From: Apocalyptic and History: Matthew 24 Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2013
WHERE APOCALYPTIC AND HISTORY MERGE:
A HISTORIAN’S PERSPECTIVE ON MATTHEW 24 AND ITS PARALLELS
IN LIGHT OF OLD TESTAMENT PRECEDENT
FIRST CENTURY HISTORY
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
Copyright © 2013 by author
Reproduction of this book for non-profit circulation by any electronic or print media means is hereby freely granted at no cost—provided the text is not altered in any manner.
If accompanied by additional, supplemental material—in agreement or disagreement—it must be clearly and visibly distinguishable from the original text.
Table of Contents
Introductions to E-book Edition
THE CHRONOLOGY OF FULFILLMENT INTENDED BY THE TEXT
Test Case: The Chronological Unity of Matthew 24:4-34
Internal Evidence that A Different Set of Events is Described
Beginning in Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33
A First Century Interpretation of Matthew 24:434 (and Its Parallel Section in
Mark and Luke) Demanded by the Text Itself
Arguments against this Textual Division of Subject Matter
Other Proposed Divisions of the Text between the Two Subject Matters
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:14/Mark 13:13
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:25/Mark 13:23
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:28/Mark 13:23/
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:42/Mark 13:33/
Alternate Scenario One: The Entire Chapter was Intended as a Picture
of First Century Events
Alternate Scenario Two: The Entire Chapter Refers to The “Second
Coming” of Christ Rather than the Fall of Jerusalem
Alternate Scenario Three: The Two Themes are Jumbled Together
CHAPTER TWO: THE FALL OF JERUSALEM DESCRIBED
(Matthew 24:1-15; Mark 13:1-14a; Luke 21:5-20)
The Questions of the Disciples (Matthew 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4; Luke 21:5-7)
Warning: The Danger of Deception (Matthew 24:4; Mark 13:5; Luke 21:8a)
1. False Messiahs (Matthew 24:5; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8b)
2. War (Matthew 24:6-7a; Mark 13:7-8a; Luke 21:9-10)
3. Rumors of War (Matthew 24:6-7a; Mark 13:7-8a)
4. Famines (Matthew 24:7b; Mark 13:8b; Luke 8:11a)
5. Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7c; Mark 13:8b; Luke 8:11b)
6. Pestilence (Luke 21:11c)
7. Frightening and heavenly phenomena (Luke 21:11d)
Warning: This Would Not Be All! (Matthew 24:8a; Mark 13:8c)
Chapter Two/Part Two Begins Here:
8. Persecution of Jesus' Disciples (Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:9, 11; Luke 21:12-15)
9. Apostasy to be Common (Matthew 24:10a)
10. Believers to Betray Each Other (Matthew 24:10b; Mark 13:12;
11. Believers to Hate Each other (Matthew 24:10c; Mark 13:13a; Luke 21:16-19)
12. Many False Prophets (Matthew 24:11)
13. Diminished Religious Fervor (Matthew 24:12)
Admonition: Endure Regardless! (Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13b)
14. Worldwide Preaching of Gospel (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10)
15 Appearance of the "Desolating Sacrilege" (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14a;
THE NEEDED BELIEVER RESPONSE TO THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
(Matthew 24:16-20; Mark 13:14b-18; Luke 21:21-23a)
1. Flee to the Mountains (Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14b; Luke 21:21a)
2. Don't Waste Time in the Hour of Crisis (Matthew 24:17-18; Mark 13:15-16;
3. Impediments to successful flight (Matthew 24:19-20; Mark 13:17-18;
A. Having Children (Matthew 24:19; Mark 13:17; Luke 21:23a)
B. Winter (Matthew 24:20; Mark 13:18)
C. Sabbath (Matthew 24:20)
OTHER TROUBLES OF THE ERA
(Matthew 24:21-26; Mark 13:19-23; Luke 21:23b-24)
1. Unprecedented Nature of the Catastrophe (Matthew 24:21-22;
Mark 13:19-20; Luke 21:23b-24)
A. Unprecedented Destruction
B. Degree of Destruction Would Never Be Repeated
C. Total Annihilation Would Be a Realistic Danger
D. Divine Intervention Would Cut Short the Duration
2. False Claimers to be Messiah and Prophet (Matthew 24:23-26; Mark 13:21-23)
A. The Rumor of Such Individuals Would Definitely Exist (Matthew 24:23;
B. They Would Even Be Able to Work Pseudo-Miracles (Matthew 24:24a;
C. The Danger of Successful Deception Was Present (Matthew 24:24b;
D. Since They Were Forewarned They Were to Reject Such Claims
(Matthew 24:25-26; Mark 13:23)
INTERPRETING THE DISASTER FROM A BELIEVER VIEWPOINT
(Matthew 24:27-33; Mark 13:24-29; Luke 21:25-31)
1. The Disaster to Be a "Coming" of Jesus (Matthew 24:27)
2. The Disaster to be a Gathering of Eagles (Matthew 24:28)
3. The Disaster to Tear Apart the Visible Cosmos (Matthew 24:29;
Mark 13:24-25; Luke 21:25a)
4. The Disaster to Cause World-Wide Mourning (Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26;
5. Believers to be Rescued Due to Angels (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27;
6. Signs of the Catastrophe to be Obvious (Matthew 24:32-33; Mark 13:28-29;
TRANSITION: FROM NEAR FUTURE TO INDEFINITE FUTURE
(Matthew 24:34-36; Mark 24:30-32; Luke 21:32-33)
1. Previously Described Events in the Short Term Future/the Then-Living
Generation (Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32)
2. In Contrast, the Date of the Ultimate Passing Away of the Visible World is
Unknowable (Matthew 24:35-36; Mark 13:31-31; Luke 21:33)
THE GREATER COMING THAT WAS POST FALL OF JERUSALEM
(Matthew 24:37-44; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 21:34-36)
1. World to Be Unprepared As in Noah's Day (Matthew 24:37-39)
2. Many to be Found Unacceptable (Matthew 24:40-41)
3. The Lesson for Believers: Be Ready!
(Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:33; 37; Luke 21:34-36
A. The Illustration in Matthew: the Unwarned Householder
B. The illustrtation in Mark: The Leading Servant who Becomes Blind to
His Responsibilities Due to the Passage of Time (Mark 13:33-37)
C. The Illustration in Luke: The Perpetual Danger of Individual Human
Weakness undermining Preparation (Luke 21:34-36)
2013: Introduction Update
This version of my study is dated 2003 in my files—prepared with the hope of ultimately posting it on the internet--and was written somewhere about 1998, since it was circulating to publishers the following year (see “Original Intended E-book Introduction,” below). I have chosen to distribute it in the current form rather than update it since at its current 73,000 words it is at a nice, “readable” length. Long enough for detail, but not long enough that it might “overwhelm” most readers.
