Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Matthew 24 Part 2

4 ¶ And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.

5 "For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

6 "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.

Since I think I have already proven the case from the context that Matthew 24 will be dealing with the judgment that would come upon the Jewish people, I think the best route is to simply document it and show how some will look to a “literal” interpretation of certain aspects of Matthew 24 and take it to mean that it couldn’t have happened. I will attempt to demonstrate the biblical hermeneutic in interpreting apocalyptic language. We will also take a look at just how these verses parallel the Book of Revelation, which I don’t think is a problem for too many people, even the dispensationalists.

First thing is first. We must honestly affirm that the disciples’ questions seem to be clear and concise: When are these things (destruction of the temple) going to take place? All three gospels tend to confirm this. Many have written, including one blogger who showed up at the end of our discussions concerning some preliminary thoughts on the millennium, who argued the view of Dr. Thomas Ice concerning a difference between Matthew 24 and Luke 21. Now Dr. Ice is clearly a dispensationalist, so it would definitely fit his framework to distinguish between Luke 21 and Matthew 24. However, I think an honest assessment of the texts bear out that in both accounts it is the same conversation with the same Lord Jesus, the same disciples, and the same subject matter. Indeed Mark 13 is also a parallel to this discussion.

The only gospel writer to not address the issue in his gospel is John. This could be the very reason that he documents the details in the Book of the Revelation. I am already seeing this in regards to my previous study through Daniel and our current study of the gospel of Matthew, which as our able teacher Pastor Davis is taking us through. Actually it is pretty much a synoptic gospel study with Matthew being the focusJ Some of this Revelation parallel will come out in the comments of this post.

Although the question is clear and concise, we must allow for Jesus to answer in any way He sees fit. However, given that Christ has, in fact, set the stage for this discussion with his pronounced judgments against the Pharisees and scribes and immediately left the temple, declaring it to be desolate, and spoke directly to the disciples concerning its destruction, then I think it a fair evaluation to see that Jesus is directly answering the obvious question which would result from all of this.

Let us begin with the first thing that Christ warns of: false Christs. Jesus starts of with the words “Take heed that no one deceives you”. We will note that there were many during the time after the resurrection until the time of the judgment upon Jerusalem that many came claiming to be the Christ and drew many after them. This has significant meaning for Jesus’ audience. For we read that these things are going to come upon “this generation”.

Interestingly enough we find that John warns, in his first epistle, of antichrists. He says that many antichrists have come (1 Jn. 2:18). He speaks primarily of the spirit of antichrist and the doctrine of antichrist (1 Jn. 4:3). This was prevailing during the time up until the destruction of Jerusalem.

Also, the biblical accounts start the ball rolling in the documentation of such things coming to pass. First we will note the first century Pharisee Gamaliel as he addressed the council in Acts 5.

35 And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.

36 "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.

37 "After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.

We also read the account of Simon in Acts 8.

9 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,

10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."

11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.

Let us note some of the comments of the Jewish historian Josephus.

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[i]

Moreover, impostors and deceivers called upon the mob to follow them into the desert. For they said that they would show them unmistakable marvels and signs that would be wrought in harmony with God’s design.[ii]

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 there give them tokens of deliverance.[iii]

It seems very apparent from Scripture and from the historical account of Josephus that Christ’s words did in fact come to pass just as He foretold concerning false Christs.

Second we will note that Jesus spoke of wars and rumors of wars. I will not take on all of the dispensationalists claims of increased “stuff”, including wars and rumors of wars as signs of the end. The reason for that is clear from verse 6: See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Wars are often seen throughout Scripture as God’s judgment upon the nations (Deut. 28:15, 25; Isa. 13:9; 14:30; 19:2; Jer. 4:27; Mic. 3:8-12). Yet Jesus specifically informs the disciples that these things are not to concern them. They should not be troubled by them. Rather they should expect them as part of the time that they live in.

