tektonics.org/tolpret.html.

[DDW DD] Dumb and Dumber http:// www.preteristsite.com/docs/warrendand.html#dumb1

[NTW Rez] The Resurrection of the Son of God, N.T. Wright, Fortress Press, 2003.


Appendix A: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Rapture

I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool dispensational futurist. I didn't just hold that position because my Church taught it so that I accepted it uncritically, I was a pretty able (others thought excellent) defender of the view. So what happened?? Well this actually goes back to when I was a brand-new Christian in 1997 and was given my first Bible which had one of those "Read Through the Bible in a Year" calendars at the back, so I started the schedule. I also had a very simplistic, though perfect for a brand-new believer, commentary to go with the passages I was reading.

[fade in—the theme music from "Jaws"]As I read I came across many difficult and confusing passages. I started investing in Bible Difficulty books (which is still a passion of mine) to assist me in my studies. Very often, I was able to put aside any things which did not make sense to me then being assured from the things I did know that answers to those would come in time. However, I ran across two verses that totally rocked my world. One of them is common - the unpardonable sin. I think all Christians have a nightmare or two over that one. That is no longer an issue, in fact, that verse gives me great comfort and has been of great use in various apologetical discussions. The other was. . . . . . . Matthew 24:34. Now, to me, at that time, it didn't seem unclear, vague, or susceptible of many interpretations. Jesus said that everything He was just talking about was going to happen while His audience was still living. I have since learned, however, that some things which seem pretty clear actually ARE susceptible of differing interpretations in the cultural and wider context, but this verse at that time, certainly did not so I embarked on a frankly obsessive journey to find out what the heck was going on there.

So. . .  anytime I was anywhere near a commentary of any sort, I immediately turned to Matthew 24:34 to see what this commentator had to say. I collected even more Bible difficulty books simply for that passage. I called the Bible Answer Man. I asked my Pastor. I collected tapes. All of this frenzied activity allowed me to keep this issue on the back-burner.

ENTER THE INTERNET

Then I discovered the Internet (some of the sequence of events at this point gets a bit muddled, but this is substantially correct). I started getting involved in email discussion groups, and at that time was still solidly a dispensational futurist. I was distracted for a while debating obnoxious Jewish anti-missionaries, but eventually this issue once again drew my attention, and I started doing searches. Well, I think anyone with any bit of experience with this issue knows what I found—the festering Hymenæan canker. At the time though, I didn't really comprehend exactly what it was that they were saying—it just seemed like there was some answer to potentially consider, and the issue could once again go to the backburner. Now I don't remember what caused my search to flare up, but it eventually did, and I consumed great quantities of Hymenæan poison and briefly swallowed their heresy hook, line, and sinker, and God paid me a great mercy—He struck me with the immediate consequence of this faith-wrecking cancer, my faith was wrecked. In my soul and spirit I KNEW what the denial of the historic essentials meant, and KNEW this was demonic to the core. I sank into a deep, dark, clinical depression during which I honestly tried to apostasize and reject Christ. I say "tried" because I will never forget one anguished conversation with my husband when I said to him, "I wish I never believed this stuff (referring to Christianity)!" And he (not yet a believer) said, "Then don't believe it." And I said, "I can't!!!!" Without getting into soteriological battles, I felt the cord to the anchor draw tight, and God was only letting me go so far. I do believe I could have with great effort severed the cord, but it was not in me.