Not that I have any problem with “king size” books in and of themselves: my updated 1 Corinthians commentary mushroomed—chapter 15 alone growing to 162,000 words! Yet there is a time and place for everything and it seems most prudent to go with what is already completed. And, yes, I do want to come back to the subject. Certain aspects deserve a reconsideration.
For one thing, it’s 15 years after this version was completed, which itself was probably 25 years after the original articles appeared in the Gospel Guardian. Later reading, study and thought nearly always modifies what one originally wrote, if by nothing more than giving greater depth to the analysis.
That does not, however, mean that I suspect that the fundamental conclusions are likely to alter—only that discipleship is, at heart, a process of ever being willing to learn more. Also in the current form I am convinced it can be of considerable value to many no matter what—if any—modifications come later.
And, to be blunt, at my age (70) and health one can never be too sure just how much life is left and it would seem a shame to leave this material uncirculated due to a misjudgment on that matter. To be brutally candid, that concern was the decisive one in presenting the material at this time.
I have found
by experience that normal footnoting usually results in a visually weird
appearance with the limited technical knowledge I have of computer
matters. There are too many of them to
substitute “on line” footnoting of some type, so I must beg your indulgence for
this visual lapse.
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
E-book Introduction (2003)
There are many things that try the spirit of authors: publishers who never respond to a manuscript they have accepted for review (my personal record is three years—two different manuscripts, each at a different publisher!), publishers who don’t respond to query letters at all, publishers who provide such vague descriptions of the type of book they are interested in that anything (and nothing!) could fit it, and the list goes on and on.
One of the most frustrating is to have a good book and the editor agrees with you but he is forced to conclude that they simply do not see how the firm can publish your work. The following work is of that type.
A letter to me dated April 19, 1999 summed up one editor’s evaluation of it, “It is excellently written and is a superb treatment of possibilities of meaning in the text and your own positions are clearly put forth. But it is absolutely a scholar’s book with line by line textual analysis and multiple scholarly opinions weighed against one another for probability and crossreferenced to other units of the text and their various possibilities. Moreover, it is a serious attempt to get behind the text to the intention of the authors and editors and their situation and to unlock the historical or non-historical likelihood of Jesus’ own intentions in his apocalyptic preaching. . . . But we are not doing this level of intricacy any more. I am sorry to have to inform you of this, but hope there will be other books and projects in the future.”
By the time I finally gave up, I had submitted either manuscript samples or query letters summarizing the contents and purposes to twenty-one places. My file of correspondence related to the study measures about an inch in thickness.
Rather than continue down this futile path of seeking a conventional publisher—and the best prospects have definitely been surveyed—I have decided to provide the book in an “e-book edition” for free distribution to any who might find its subject matter useful.
The question arose of whether to “update” the text, but it is already of book length and I decided to simply leave it as it has been shared with publishers in the past. Except for a second check of the spelling and the addition of this additional introduction this is the book exactly as others have had access to it. Although I must confess a very heavy bias toward traditional print publishing, undoubtedly e-books will ultimately become dominant. Hopefully in such a context, this study will provide a usefulness for the interpreter of Matthew 24 and its parallels.
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
This book is written out of two very different motives that happen to coincide in an analysis of the same chapter of the New Testament.
Ironically, the less important (and more transitory) deserves discussion first: The end of the millennium has passed. The end did not occur. Whatever hardships individuals faced did not topple civilization. All the misuse of Matthew 24 and its parallels had proved wrong. Again.
Of course it will only be temporary. It won’t take more than a decade or two but it will all be on us again. There seems to be something (inherent?) in the human psyche that grasps for a wrapping of the world as we know it and the replacement with something better. (Perhaps the conscience’s unwilling acknowledge of human sinfulness and societal failure?) So the fact of the most recent and glaring failing will not silence for long the prophets of doom.
Outbursts of paranoia and world-endedness have periodically dominated much of western religious thinking. Secular religionists will still dream of a dramatic world-wide shift in global morality and priorities. Those who seek their salvation in the stars, will still speak of overt alien intervention. To those within the “Christian heritage,” the possible relationship of the turn of the millennium will revolve around the age-old question of the ending of the world. Inevitably Matthew 24 and its parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 21 will be drawn into it and become a pivotal “scriptural basis” for believing that the return of Jesus will be at that time. Those of pre-millennial bend will speak of it as the time that Christ will rule from Jerusalem; those of differing understanding will speak of the cosmos being removed; yet others will think of terms of a Judeo-Christian rebirth of spirituality spreading throughout the world.
Hence a study of these texts within their original intention can serve as a useful corrective to the reams (tons!) of misleading propaganda and outright distortions to which this text will be put in the next few years. We have summed the entire subject up under the book’s title Where Apocalyptic and History Merge, since a failure to recognize this in Matthew 24 and its parallels creates the massive abuse. The blunt fact is that, at a minimum, the bulk of the text was intended to speak of the fall of Jerusalem. The descriptions not only verbally “fit” that period, but the chronology Matthew presents Jesus as giving itself argues that this was His original purpose.
In each account most of the events are described as to happen in “this generation” (Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). In contrast the emphasis is shifted in the remainder to events that even Jesus Himself can not provide the “day and hour” for (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). This strongly argues that the Speaker has a different type of event in mind than was being described in the first two-thirds of the chapter.
[Page 8] In our own chronological short term it is important for individuals to be aware that there is nothing in the text that requires the millennium-end-of-the-world interpretation. How long will it take to recover from the embarrassment caused by the false prophets of 2000 doom who claimed to teach on the basis of “clear Biblical teaching?” For too many, faith was needlessly weakened. To avoid this needless situation this book has been researched.
The second reason this volume is being written involves a purpose that will remain of value decades after the “beginning of the millennium madness” has become part of the new century’s popular folklore: The need to recognize Jesus’ apocalyptic message as walking firmly within the tradition of the Torah and the prophets of the Old Testament. In my earlier work, The Sermon on the Mount: Its Old Testament Roots, I dealt with a chapter of Matthew that has been widely regarded as in direct contradiction with the Old Testament. Indeed, even those who began the discussion of the text with the claim that Jesus was intending to be consistent nearly always landed up conceding a contradiction between the two on one or more elements discussed in Matthew 5.