Let’s recount the fact that when Christ came on the scene that the ruling Caesar was Augustus. He took the throne following Julius and was the one who instituted the Pax Romana (peace of Rome). This peace was an enforced peace that began in 17 B.C. Historians tell us that “the peace of the Roman Empire that Augustus established was purchased by monarchy, but it was a real and enduring peace. It embraced the entire Mediterranean world as no constitutional dispensations had ever done before.”[iv]

Interestingly enough, we are told, “in the Roman Empire proper, this period of peace remained comparatively undisturbed until the time of Nero.”[v] It is during his reign that he sends Vespasian into the area of Galilee and the surrounding territories and eventually into Jerusalem, though it would be Titus who would complete the holy city’s destruction. The revolt against the Romans by the Jews was a centerpiece of the breaking of the great Pax Romana, but Rome was already in the midst of civil war at the time. However, it is interesting to note the timing of these events in light of 2 Thessalonians 2 which states,

3 ¶ Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?

6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.

This “falling away” is the apostasia. Interestingly the term means, “a falling away, defection, apostasy” and can even refer to a political revolt or simply a rebellion (Note: Many translations render this word in English as “rebellion”. Surely, this applies to a departure from the truth. This was true in Jesus’ day. The Jews had departed from Moses and they were evidencing it by departing from the Truth Himself: Christ. But there is much more to go on as we look back in history, for the departure from the truth leads to a departure against authority.

There is not only a religious apostasy, but there arose a political one as well. We will recall that by the time of Christ tensions were high between Rome and the Jews. The pagans against the people of Israel, who at that time, were God’s people in name only. This was part of the issue that you see coming out as Jesus is to be tried and executed. You see the despising of the Jews by the Romans and vice versa. Eventually this leads many of the Jews to seek to break free of Rome entirely within a generation. As a matter of fact, Josephus even uses the term apostasia (translated revolt) in his autobiography.[vi]

So we seem to have a good picture here. There will be false christs who deceive many and lead them astray. A departure from the truth will give way to a departure from authority. Obviously, this will bring with it wars, which I will save some of the details for some notes from Revelation in the futureJ These wars will then bring on the next things that Jesus prophecies.



[i] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, 20:5:5

[ii] Ibid, 20:5:6

[iii] Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2:13:4

[iv] G. W. Bowersock, Fiction as History: Nero to Julian, pg. 29

[v] Bo Reicke, The New Testament Era: The World of the Bible from 500 BC to 100 AD, pg. 110

[vi] Falvius Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus, 4

9 comments:

Hank said...

Tim

Indeed the social-political climate of that time was a time of great upheaval and distress. The common man, who trusted in these very words, must have been provided a special comfort that could only come as Christ was vindicated as the Messiah. Can you imagine the uncertainty of their temporal lives? Yet, as faithful followers of the one who conquered death, as well was seen by many, and attested to by multitudes, had within them the Grace that not only freed them of their sin, but as well promised them a place in the King's kingdom. Truly their faith was bolstered as they intently studied these very Words, designed to not only comfort them, but us as well.
This understanding sheds light on much of the ministry of Jesus' message of the spiritual hope that was embraced by His followers, both then and now.

Great job!


-A Vassal of the Great King-

Gordan said...

Tim,

Fine job, as always. I appreciate your constant care to let the Word interpret itself.

My only demurrer to this post concerns your use of Paul's warning about the Apostasy, and applying it to the events of the day. It seems to me that if Paul is referencing here events that were already well-underway, then it destroys the force of his argument in the context of 2 Thessalonians.

That is, Paul is telling the church that the time they're all worried about is not yet. (In fact, those who were preaching that the time had arrived, or even passed, were false teachers.) So in order to tell them that the time has not yet come, he gives them a short list of things which have to happen first.

So I'm suggesting that it makes no sense to say, "The time is not yet, because the Apostasy must happen first...and oh, by the way, the Apostasy started with Israel's rejection of Christ a couple of decades ago." I'm saying that Paul's desire was to push the fulfillment of the things they were worried about some way into the future (from their perspective,but not as far as the Dispensationalist needs it) and so a reference to something that was already years old hardly accomplishes that.

But that objection maybe belongs more properly to a more general discussion of NT prophecy, and not this work on Matthew 24. I agree this chapter is preteristic.

Hank said...

Gordon

Let me see if I can help some.

