Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Woes of Matthew 23, Part 1

In our ongoing study in the gospel of Matthew at Heritage Community Churchwe have seen from chapters 20 and following how Jesus is clearly pointing out that judgment is going to come upon the generation that He is speaking to. Over and over He warns them of the impending judgment spoken of throughout the Old Testament that would come upon the nation of Israel if she turned from the Lord. We recall that she continually turned from the words of the Lord and was continually sent prophets to call her to repentance. The remnant of Israel always did respond to the call of God and repent. Yet the majority of Israel continued to turn from God.Ultimately, in trying to understand the eschatology of the Scriptures, we have tried to put together an eschatalogical view from the perspective of exposition of various books. As I mentioned previously in my posts on Daniel 9 and other eschatology posts (found here, here, here here and here), my perspective on eschatology seems to be more preterist than futurist, though I am in agreement with the orthodox confessions of the church throughout history in affirming that there is a future return of Christ and that there is a future bodily resurrection and judgment to come. Other than that, I am not really looking for a future Great Tribulation, which obviously makes the point of a pre, mid, pre-wrath, or post Trib rapture moot to me. However, I have made it clear that it does seem to me that our view of eschatology does have some impact on our understanding of the gospel, politics, the nature of Christ's kingdom and, as a point in fact that I shared with Nathan White, effects our view concerning whether or not we are cessationists or not. So, I am convinced now more than ever that eschatology does have a significant impact upon our thinking and practice.Since we have been through these things in our assembly over the past year or so in our exposition and have touched on them in the past years in other books we have studied, I don't want people to think that I have fallen into a camp such as those who can't speak of anything else but Bible prophecy. I am enthralled by all doctrine and the God of that doctrine, but let's remember that God put these things here for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Therefore, I'll share some a few points from our study in Matthew 23, which directly leads into Matthew 24.These will be a series of posts, but I think the context of Matthew 24 is principally derived from what comes before it.

There are 8 woes given in Matthew 23.  These are primarily aimed at those who were the leaders in Israel, primarily in Jerusalem.  In speaking to his disciples and the multitudes and it appears that He specifically ends up addressing the scribes and Pharisees, He calls upon the people to follow the teachings of the Pharisees as they sit in Moses seat.  He is not calling them to follow their practice.  In other words, when the Pharisees were in accordance with what Moses taught, the people should obey, but when they strayed from that authority, then the people should not follow.

Jesus begins the message of doom upon Jerusalem and the scribes and Pharisees in verse 13.  He refers to them as hypocrites (hupokrites).  The term here is used descriptively as a stage actor, a pretender, or impersonator.  The Pharisees were those who outwardly appeared to be lovers of God and adherents to the Law, but Jesus pulled back the fa├žade that they put up and exposed them for what they really were:  white washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones.

Thus, part of the judgment against them is their false faith.  They are the great pretenders.  Notice that the declaration of judgment in the first woe is geared towards something that they were intentionally doing.

For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

These follow in the line of their fathers, which Jesus will address shortly.  They have opposed those whom God has sent.  They have opposed the Word of God and they have been in the practice of opposing the Son of God, the promised Messiah.  They will not follow Christ.  They are much like the Muslims and self professed Jews today.  They claimed to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but openly rejected Him when He came in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.  He speaks of them “shut(ting) up) the kingdom of heaven against men.  They are a blockade against the narrow way.  They are content to allow men to jump on the broad path of destruction, which they are on, but then they jump in front of the doorway that leads to life and attempt to keep men from entering therein.  Therefore, Jesus pronounces judgment upon them.

In the next few posts we will go through Matthew 23 and 24 and try to get a clear understanding regarding eschatology being fulfilled in the time of Messiah.


DOGpreacher said...

OK....HERE we go!!!

I am looking forward to your posts, Tim!

I would definitely consider myself at this VERY young...age...I guess you would say, when it comes to Biblical studies in prophecy/end times.

And yet...young or not, I am at least a partial preterist, simply because an honest hermeneutical approach to the texts leads me there.

grateful for grace,

Gordan said...

Preach on, Tim.

Especially like what you said about eschatology effecting many other things, including political outlook.

The more I study Bible prophecy, the more I think we're basically in the same boat as the scribes and pharisees of Jesus' day. That is, we know the prophecies and all that, but God's probably not going to fulfill them the way we're looking for. All the prophetic schemes and categories we divide into may well look childish and silly when it's all said and done, and we see how God really did it.

Your ex-dispy, ex-preterist, ex-idealist reader,


Hank said...


It is a travesty that most come to the 24th chapter of Matthew only to skip the context of verse 3. And as you say, to get the context of verse 3, we need to go to chapter 23 to hear the charges of indictment against an apostate nation. The important thing for us to remember is that 'eschatology' is not limited to things yet future (ours). The very word applied to the Biblical theology of the OT sees its fulfillment in Christ, eschatologically that is. So, things yet future may be a proper definition, as long as we realize it’s the context of the particular passage that shows it may be future, but only to those who wrote the passage.

I love Matthew 23 as it as well shows the mindset that Christ was battling in His people both well to do and the poor alike. His parable of the Good Samaritan, the healing of the blind man where His disciples ask who sinned, him or his parents. The Jewish people were over capsulated with Deuteronomic Theology that believed the Rich were so because they were Righteous. This passage ties in great with what was known as Doctrine of Divine Retribution and how they knew Jesus could not have been the Messiah. Because He had no home, He ate with sinners and ultimately was cursed upon the tree. Therefore, God rejected Him, in their minds He deserved what He got because of sin. Anyway, I am looking forward to the series. Especially a certain verse I have been giving allot of thought to lately as I cant wait to see what you have to say about it!

Hope the family is well.

Lord Bless

Tim said...

Thanks guys for your input. I think this study we have been engaged in has been more eye opening and clear than anything I've heard before on the subject. I am taking the flow from 23-25: from judgment pronounced (23), to judgment explained (24), to kingdom living (25) and to the return of the King and final judgment (25).

Gordan, personally I think God did not give us the words of the passages and even Revelation in order that we would NOT understand them. I think when we take them in context and derive our hermeneutic from the Scriptures themselves they become even more clear. Anyway, I look forward to your comments in this process as well. I know you told be your "back to the futurist" approach:) In talking with Nathan the other night, he told me he would help to reel me in if I got too far out.

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