It would be inherently useful for other aspects of the tight linkage of concept, terminology, and doctrine between the gospel accounts and the Old Testament to be presented to the reading public. For one thing it removes the needless “confrontational” approach that is often the basis of interpreting the relationship of the two testaments. It seeks for areas of unity and continuation, for points of shared emphasis and content. Yes, there are differences but when we recognize the profound similarities we are in a position to appreciate the existence of both elements of continuity and discontinuity.
The latter is explicit only in the epistles of the New Testament, though Jesus’ doctrine and practice sometimes go to the edge of that which was Torah-permissible. In other cases, the Jesus message as we have it in the gospels implies that He had additional thoughts that He had not yet shared with the disciples.
When we think of a linkage between the testaments in regard to the apocalyptic, he book of Revelation immediately comes to mind. The Apocalypse is certainly worthy of more attention in this regard than it has sometimes been given--especially in regard to the fascinating conceptual links found in that book’s bitterly contested chapter twenty and in the mini-epistles to the seven churches of Asia. Yet the usage of the Torah and prophets is significant in the writings of Paul and, even more so, of Jesus during His ministry.
Hence the purpose here is to continue our studies to Jesus’ personal teachings, as the synoptic gospels record them. The image of Jesus has gone through periodic cycles among scholars; in some decades, He has been a moral ethicist; in others he was an apocalyptic thinker. In reality, He was both--and far more.
These attempts to rigidly classify Jesus within extremely narrow interests leave the impression that He was an enthusiast, obsessed with a single theme, and is utilized as a convenient tool for questioning the historical reliability of His teaching on subjects not touching on His supposed “central” message. These efforts have too often reduced Jesus from a man of varied and wide-spread interests into a simple creature with a one-dimensional obsession to which all other matters are purely marginal. If this approach rarely works for any significant historical leader of today why should we expect it to work for the Nazarene?
[Page 9] Hence we will be studying Jesus as a messenger of Old Testament apocalyptic, not in an effort to reduce His teaching to an interest in one narrow theme but to develop a better understanding of one of the key areas of His concern. The emphasis is especially justified since our own lack of Old Testament grounding usually causes us to miss most of His conceptual allusions.
Hence our purpose is two-fold. First, to present a well-reasoned and carefully documented explanation of the text that avoids the excesses of fantastic speculation that are constantly at hand. (And no matter how often proved wrong, “recycled” with a new set of “fulfilling events” a decade or so later.) Hence we hope to provide a responsible alternative to the interpretive excesses already thriving and bound to increase.
Just as importantly, we wish to “flesh out” the teaching of Jesus. We have already documented that He was walking firmly within the Torah-prophetic tradition in some of His most controversial teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Here we will demonstrate that He did the same in His apocalyptic message and utilize Matthew 24 and its parallel retellings as the basis for our demonstration. Our purpose is not some vain piling up of scripture texts, but to demonstrate that the least Old Testament acquainted reader will be able to grasp the extent and importance of this usage. With Jesus it was not an occasional or sporadic usage; it lies at the very heart of His way of thinking.
The part of the apocalyptic discourse preserved in Mark breaks off at the end of a chapter and the break in Luke 21:37 is equally clear cut. In Matthew we find a much longer discussion that takes up all of chapters 24 and 25. Beginning in Matthew 24:43, we have a shift into clearly parabolic material. We have included only the first of these because it is a mini-parable of only one verse, and this and the following one reinforces the theme of watchfulness and alertness explicitly reinforces a recurring point in the preceding chapter. The following parables are of an extended nature and would be more appropriate in a different type of discussion than this one. Here we put the emphasis on the part of text that is best illustrated by then contemporary history. The extended parables would better fit in a context of strict exegesis, where such specific contemporary illustrations are much more limited or non-existent.
For the purposes of our discussion we will take the terms “the parousia,” “the second coming of Christ,” and “the end of the world/age” as referring to the same event--all in distinction from the fall of Jerusalem. “The end of the world” is often rendered “age” in newer versions. So our own usage will use both “world” and “age” to describe the event.
Even so, in response to the apostles’ questions, Matthew 24:35 does, indeed, speak of “heaven and earth” and how they “will pass away” and contrasts that with the abiding existence of Jesus’ teaching. That does not have to require the interpretation of a destruction of the visible cosmos, but it is a reasonable and a natural one and that of older, traditional interpretation. Especially when it is introduced in contrast to the vast earthly calamities connected with the fall of Jerusalem, something far more critical than the greatest of earthly alterations of government and social system seems required. It is also the approach I personally accept.
[Page 10] One final question must be touched upon before we begin and that is the interpretation of apocalyptic. When Biblical passages are written which sound as if they were intended to be taken literally, one should be very cautious indeed in insisting upon any other approach. But apocalyptic cries out for a figurative and symbolic approach to interpretation. To impose upon its language a “literalism”--when all it is demanding is “realism”--does not do justice to the text. Apocalyptic is designed to convey the message of Divine power active in the world today. Not in some crude, literalistic sense, but as an expression of the reality that actually underlies the transitory manifestations of change, conflict, and revolution.
If we must use the term “literal” in regard to apocalyptic at all, it is “literal” upon the emotional level; it literally describes the emotional and psychological impact of the events being described. It is “literal” in that it accurately depicts massive devastation that exceeds all normal human experience and which can not be done justice without such hyperbole. It expresses the truth not of the photographer but of the painter. It expresses the truth not of the reporter who “neutrally” chronicles the events of the hour, but of the historian presenting its true impact and significance.
Hence we will interpret apocalyptic in down-to-earth terms, as efforts to convey the emotional impact of truths and realities that “literalism” can not fully convey. In doing this we will repeatedly cite event after event that reasonably and meaningfully fulfills the thrust of the images being presented. We do this not in order to avoid the intent of such language, but to fulfill its underlying intent and purpose.
Hence this volume will hopefully prove itself useful for both the individual seeking a responsible, down-to-earth interpretation of Jesus’ apocalyptic and for those seeking to see how He walks within the doctrinal, conceptual, and even terminological steps of the prophets who came before Him.
Some two decades ago, I prepared a series of nine long articles on the interpretation of Matthew 24. These appeared in a small religious publication sadly long defunct; hence the material would be virtually inaccessible. This volume massively revises, consolidates, and recasts the earlier study while taking it into Mark and Luke and expanding it with new interpretive approaches I was not aware of at the time of my original work. The Old Testament precedent for Jesus’ apocalyptic rhetoric was only marginally discussed in the earlier study while here it is a major subject of emphasis.