I was wasting away. I didn't eat, I didn't sleep, I could no longer think. Through the intervention of a beloved best friend and a dear boss, I sought medical assistance and was put on a potent anti-depressant, a situation I never had to face before (and by the grace of God, once the spiritual sickness was healed, the depressive episode was healed as well, all in all a period of three months—God has used my experiences with depression powerfully in ministering to others who face that malady). It was a life-saver in that it allowed me to simply think again. And sleep. And eat. At that point I began seeking answers to the error that had swallowed me whole—I was desperate, and knew two things. At that point, I didn't know how to refute the heresy, and if the heresy was true, Christian faith was not. It was a self-imploding sham. While the medicine helped, I felt like I was tottering along the edge of the chasm to hell, and in reality, I was. I wrote and spoke to numerous learned men in this field (Jim West, Kenneth Gentry, Gary DeMar, Doug Wilson), and some not so learned (Bray). I learned of an upcoming book by Chori Seraiah that would be the first book-length refutation of this heresy, but it would not be out for another year. I didn't have a year. So I tracked down this man at his home (I am uncannily good at finding people), and called him out of the blue. Pastor Chori was a spiritual life-saver to me—and has a true Pastor's heart. He took time out of that night and many others over the next year, by email and by phone, to disciple and counsel me, sight unseen, just a desperately upset woman who called him out of the blue (who may have been a psycho for all he knew for I shared with him my depressive episode). God used him powerfully. During his tutelage, and then finally when his book came out, I was getting a very good and real grasp on these issues, and later of course was assisted and helped by many other men and works. Thank you Chori for all you did for me, one lost and bleating sheep not even of your immediate flock. And an Arminian to boot! And for those who are interested, after the rescue from the spiritual poison by using Chori, God also cured the depression. I am now a very outspoken advocate for Christians who have suffered through depression to not be ashamed—we live in a fallen world, and we all get ailments. God will cure some (as He did me in that time) and not others, but this is part of our world until the Consummation.

Now at that time, I stepped back into a futurist mold to consider orthodox preterism. I joined an online forum and identified myself as "wanna-be postmillennial preterist." The cautiousness was warranted. Through my adventures I have seen foolish believers who simply dive into what's new or the teaching du jour without being wisely cautious, accepting uncritically and with open arms any devilish new teaching because its purveyors seem "nice" and their minds are so open that their brains (or at least their good sense) are spilling all over the floor. This "full preterist" heresy is perfect fodder for Ticklish Ears as modern Essaus continue to sell their birthright for a mess of rank pottage.

Anyways over the course of several more years I came into my current position. It has been a path scorched by fire and wet with tears. I KNOW God struck me as a blessing, I am grateful that I experienced immediately the consequences of what I was considering, and I know He uses me to warn others. These types of WATCH OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! blatant warnings were not in place as I entered the forest to Grandma's House, and that is my goal. To warn the sheep. And fruit has been born. Recently (and I am paraphrasing) a dear friend informed me that my "Is it a Duck?" article was key in keeping him away from even considering NeoHymenæanism for although he wasn't sure at that time if I was right in my condemnations, I scared the crap out of him. . . .. in other words, I gave him a healthy dose of caution. Please note the "Duck" article has been expanded and updated to reflect my further understanding in the five years or so that have elapsed since then—"Grave" Heresy: Hyperpreterism and the Response of the Church

This was a free-flow putting down of some of my experiences. I will revise and update over time. . . . For an eerily similar experience please see the testimony of Sharon Beverly: The Deadly Poison of Pantelism and Continuing Reflections on Pantelism


Appendix B: Excursus Typology

Over the years of my studying this issue, I have emerged with a firm belief in preterism, but also with nagging feeling that the majority of orthodox preterists are bungling it up by acting like hyper-literalists in reverse—and it is exactly this mentality that is driving the giddy and the naive to embrace heresy. I hear some hyperpreterists say, "Oh well read such and such and it is just one teensy step away from my view." Sometimes they are right—some of us have gotten so drunk on the timing statements that we are inadvertantly becoming that which we scorn in dispensationalists. We deride those who want to stretch soon into millennia while we choke on the camel of our refusal to recognize that Scripture doesn't have a problem with multiple "fulfillments." While we laugh at those who expect a literally black sun and a literally bloody moon, we are the fools for not allowing the Bible to teach us that timing statements do not put the kibosh on anything future.

The conception that Isaiah prophesied was to happen in his lifetime. If a preterist claims otherwise, they are a hypocrite. Yet, we find out that Jesus actually fulfilled it. Hosea tells how God called His Son Israel out of Egypt—yet Matthew tells us that was "fulfilled" by Jesus. Fulfilled???? How many times have I heard the standard hyperpreterist soundbite, "Ful-filled means fully fulfilled." Really? To who? Us in our modern arrogance or are we going to humble ourselves and look at the fluidity of the ancients? When we do not, we have at our feet some responsibility for those that fall into Hymenæan chasm.

So how is it that Scripture can so easily have multiple "fulfillments" without becoming silly putty in which it would be impossible to call anyone a false prophet and reign in a stampede of private and colourful interpretations? The answer is in typology.

