PMT 2014-053 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In this article I am offering a second installment on the question of whether the Olivet Discourse focuses solely on AD 70, or whether it also looks ahead to the Second Advent. I believe that it speaks of both events. Which should not surprise us, since AD 70 is a preview of the Second Advent. Please consult the previous article (PMT 2014-051). See my book The Olivet Discourse Made Easy for more detailed information.
5. Argument from demonstrative distinction
In Matthew 24:34–36 provides further evidence of a subject transition. Jesus contrasts near and far events:
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34).
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (24:36)
In this passage “this generation” is set in contrast to “that day.” With these words the Lord looks beyond the signs just given for “this generation” (haute, near demonstrative, 24:34) to the event of “that day” (ekeines, far demonstrative) (24:36). Thus, the Lord’s attention turns to his distant second advent at the end of history.
6. Argument from observational prospects
Before his statement in Matthew 24:34 Christ mentions numerous events that serve as historical signs, events such as: “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt 24:6), “famines and earthquakes” (v 7), “false prophets” (v 11), and so forth. He specifically mentions a pre-eminent sign: “the sign of the Son of Man.”
“Jesus, Matthew, and the Rejection of Israel” (1 CD)
by Ken Gentry
Surveys the Gospel of Matthew and highlights the numerous references — direct and indirect — that suggest that Matthew’s Gospel was written (at least in part) to demonstrate that God
was rejecting Israel. A great many passages in Matthew are surveyed and briefly elaborated upon.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Thus, he is informing his disciples (who asked him the questions) how they might know the time of the coming end of the temple; it is a predictable event. In fact, the Lord even gives the disciples a parable illustrating how the event coming in their lifetimes can be known, urging them to properly read all the signs:
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” (Matt 24:32–33)
But after Matthew 24:34 Jesus drops all mention of signs and predictability. Instead he includes statements emphasizing absolute surprise and total unpredictability:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (24:36)
“they did not understand” (v 39)
“you do not know” (v 42)
“if the head of the house had known” (v 43)
“coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (v 44)
“he does not expect him” (v 50)
“you do not know” (25:13)
This indicates that the following section involves an event that is coming at an altogether unknown and indeterminable time. He is no longer speaking of the destruction of the temple in AD 70, but his second coming in the distant future.
7. Argument from multiple days
By the very nature of the case, the numerous events leading up to the Roman military destruction of the temple in AD 70 will require a number of days. Hence, in the portion of his Discourse prior to Matthew 24:36 Jesus mentions “those days [plural]” (v 19, 29) and even comforts his disciples by noting that “those days” will be “cut short” (v 22).
This mention of the days of the tribulation period are set in stark contrast to the singular day — indeed, the exact moment — of the second coming: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt 24:36). After this transition at 24:36 he repeatedly mentions the singular “day” (24:42, 50) or “the day” and “the hour” (25:13). The second advent does not involve a series of historical actions, as is the case with the Roman military operations against the Jews, Jerusalem, and the temple. The second advent is a one-time, catastrophic event conducted by a singular individual, Christ himself.
8. Argument from deception fears
In the first part of the Discourse Jesus repeatedly warns of the danger of deception by those who would “mislead” (planao) :
“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many.'” (Matt 24:4–5)
“And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.” (24:11)
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (24:24)
All of this serves as a significant indicator of a subject shift when we compare this to his teaching after Matthew 24:36. After that point he no longer mentions the danger of deceit: the word planao (“mislead”) vanishes from the narrative. In fact, the second advent will suddenly overwhelm people in the midst of their daily activities: they will be eating, and drinking and marrying (Matt 24:38–39). They will be working in the field (v 40). They will be grinding at the mill (v 41). They will be as surprised as one whose house is broken into without warning (v 43).
Contrary to this, no one would be surprised at the destruction of the temple in AD 70. After all, the Romans took five months of relentless siege warfare to get into Jerusalem and destroy the temple after they encircled Jerusalem in April, AD 70. And even this occurs well after the formal engagement of the Jewish War in the Spring of AD 67 and the early military operations in Galilee and elsewhere.
9. Argument from social contrasts
The social circumstances of the early portion of the Olivet Discourse dramatically differ from those of the latter portion. In the first section (up to Matt 24:36) all is chaotic, dangerous, and confused. This period is laden with wars and rumors of wars (Matt 24:6–7), famines and earthquakes (v 7), betrayal and persecution (v 10), lawlessness (v 12), and great tribulation (v 21). Thus, woe upon woe befalls men in the chaotic first portion of the Discourse.
But in the second section all of this upheaval and danger disappears. Social activities appear tranquil, allowing business as usual while the mundane activities of life continue. People are marrying and eating and drinking (Matt 24:38), working in the field (v 40), and grinding at the mill (v 41). The wholesale chaos leading up to AD 70 stands in stark contrast to the peaceable conditions at the time of Christ’s second coming.
To be continued. Do not go and sell all that you have. More is coming.