Unless otherwise indicated, the translation utilized is the same as that of the original study, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Occasional quotations come from the New Revised Standard Version and the New American Bible and are noted as such when they occur. When less than a full verse is cited it is divided into “a” and “b” parts (if cited in two sections) or “a,” “b,” and “c” (if three). This is to point the reader to which section of a given verse is being referred to.
THE CHRONOLOGY OF FULFILLMENT INTENDED BY THE TEXT
The appropriate place to begin our study is with an examination of those indications in the text of the time frame in which the events described were to be fulfilled. A substantial number of the phenomena described could fit virtually any era. Hence the need to start with the passage itself to discover those internal indications of the period that the text itself points to.
Test Case: the Chronological Unity of Matthew 24:4-34
The chapter begins with a presentation of Jesus’ startling prediction that the temple would be destroyed and the apostles’ questions in response (verses 1-3). Verses 4-34 form the next unit of the text. It discusses what the passage describes as “the beginning of the sufferings.” Verses 9-14 discuss the “tribulation” that engulfed the early church. These subsections are clearly linked chronologically by the word “then:” “Then they will deliver you. . . .” If we say, “I went to the hardware store; then I went to the grocery store,” we link the two together as subsequent to each other and--normally--tightly linked together as one coming quickly after the other.
Verses 15-28 discuss the “desolating sacrilege” and the even greater tribulation that erupts. This unit of thought is linked to the preceding verses by the word “so:” “So when you see. . . .” When we make the statement, “I was robbed, so I called the police,” we present the two actions as linked together; again, normally, in a first tightly linked time relationship. When we find the word used in verse 15, it [Page 12] is therefore natural to consider it as linking the subsections concerning the “desolating sacrilege” (verses 15-28) and that of the earlier “tribulation” of Christians found in verses 9-14.
Verses 29-34 deal with a “coming” of Christ that occurs after the tribulation of the previous verses has begun. The tight time linkage is clearly presented by the very first word in verse 29, “immediately:” “immediately after the tribulation of those days. . .” The linkage of Verses 15-28 and 9-14 is implicit; the connection of verses 29-34 with what precedes it, however, is explicit.
Similar verbal linkages can be duplicated in both Luke and Mark.
Internal Evidence that A Different Set of Events
is Described Beginning in
Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33
1. The imminence of the fulfillment could be seen by the observant in the bulk of the chapter, “So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates” (Matthew 24:33 and its parallels in Mark 13:29; Luke 21:31). This is not true of the events described in the remainder of what is predicted, “Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44) Although not spelled out in explicit terms, the same point is the clear premise of the demand for perpetual alertness found in Mark and Luke as well.
2. The first section of the text is loaded with “specificity;” the remainder paints the events only with the broadest of verbal strokes. We read of wars, famines, etc. in Matthew 24:4-34 and its Markian and Lukian parallels; in the remaining verses there is a lack of warning signs to prepare people. “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. . . . They did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man” (Matthew 24:37, 39). The same lack of warning signs is the clear lesson of Mark and Luke though different illustrations are utilized.
[Page 13] 3. The period depicted in Matthew 24:4-34 (and parallels) is one of distress and danger. We read of danger by persecution, famine, and war. In contrast Matthew 24:35-44 presents a period of peace and tranquility. “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Matthew 24:37-38). In the illustrations found in Mark and Luke there is also no hint of external crisis or pressure. Everything gives every indication of moving along blissfully as in the past.
4. Although events in multiple locations are referred to in the first half of the text, the second half only speaks in “universal” terms.
War (implied: in various locations) is referred to (Matthew 24:6-7a; Mark 13:7-8a; Luke 18:9-10), but these are mere preliminaries to the verses’ central thrust, the catastrophe of the fall of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-28 and parallels). Only one explicitly “universal” reference is found and that is in regard to the gospel being “preached throughout the whole world” (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10 with minor differences; omitted entirely by Luke). In contrast, the entire argument of the second division of the text hinges upon its applicability in all places: be watchful, wakeful, ready, i.e., at all places and at all times. The reference to the “universal” flood in Noah’s day (Matthew 24:39) only makes clear-cut this “universality.”
5. The imminent fulfillment of verses 4-34 (and parallels) is declared by the text, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34 and parallels). This is the very reverse of the situation that follows afterwards. “But of that day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36 and parallels). “The Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect,” again making explicit the theme conveyed in the other gospels (Matthew 24:44).
A First Century Interpretation of Matthew 24:4-34
(and Its Parallel Section in Mark and Luke)
Demanded by the Text Itself
[Page 14] There are at least three additional major indications that Jesus intended His listeners to be looking for events of the then current century.
1. There is the constant use of “you” in the text, which would lead His listeners to anticipate they would still be alive when the events occurred (to cite only Matthew 24: verses 2 (twice), 4, 6, 9 (twice), 15, 20, 23, 25, 26, 33). Although such language can be used in an accommodative sense, the repeated stress on the element makes it far more probable that it was intended in a “literal” sense of those listening to Him.
2. Three times in the section Jesus makes it even more emphatic that the “you” who would see the events consisted of the individuals then hearing His words.
Again, to cite only Matthew: In verse 25, He says, “Lo, I have told you beforehand.” The linkage of the two words “you” and “beforehand” indicate that His listeners would see the predicted events. Otherwise how could it be of benefit to “you” to hear dire prophecies of coming disaster? Someone else, perhaps; but benefit them--it is hard to see how.
Verse 33 speaks of you, “when you see all these things, you know that He is near at the very gates.” Hence all the events were to be within the same time frame; they would not be scattered centuries apart. How could this be interpreted by the listeners except as affirmation that some of them would, indeed, live throughout the entire period when these events occurred?
Finally, there is the text in Matthew 24:34 where Jesus affirms, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place.” Again, the time frame is specified as one generation and the impression left on His listeners that it was their generation.
3. The events were to occur while there was still a “holy place” in Judea. The abomination of desolation was to be in a “holy place” (Matthew 24:15 and parallels) and since there follows the injunction that when this occurs “let those who are in Judea flee” (Matthew 24:16 and parallels), it is only right to conclude that the “holy place” itself must be in Palestine. There has been no genuine “holy place”--a temple set up in conformity with the teaching of the Torah and prophets--since the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. Hence the events of Matthew 24:4-34 and the parallel sections in Mark and Luke must have occurred by this event at the latest.