We may say that a type is an event, a series of circumstances, or an aspect of the life of an individual or of the nation, which finds a parallel and deeper realization in the incarnate life of our Lord, in His provision for the needs of men, or in His judgments in future reign. A type thus presents a pattern of the dealings of God with man that is followed in the anti-type, when, and the coming of Jesus Christ and the setting up of His kingdom, those dealings of God are repeated, though with a fulness and finality that they did not exhibit before. [Fr JOT 38–39 quoting F. Foulkes]

With the obvious exception to his interpretation of the "kingdom," I couldn't agree more, and I think this is really crucial when we preterists are dealing with Matthew 24 and repeat the mantra that it is all about the first century (at least up to verse 34.) I think we all too readily discount any possibility that it has future typological application. The objection is stated quite frequently, "But we can't know that." But can we? I think in some respects we can though the exact application we will not know except in hindsight or contemporaneously if we in fact live through it. In the very passage that we are interpreting (Matthew 24) Jesus applies long fulfilled prophecies such as the destruction of ancient Babylon and applies them to the AD70 event. How can He do this? France assists to answer this:

. . .  the conviction which lies at the root of New Testament typology. It is that there is a consistency in God's dealings with men. Because his acts in the Old Testament present a pattern which can be seen to be repeated in the New Testament events; these may therefore be interpreted by reference to the pattern displayed in the Old Testament. New Testament typology is thus essentially the tracing of the constant principles of God's working in history, revealing a 'recurring rhythm and past history which is taken up more fully and perfectly in the gospel events'. [Fr JOT 39]

Since we are still awaiting the perfect consummation it seems totally consistent with the way the Bible teaches us to interpret the Bible to still see and expect future typological fulfillment of past judgments on evil and unbelief of which the destruction of Jerusalem was set forth as a prime example.

This same conviction is already apparent in the Old Testament. The prophets frequently looked forward to a 'repetition of the acts of God'. The Exodus especially provided a model for prophetic predictions both of acts of deliverance within the national history of Israel, and of the more glorious eschatological work of God. Following the lead of the prophets, Jesus and the New Testament writers saw in the coming of Jesus a parallel and yet greater redemption. [Fr JOT 39]
Often they [Jesus' predictions of the destruction of Jersusalem] are expressed in Old Testament language which implies a typological use of the Old Testament closely related to what we have so far examined. Jewish unbelief, and the fact that it is no longer they, but Jesus and his disciples, who are the true people of God, find their logical outcome in the destruction of the Temple and capital of the nation, and this destruction, no less than these other results of the coming of Jesus, finds its types in Old Testament history. They are now to be repeated on a scale more drastic than even the Old Testament catastrophes.[Fr JOT 71]

Following these examples I do not see an issue with continuing to see in the present and future coming of Jesus a parallel and yet greater redemption and a parallel and yet greater judgment that will finally purged evil, put all his enemies under his feet, and destroyed death. Yes we have passages which explicitly teach this, but I do not think we should shy away completely in an unbiblical pattern from seeing this event prefigured in past judgment events, specifically "comings" of Christ.

But the objection then resurfaces, "but the text doesn't say that." In fact, in a recent radio program with Gary DeMar, he challenged a futurist caller who claimed that the seven churches in Revelation were both historical churches and typological of all churches throughout the ages. That caller was right. . .  but Gary simplistically stated, "Where does the text say that?" I rejoin, "Where do you get the ground rules that the text HAS to literally say it in a wooden sense?" The Apostle Paul didn't treat the Old Testament that way, neither did any of the New Testament writers. One may then state, "Yeah but they were inspired." But that is begging the question. The Bereans searched the Old Testament Scriptures to see if what Paul said was so (Acts 17:11). Good thing they didn't act like DeMar and claim, "Where does the text literally say that the Rock that the Israelites drank from in the Exodus was Christ?" (1 Corin. 10:3–4) If we interpreted the whole Bible like that, and in atomistically literal sense, we would reject the messianic claims of Jesus. Plus, as France points out:

A type is not a prediction; in itself is simply a person, event, etc. recorded as historical fact, with no intrinsic reference to the future. Nor is an anti-type the fulfillment of a prediction; it is rather the re-embodiment of a principle which has been previously exemplified in the type. A prediction looks forward to, and demands, an event which is to be its fulfillment; typology, however, consists essentially and looking back and discerning previous examples of a pattern now reaching its culmination. [Fr JOT 39–40]

Amen and amen.