As 1st Thess. tends to espouse an immanent ‘day of the Lord’, second Thess. seems to be written as to correct the ones who claimed it was all ready over. Paul here gives rebuke as well as things that must happen first. Yes, the apostasy was under way for the killing of Messiah, and political unrest (Zealots). Paul acknowledges that in II Thess 2:7 saying the ‘mystery of lawlessness is already at work’. But more than that Gordon, this apostasy was brought on by rejecting the truth, not all did. This explains the restraining aspect. The more time went on, less and less believers came out of the ranks of Israel, but in the early days, they were all Jewish, this therefore brought on the apostasy of not only the national identity as God’s people, but politically against Rome as well. ‘Already at work, but not revealed.’

In other words, there were indeed signs of the coming of the (judgment) day of the Lord that some were using to promote a past event. Previously, Paul speaks of the restraint that was happening before the complete debauchery of the fullness of their apostasy. Yes, they were apostasizing, but as a complete people as many were in the faith. Their delusion in verse 11 was held back until the correct time, allowing the Gospel to flourish among the Jews as well as Gentiles. After the rebellion of the Jews and the civil war between them and eventually against Rome, the synagogues were not the central place of meeting for the expounding of God’s Word. Prior to ad70, the Jews were coming into the church as the Word of God went forth (Acts 6:7). The Apostasy was ongoing; as not all Jews were coming to the faith. But in Paul’s warning, the apostasy is only one sign, the other being the man of sin and full on unrestrained debauchery by the people. Paul is simply explaining that the time is neigh, but not yet. Soon the restraining power of God will be removed, and all hell will break out. In effect, ‘its bad, but its going to get worse’.

In my mind, when coupled with other Scripture, the number of Jews to come into the church would reach its fullness before the complete apostasy and their subsequent desperation into the nations.


-A Vassal of the Great King-

Tim said...

Thanks guys for the comments.

Gordan,

What Hank said was clearly better stated than what I would have said:) I think though that there is also the fact that Paul was writing Thessalonians much earlier than most people would give him credit. John Gill even states that he believes Paul writes from Corinth and I know he was a future historicist. I believe he writes before Nero takes the throne. Again, I didn't necessarily mean that the specific apostasy that he refers to had been ongoing, although I grant that it may, but possibly he is referring to the final revolt of the Jews, because of the fact that they totally rejected their Messiah and sought to bring about what they thought Messiah would bring and that was a political revolution. Jesus' claim was that false christs would come. Christ, as you know, is "anointed" or "anointed one". The anointing we are obviously familiar with in the Old Testament concerning kings. Christ was the anointed King and has assumed His throne. I believe you believe this. However, I think you also believe that the Jews were looking for a different kind of king, a political revolutionary to deliver them from Rome. When that did not manifest, they took matters into their own hands. After all, they had a clear time frame they were working with of when the Messiah would come (Gen. 50, Dan. 9).

Thanks for keeping me in check though.

Hank said...

Tim

Very good point about the time frame to which messiah was to appear.

Talk about 'end times madness', brother they had it!!

Gordan said...

Guys,

Thank you for your patient and gracious words. I really don't mean to sidetrack this comments thread, which connects to a post on Matthew 24, with my contention that 2 Thessalonians 2 is NOT speaking of the same thing.

However, it was this passage, among others, that really pointed up some holes in my partial-preterism a couple of years ago. I believe Paul's descriptions of the bad guy positively disqualify Nero from being the one in question. (Particularly the bit in verse 4 about sitting in the temple of God and being worshipped as God...)

I agree that the first century Jews were in apostasy, by and large. No doubt. I just think that the concurrent description of the "man of sin" mandates that another apostasy is in fact in view.

Tim said...

Gordan,

Brother, it's ok on this blog if we are off topic a bit:) However, I don't see it as completely off topic to reference what I said about 2 Thessalonians 2. I appreciate you bringing it up and would love to hear explanation further. So I welcome your comments on the subject.

Hank said...