Arguments against this Textual Division
of Subject Matter
Perhaps the strongest argument against dividing the text where we do comes from Luke--not the parallel account found in Luke 24, but quite a bit earlier, in chapter 17. Within the confines of a shorter discussion, Luke 17:22-37 poses the same problem as Matthew 24: does it completely refer to the second coming of Jesus at the end of the world, does it all refer to the fall of Jerusalem, or does it intermingle the two references? Few hold out for a conscious shifting from one subject to another. Most commentators refer it to an end-time setting.
The reference to not entering one’s home makes perfect sense in Matthew 24 since the point was to flee promptly and swiftly and not let even the dearest possession get in one’s way. In its alleged end time setting in Luke 17:31, however, one must resort to considerable verbal ingenuity to turn this into a teaching relevant to the second coming--in which such an action would serve no purpose. The difficulty has been explicitly referred to by some exegetes tackling this text and various scenarios laid out in an effort to deal with the problem.
On balance, it seems far more likely to have in mind the fall of Jerusalem. It begins with the remark that the day will come when the disciples will wish to see “one of the days of the Son of man” (17:22) and warns that they should not allow this desire to cause their falling for the claims of false Christs that would arise (17:23). In Matthew the appearance of such imitators was a sign preceding the destruction of the city (Matthew 24:5) The Lukian discussion ends with the reference (17:37) utilized by Matthew to describe Jerusalem’s capture by the “eagle/vultures” of the Roman army (Matthew 24:28). Beginning and ending in this manner, and with no obvious marks of transition within, it is most reasonable to interpret the entire text as a reference to the fall of the Jewish capital.
If one accepts this analysis, it can be effectively argued that the events of the alleged end-time in Matthew 24:35-44 are also attributed to the fall of Jerusalem in [Page 16] Luke 17. There are similarities and omissions between Matthew 25:35-44 and the Lukian text and these need to be noted in detail in order to fairly evaluate the argument. (For conciseness we will cite only Matthew 24 and not the parallel accounts. Hence all references to “Luke” will be to chapter 17.)
In Luke we have Jesus referring to the precedent of Noah for the people of the era of the fall of Jerusalem being oblivious of the approaching destruction (Luke 17:26-27), an idea found in the end time part of Matthew, according to our suggested division of the text (24:37-39). In Luke, the similar obliviousness of Sodom in the days of Noah is thrown in (Luke 17:28-29), which is omitted in Matthew 24.
In Luke’s account Jesus next urges the individual on the housetop not to return into the house and the person in the field not to “turn back” (17:31). In Matthew 24:17 this statement comes in the context of fleeing Jerusalem.
In Luke we next find an admonition not to imitate Lot’s wife (17:32), the allusion probably being that if we look back in anxiety upon the worldly possessions about to be destroyed we will forfeit our “salvation” from the disaster as surely as Lot’s longing had destroyed her. This is followed by the principle that seeking to save our life may cause us to lose it while the one who loses it can, indeed, discovering that the result is “preserv[ing] it” (17:33). None of this is in Matthew 24.
In Luke we next read of two sleeping in one bed, one being taken and one being left (Luke 17:34). This is missing in Matthew 24. The following allusion to two women and how one will be taken and one left (Luke 17:35) does find a Matthewean parallel (24:41). There, however, it is found after (verse 40) a reference to two men being in the field and how their fates vary just as it did with the women. The two men reference is found in some ancient manuscripts and translated as Luke 17:36, but some translations do not regard as sufficiently documented in the Lukian context to include in the text.
Finally there is the introduction of the eagle/vulture image circling a carcass (Luke 17:37), as the capstone of the description of the final coming. In Matthew 24 this appears in verse 28, a part of the text we have attributed to the description of the fall of Jerusalem.
[Page 17] Hence we have end of the world references in Matthew appearing in a fall of Jerusalem context in Luke. Since it is inherently improbable that Luke’s short account is intended to jump back and forth from one of these subjects to the other, it is argued that it makes far better sense that all of Matthew’s accounting also refers to the fall of Jerusalem.
At the most this would argue that similar imagery could be used of both events. The fact that the language is utilized of end-time phenomena in Luke does not require that the mere use of the same language requires that interpretation in Matthew 24. If that were true then context would be an irrelevancy.
Jesus was the equivalent of a preacher and a preacher utilizes the same imagery time and again but often in very different contexts. Jesus did the same--note, for example, the similarities yet differences between the parables of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the pounds (Luke 19:11-27). He uses the same basic concept but adapts it to bring out different points. Likewise in His description of the fall of Jerusalem and the end times, Jesus utilizes verbal pictures that may fit one or both events--but the context must be consulted to determine which event is in His mind. And the context in Matthew 24 makes a clear-cut distinction between end-of-Jerusalem and end-time events.
Those who interpret the text as referring to a single event must not only explain why the textual division we have suggested is inadequate, but also explain the substantial evidence that can be introduced in its favor. Some specific words and phrases that seem contradictory to such approaches will be examined in detail in the body of the text. Specifically we have in mind how one attempts to reconcile words like “immediately” and “this generation” with competing interpretive scenarios.
Here, however, would be the most appropriate place to examine a much broader issue--how one can explain the two different atmospheres that we have suggested exist: in the first part of the chapter, the concern and the foreboding with calamities aplenty that led to the fall of Jerusalem and in the last section of the chapter the blasé unconcern leading to the second coming. This tension between the [Page 18] period of calamity in the first section of the chapter and the apparent tranquil environment beginning in verse 37 must be reconciled if the entire chapter discusses either the Fall of Jerusalem or the ultimate end.
Other Proposed Divisions of the Text between the Two Subject Matters
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:14/Mark 13:13
Not everyone who sees two subjects being discussed in the chapter places the division point between the two themes where I have. Hence it would be useful to examine other approaches and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. The most varied scenarios are offered in regard to Matthew. The equivalent dividing point in the other two recountings is provided for reader convenience in comparing the “workability” of a given scenario from one gospel to another. In our initial alternative, Luke lacks a record of this part of the prediction and therefore commentators can not use it as a construction post in marking out a division of the text.