Do you need yet more convincing? Jerusalem was destroyed as prophesied:

Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest.

Just as Jesus warned them that not one stone would be left upon another and that Jerusalem would be leveled (Luke 19:44). However, Houston, we have a problem. That passage is not the words of Christ in the first century about the first century destruction of Jerusalem, but rather the words of Micah centuries before predicting the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 26:18, Micah 3:12). History does indeed repeat itself, and God's redemptive history is no different. [Cu Rap 156]

Another misgiving takes the form of "But where are the brakes on this thing? Do we just allegorize everything? Doesn't this ignore the primary meaning?"

Our discussion of the difference between typology and allegory uncovers one feature essential to true typology: that is a real correspondence between type and antitype. This correspondence must be both historical (i.e. a correspondence of situation and event) and theological (i.e. an embodiment of the same principle of God's working). The lack of a real historical correspondence reduces typology to allegory, as when the scarlet thread hung in the window by Rahab is taken as a prefiguration of the blood of Christ; both may be concerned with deliverance, but the situations and events are utterly dissimilar. On the other hand, the lack of a real theological correspondence destroys what we have seen to be the very basis of typology, the perception of a constant principle in the working of God. This is not, of course, to demand a correspondence in every detail of the two persons or events, but simply that the same theological principle should be seen operating in two persons or events which present a recognizable analogy to each other in terms of the actual historical situation. Only where there is both a historical and a theological correspondence is a typological use of the Old Testament justified.

It is therefore clearly essential to typology that a correct exegesis of the Old Testament text should be made; only so can a real correspondence of later events with those there recorded be established. Typology may, indeed must, go beyond mere exegesis. But it may never introduce into the Old Testament text a principle which was not already present and intelligible to its Old Testament readers. Sound exegesis, and a respect for the sense of the Old Testament text thus discovered, will prevent typology from degenerating into allegory. [Fr JOT 39–40]

All of the above can, and should be applied, to the New Testament events—including the past Great Tribulation.

. . . in the coming of Jesus his Old Testament acts are repeated and consummated. [Fr JOT 43]

And since it is my position (and I believe obviously the Biblical position) that this present Messianic period is the "coming" of Christ, book-ended by two physical advents, all of the works of God are repeated and consummated until The Consummation.

Now, it seems obvious that the New Testament authors understood that there were typological meanings to Old Testament events, but did the original participants of such history understand this? I submit that they did.

We have mentioned it as an apparent contradiction to our view of the limited range of the Old Testament future, that the belief of the people plainly went beyond it. Not only does the epistle to the Hebrews tell us that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob confessed themselves pilgrims upon earth, and looked for a "heavenly country"; but also the very word used by our Lord for hell—Gehenna—seems to have been in use among the people before our Lord's time in that very way. This implies a knowledge apparently in opposition to the statements of the last chapters. But any one need only read carefully the first half of the book of Genesis, to be quite clear at least as to Abraham that there is no promise at all of heaven to him recorded there. How then did he obtain the assurance of there being in store for him a "heavenly country"?
One of two things, could alone be supposed. There was either an unrecorded promise; or else he must have been given to see very plainly the typical character of things which we know were types of the very truths which the New Testament shows us he had received. Abraham’s call to Canaan was the perfect symbol of our "heavenly calling," but how he could have understood it so, we may be at a loss to comprehend. Yet some things there were that might have aided greatly in this.
Man had been shut out of Paradise two thousand years before, and Revelation ends with the picture of another Paradise, heavenly, not earthly, into which those that have "washed their robes" in the blood of the Lamb shall be admitted. No one doubts, save an infidel, that here again the first garden of God was a type of the other. Had the secret then been shut up those two thousand years, —absolutely shut up—that there was in it some such meaning? [Gr FAT 246–247]

Appendix C: Update and Revision Log

Only somewhat significant revisions/additions within the past year or so will be logged here. Things such as grammar correction or adding links to some site names will not be noted.

7/12/10 ~ here

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