Gordon

Your reservations about the proposed interpretations, specifically, the apostasy Paul speaks about. As you may have gathered, I tend to lean towards a preterist understanding of Paul’s remarks about the apostasy and the man of lawlessness. Your concerns are very valid and as well they are held by many amillennial commentators. Most contribute the aforementioned passages, whether for reasons similar to yours or not, to a future falling away and revealing of an end times trouble maker to be ultimately destroyed by Christ ending the age old battle between Satan and the Lord of Hosts. For reasons such as you stated, they will attribute these and others to the consummation of Christ’s temporal-Earthly Kingdom, bring heaven to Earth forever. All the while, they still hold to a preterist understanding of many obvious passages pointing to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Personally Gordon, I tend to be what we might call a ‘hard-line preterist’. Many would consider my position ‘the path the Hymenaian preterism’. In reality, I don’t see it that way at all, I do affirm a future eschatological consummation of the Kingdom of God with the vindicated Christ as the victor (2nd Adam) of God’s probation tree. I do believe in the continuity of our now physical bodies to our then physical-spiritual bodies of glorification. But rather then getting in to all that, the differences between views within what is called orthodox preterism and the various interpretations of specific passages, I should simply say that within the confines of New Testament prophecy I simply adopt an understanding using a Scripture interprets Scripture, audience relevance, but I do so first rather than second. It is human nature to read something thinking our own circumstances first (indeed, this is the power of God’s Word to bring relevance to our own lives some 2000 and counting years). I do not project an event into my future totally forgetting the events of the ancient past. If an area if foggy, like the passages at hand, I tend to lend it to a preterist understanding. For instance, there was indeed a Jewish revolt, falling away after false Christs’ and general apostasy from various authority type systems gives me enough to seek a fulfillment within the confines of the New Testament era. Of course, I may be wrong under further scrutiny, and I am alright with that, if it can be proven NOT to have happened (i.e. the resurrection). This is my method of how I approach the Scriptures. I say all this simply to say that indeed, the man of sin may be yet to be revealed and equally important, he may have been already revealed in the past to those who were looking forward to many of the things that are said to be in our future.

Now, I will briefly look at the questions or problems you brought up with the preterist understanding of the above passages in II Thess.

Possibility 1

Temple of God and the man of lawlessness claiming to be god.

The usage of word temple does not necessitate the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, even when used by Paul. Interwoven into the minds of the ancient Semites was the motif of the deity’s place of residence; a holy place (Baal ect). The Ancient Near Eastern religions and subsequently the Greek and Roman mythologies, always pictured in their writings the god of their flavor residing in a place, whether a mountain or man made structure as his temple.

In order to promote this idea of Paul not specially relating to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem with his comments, we must go to verse 4a from where we are at in verse 4b. Here is the entire verse.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 (NASB) 4who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

Notice Paul’s language in 4a. He says this man of lawlessness exalts himself over every so called god or object of worship. Paul could as well be saying this man exalts himself over pagan gods and pagan objects being worshiped in a pagan deity-mountain temple. This leaves the door open for the rest of the passage to refer to a temple (place of the deity’s residence) other than the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

Possibility 2

If the temple he stated is the Harodian temple, the center of the Jewish economy, he could as well mean that the falling away is within the context of the covenant community and the members who went out from us (Apostles), yet were never from us (Apostles). Also, the mention in verse 2 about letters teaching false doctrine could lend some to this theory. The author of Hebrews offers many warning (curses) for the covenant community to guard against as well. Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus who he says have gone astray (and leading others with them). On a side note, this indeed lends credence to the internal apostasy giving roughly the 17 or so years between his warnings of the man of lawlessness to come. Many early Jews and Gentiles were swayed by those called judaizers. Many blasphemed the Gospel of Grace by requiring specific works upon belief in order to be an aire of Abraham. There were those who were teaching what might be the first Christian cult, Gnosticism as they taught deliverance from the flesh and the cruel demiurge god of the Old Testament. The writers of the New Testament show hints of defense against these early heretics within the pages of the Testament of the New Covenant.


With those particulars in mind, I am simply trying to show that the circumstances warrant further study verses pulling them out of the first century context of judgment upon a covenantally bound people as well as the context of blessings for yet another covenantally bound people. My first impulse would be to include these passages in with the giving motif of curses and blessings and the historical playing out of such. That of course doesn’t mean I am by any sense of the word dogmatic about my assertions, rather just some exploring using the fore mentioned presupposition of Biblical hermeneutics.

Thanks

DOGpreacher said...

Tim....&co.,

I am really enjoying this. Good stuff! I and 2 other pastors talked about this subject on our 500 mile trek to the Founders conference last month.