William G. Thompson views Matthew 24:4-14 as describing events related to “the unsuccessful Jewish revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70).” Verses 14-31 shift to the period of “great tribulation” that finally culminates in the “second coming.” Verses 32-35 are intended to provide “assurance” that the coming will be “soon” while 24:36-25:30 is an “exhortation to vigilance” until that event occurs. There are serious difficulties here: the reference to the “desolating sacrilege” in verse 15 makes best sense in relationship to the fall of Jerusalem as does the accompanying admonitions to promptly flee for one’s life (verses 16-18) and that the casualties would be massive (verse 21-22). Interestingly, Herman C. Waetjen flips this chronology over, making the temple-specific text begin at verse 15! In a Markian context, Earle McMillan appears receptive at a division at Mark 13:13/Matthew 24:14, although conceding that the later verses may refer to a repetition of similar phenomena at a different point in world history.
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:25/ Mark 13:23
J. Enoch Powell has Matthew 24:5-25 (with the exception of verse 14) describing the fall of Jerusalem and events leading to it. Verse 26 serves merely as a lead in to the second section of the chapter, which properly begins in verse 27 and describes the “supernatural” phenomena accompanying the parousia. Against this approach lies the fact that the catastrophic heavenly-earthly events depicted in verses 29-30 represent typical Old Testament rhetoric to describe a revolution in earthly politico-religious affairs. As such it would ably fit the fall of Jerusalem as well.
Luke lacks a parallel text to study. A few individuals find the parallel that exists in Mark an attractive thematic dividing point.
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:28/Mark 13:23/Luke 21:24
Matthew 24:28 lacks a verbal parallel in either Mark or Luke. On the other hand, what comes next in Matthew--a reference to the light from the heavenly bodies being lost is found in Mark 13:24. An apparent allusion to the same idea (though considerably toned down from the dramatic language in the other two texts) is found in Luke 21:25a. Hence, within a framework of Matthew, the breaking points for the two parallel accounts would be Mark 13:23 and Luke 21:24.
Some commentators clearly make the end of the age the subject discussed beginning in Matthew 24:29. This is done by an appeal to Luke 21:27, where the heavenly phenomena are presented as a reference to Jesus allegedly personally coming (“they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”). Others seem to imply this textual division without explicitly embracing it.
The rhetoric utilized beginning in Matthew 24:29 is certainly far more globe-encompassing (at least in verbal impact) than that which preceded it and that fits very nicely with this approach. On the other hand verse 29 begins with the word [Page 20] “immediately” which, barring strong textual evidence or argumentation, makes one anticipate something that chronologically occurs in very short order. In other words, within the time frame of the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
When approached within strictly a Lukian framework, the division at this point is a common belief.
Discussion of the Fall of Jerusalem Ends in Matthew 24:42/
Mark 13:33/Luke 21:34
John J. Owen views all the non-parabolic material Matthew 24 (including verse 42, which he considers separate from the parable that follows) as referring to the fall of Jerusalem, but the parabolic material that comes afterwards as describing the ultimate end of the cosmos. Verses 37-41, however, seem just as applicable to the latter subject as the text that begins in verse 42. There seems nothing really tangible to base a textual argument upon.
Alternate Scenario One:
The Entire Chapter was Intended
as a Picture of First Century Events
From one standpoint, an author has done his duty when he has clearly presented the rationale for his or her interpretation and then proceeds to apply it to the specific text under consideration. Although this is an acceptable (and in many cases perhaps even a desirable) approach, so many different scenarios have been presented to “explain” the time frame of Matthew 24, that a different tack seems useful to those who do not have the resources to personally study the alternatives in detail. Hence we will present in greater detail than we otherwise would a variety of the approaches that are taken and the reasoning behind them.
[Page 21] We begin with the one that would be my own preferred alternative if I were to opt for a different approach than the one I am advocating. Although we have outlined the reasons for our preference for dividing the chapter into two sections, a credible case can certainly be made that the entire chapter is describing the fall of Jerusalem. This is, however, a very minority opinion.
Typically, the view is not worked out as to its details. Proponents are divided into two camps. There are those who consider the text genuine prophecy and opt for this time frame because events clearly occurred that are comparable. Others take this approach because they consider the text as written out of whole cloth: it matches because the pseudo-prophecy was written after the event to match it.
The back-reading analysis is certainly nothing new, but the form it takes with certain commentators leaves one rather perplexed. On the one hand, they concede that the first part of the chapter describes phenomena that occurred in the Sixties; when we get to the apocalyptic rhetoric of heavenly phenomena and the text that continues afterwards, the actual events echoed are alleged to have been those connected with Jesus’ crucifixion and triumph over death through the resurrection--events that occurred decades earlier. This reversal of the actual course of events is odd, to say the least.
One key argument for this first century only approach is that the apostles were
not anticipating the end of the world by their question concerning “the close of the age” (Matthew 24:3). This may well be true. In favor of this approach is the fact that the end of the age/return of Jesus would naturally be identified by the apostles with the destruction of the temple. By their standards what catastrophe could possibly be greater? Hence their questions (whether regarded as two or three) would be alternative ways of referring to the same conjoined events--one to its tragic aspects (the destruction of the house of God) and the second to its positive (the triumph of Jesus). Even if so, this does not necessarily mean that Jesus answered them in accordance with their assumption that only one event is under discussion. Indeed, the shift from this generation events to the indefinite future in Matthew 24:34-36 (and parallels) argues that Jesus is providing a verbal clue to His listeners that a dual/two-event discussion is His intent, regardless of what may have been behind their original inquiry.
[Page 22] Unless one theorized that the earth would last forever, one was forced to a conclusion of some kind of ultimate termination of the visible cosmos. Furthermore, Jewish Messianic kingdom speculation differed as to the length of the Messiah’s kingdom-rule, with few if any holding that there would literally never be an end for it. But once one conceded there would be an end what could possibly come next? Would the cosmos have any further reason for its existence? Hence any limitation of the length of the Messiah’s reign would seemingly compel some type of end-world concept as well.
Hence it is quite reasonable to believe that the apostles at least vaguely held such a conviction. Yet they were so thoroughly wrapped up in their hope that Jesus would be the Messiah, that one would be startled if they were consciously seeking information about anything beyond His kingdom reign. Hence their reference to “the close of the age”, the “sign of your coming” and “when will this be” may well allude to the destruction of the Temple. To them the destruction of that respected center of worship could represent nothing short of the end of the age and a sign of supernatural “coming” in judgment.
From the standpoint of the apostles’ intent the argument is a good one. But what of the intent of Jesus? Jesus was a master teacher and repeatedly shifted discussions to the matters He wished to emphasize. Based upon our prior analysis of the divisions of the text, the way Matthew and the other synoptics record His argument, argues that Jesus did have such a division in mind, whether the apostles did or not.
The mind-frame of the apostles can also be interpreted in a one-subject framework --one that had no room for His leaving the earth at all. This approach tackles the issue from the standpoint of the second return of Christ and stresses the unlikelihood that the apostles would be raising the question. The most extensive argumentation that I have been able to obtain on behalf of the Jerusalem-only scenario comes from a study published electronically by Sam Dawson. He points to the fact that in the events immediately prior to the Sermon of Matthew 24-25, the apostles clearly indicated either unwillingness to accept the possibility of Jesus’ [Page 23] death or flat out rejected even its possibility. For that matter, that attitude continued as well after the two chapter sermon recorded by Matthew. With such a frame of mind how could they possibly have been inquiring about the second coming when they didn’t want to accept even an initial leaving?
Once again we must point to the reality that Jesus felt quite free to respond to any and all of the apostles’ questions in the way that would most benefit them--even when it flew in the face of their existing convictions. When the apostles were disagreeing as to who was the greatest among them, Jesus never did answer their implied question. Rather he shifted the issue to one that would be of spiritual benefit to them: spiritual “superiority” is exclusively based upon spiritual service rather than formal church position. (Mark 9:33-35) In Matthew 24, the apostles asked questions that they may very likely have been intended to raise one or more essentially overlapping issues, but Jesus used the opportunity to point to truths they were not yet ready to accept for it would have required them to accept the reality of His soon-to-come death.
Another possible argument for the one-theme scenario is that the second half is also presented as if directly applicable to the then living apostles. In verse 44 Jesus is quoted as concluding a parable on spiritual alertness with the plea, “Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” We have introduced the emphasis of the “you” references as an indication of first century reference. Would the usage here not argue that the second section of the chapter also refers to that event?
One could respond that this is the sole usage in the section, while the usage is repeatedly given in the first section. In addition, other verbal expressions intensify the expectation of prompt fulfillment and none of these “time prompts” are found in the section beginning in Matthew 24:35. Furthermore the discussion continues in the following chapter and there we find a strong textual hint that the first generation of believers might not be alive when Jesus returned: in the parable of the talents we read of a “long time” passing before the lord (= Jesus) returns (Matthew 25:19).
[Page 24] A third one-theme argument can be based upon the rhetoric is that of some being left and some being taken (Matthew 24:40-41). This is compatible with an end-time scenario (i.e., of God “taking” the redeemed to heaven), but seems more natural in a this-worldly format. In the context of the fall of Jerusalem this might fit the erratic process of prisoner taking, in which some individuals would be seized and others (just as potentially vulnerable) passed by.
On the other side of the coin, there are definite arguments against the one theme interpretation. To begin with, there is the “universal” reference that underlies the section: the argument from the universal precedent of Noah (verses 37-39). The fall of Jerusalem certainly did have a “universal” impact. Was there a Jew on the face of the then known earth, who would not have felt shock and (in the vast bulk of cases) sorrow and dismay?
Furthermore, there was even an impact upon the dominant Gentile community. For them it was the ultimate “comeuppance” of an ethnic community they despised and hated. For them it was the removal of an on-going “flash-point” of rebellion. (So it would have seemed; in reality about fifty years later, a second massive revolt broke out in the same location.) The fall of Jerusalem allowed the annual temple tax to be diverted from a gift to Jerusalem into the coffers of the government--supposedly for the support of one of its polytheistic cults. In light of the large amounts cumulatively involved, one can’t help but suspect that much or most of it simply financed the government’s own operations.
But are these verses presented as “universal” in scope? True, in the scriptural text, the flood “swept them all away,” as Jesus asserts in verse 39. In contrast, in verses 40-41 the emphasis is upon some being “taken” and some being “left.” In a truly universal context (such as that of the flood of Noah) “no one” is left.
Hence one could argue that the “universal” impact is under discussion rather than a universal location. Some senses in which this would be true have already been examined. It should be noted however that “universal” could reasonably refer as equivalent to “everyone under discussion.” If the Jewish people of Palestine are the subject then the verses could be interpreted as “universal” in that much more restricted sense. In the favor of this approach is that the taken/left references make [Page 25] much more sense than in the traditional understanding of the return of Jesus. In the latter the whole earth is usually considered as being brought to an end and “no one” is left rather than an unknown proportion, as in verses 40-41. Unfortunately for this approach, there is absolutely nothing in the second half of the text that explicitly requires a Palestine-only scenario. The only hints are the ones left and taken--a step toward proving the point, but, standing alone, very far from conclusive.
The one theme interpretation faces a further difficulty in the fact that the punishment of the wicked depicted better fits events beyond those that could occur in this time-space continuum. This punishment is described in verse 51 as “put[ting] him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (verse 51). Since this is a punishment for one’s moral failures (verses 49-50) it would not be an apt description of the fickle fates of war in which one’s pain and anguish have nothing to do with one’s moral character or lack thereof.
Finally, if the entire chapter is speaking of the fall of Jerusalem, why does Jesus raise the theme of the ending of the cosmos (verse 35-36) and then drop it?
Assuming that the entire chapter does discuss Palestinian events, then one could reasonably argue that Jesus does pick up that point: in the following chapter. Indeed Jesus had spoken of the unknowability of that date. In the parable of the talents that begins the next chapter (25:1-13), Jesus makes specific allusion to that same teaching, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (verse 13). The following parable of the talents (25:14-30) immediately grows out of the unknowability of that hour, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants, and entrusted to them his property” (verses 13-14). Read together, verse 13 sounds like not only the end of the previous parable but also the beginning of the second one. Finally, all the remainder of the chapter (25:31-46) is a picture of a judgment of “all the nations” (verse 32).
Hence one could argue that chapter 24 pictures the more immediate catastrophe of the fall of Jerusalem, while chapter 25 zeroes in on the second return of Jesus. The problem once again is finding sufficient evidence in Matthew 24:37-51 [Page 26] to justify the division of themes at the chapter dividing point. As I read it, the available evidence is inadequate. If it were stronger, this interpretation would make a great deal of sense and be very appealing, though not without its weak points.
In the most thorough-going Jerusalem-only approach, chapter 25 is also interpreted as referring to the fall of the Jewish capital. The end of the previous chapter and the first large section of chapter 25 presents three parables: that of the faithful and unfaithful servants (24:45-51); that of the prepared and unprepared virgins (Matthew 25:1-13); and that of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Each of these involves the elements of watchfulness, preparedness, alertness--attitudes that Jesus had alluded to in predicting the fall of Jerusalem: “take heed” (24:4) and “endure to the end” (24:13) refer to the frame of mind demanded by these parables. Hence one could see how they could allude to the destruction of Jerusalem rather than to some final judgment, return of Jesus, or end of the cosmos.
Yet this still seems a “reach.” For example, in the story of the faithful and unfaithful servants, there is a distinct moral element involved: the unfaithful servant acts to excess and even abuses those under his authority (24:49). The coming is “at an hour he does not know” (24:50), but the disaster at Jerusalem would be preceded by so many warning indications that advance notice would be available: even if not down to the hour, then close enough to escape--and this parable deals with an inescapable judgment. Furthermore, the punishment inflicted is due to this unethical behavior (24:51). Are we really to believe that the only ones who died or were taken prisoner at Jerusalem were in that category of unrestrained extremists?
The story of the prepared and unprepared maidens waiting for the bridegroom works a bit better in a Jerusalem context, although not as well as within its traditional interpretation. Here the punishment is exclusion from the body of celebrators due to their lack of preparation. One could argue that those who needlessly remained in Jerusalem had not been intellectually or spiritually prepared to act upon the warning signs that were present for all to see and that their exclusion [Page 27] from the joy of those who escaped with their lives was the result. On the other hand, the escaped disciples were surely more “relieved” than “joyous”--how could there be much in the way of that in a suffering war-torn landscape? Furthermore, in the case of the fall of the city, it was the Christians who were told to leave, while in the parable it is those who leave that are in the deepest trouble. Although one is ill-advised to push too far the details of a parable, we seem to be dealing here with far more fundamental conceptual differences that are not so easily dismissed.
Finally, there is the parable of the talents, in which each servant receives a certain amount of money and is rewarded upon the return of their master on the basis of how they have utilized these resources. The one servant in trouble was the one who had simply hidden the money in the ground and done nothing with it. But the parable seems to assume that all are spiritually identical, i.e., all are Christians. If the fall of Jerusalem is under consideration then the rejection of their discipleship would seemingly be equated with their physical suffering and possible death in the siege. This raises the question of whether a Christian would have been regarded as reprobate (as versus unwise and foolish) in not fleeing the city. Furthermore, how does the imagery of making one’s talents grow fit in with fleeing or not fleeing the city?
Hence these parables can be applied to Jerusalem only in the broadest and vaguest of senses. They all appear to have in mind something far removed from that tragedy in ancient Israel; this is true regardless of one’s view of whether or not that there will be a literal day of final reckoning. Whatever Jesus is referring to it seems far removed from what happened in 70 A.D.
The parables are followed by a portrait of the judgment day of the world before Jesus as Judge (Matthew 25:31-46). Oddly enough, this is sometimes described as a “parable.” Whether one accepts the reality of such an ultimately personal judgment or not, the terminology is certainly inappropriate. With extremely few if any exceptions the parables of Jesus present events that either could or had occurred--phenomena that His listeners had either seen, heard of, or could reasonably imagine happening. The judgment day scene in Matthew 25 is totally alien to this usage. Hence one would be advised to substitute some different terminology to indicate a non-acceptance of the traditional meaning of the text.
[Page 28] Several things in the passage make it difficult to see in it a reference to a judgment upon Jerusalem rather than the human race. First is the reference to “nations” being at the judgment scene (25:32), while the fall of Jerusalem primarily impacted the Jews of Palestine. (Of course Roman forces recruited from various parts of the empire were there too but, in numerical comparison, they were a minority. Furthermore, one would conceptually think of them far more as the “judges” of Jerusalem rather than being “judged at” the fall of Jerusalem.) Appeal has been made to Josephus referring to the “nations” of Samaria, Galilee, and geographically adjacent regions. Hence it is argued that “the land of Israel comprised many nations.” This is reinforced by interpreting the “nation” rising against nation (Matthew 24:7) as to ones within Palestine.
To this commentator neither argument appears particularly impressive. The geographic whole of Jewish Palestine or the shared ethnicity of its numerically dominant inhabitants are referred to in its gospel usage by the singular “nation” rather than the plural (Luke 7:5; Luke 23:2; John 11:48, 50, 51, 52; John 18:35). Hence it seems very unlikely that Jesus in Matthew 24 is speaking of “nations” (plural) being within Palestine.
Another difficulty is the description of the condemned as being sent off “into the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41). In rebuttal it is argued that in Jude 7 the “national judgment” judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is described as “undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Of course if the text is referring to the inhabitants (rather than the geographic location) it would fit with the traditional interpretation of eternity carrying both potential rewards and potential punishment, depending upon faith and behavior in the current life.
The strongest evidence in behalf of a Jerusalem reference is found in the terms of judgment referred to in the text: it is not faith in Jesus but humanitarianism to one’s coreligionists. To prove that the lack of this was a common fault in the society of that day Matthew 9:13 and 23:23-24 are appealed to. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 also targets this lack of compassion for one’s spiritual brothers and sisters. This is true as far as it goes. On the other [Page 29] hand, we read in verse 40, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Although “brethren” could refer to physical ethnicity, its dominant New Testament usage is to its spiritual parallel, believers in Jesus as the Christ. Hence the standard of judgment is not humanitarianism to one’s fellow Jewish traditionalist but to Christians in particular. This seems an odd standard for the outsider to be judged upon! On the other hand, it makes perfect sense, however, if the judged are believers who are being held accountable on the basis of behavior toward fellow believers. To them faith in Jesus is a given and there is no need for it to be mentioned; their failure comes not in regard to faith but in regard to manifesting their faith in the proper attitude and conduct toward their own fellow religionists.
In contrast, even with all the humanitarianism possible being manifested, it is hard to picture first century Christians imagining a judgment day scenario in which the lack of faith of outsiders did not somehow, somewhere enter into the picture if they were the subject of the discussion. An interesting argument in opposition to this, however, might be developed from Paul’s argument in Romans 2:12-16 that outsiders will be judged upon the basis of the standards they recognize.
As with the other forms of argumentation, the evidence falls short of convincing that Jesus has just the fall of Jerusalem in mind throughout the chapter. Even so, the thesis is--to this author, at least-- the most intriguing and powerful alternative to my own. For that reason we have divided so much space to its presentation. For the same reason, in our analysis of the text we will, in places, present alternative interpretations compatible with this approach.
Alternate Scenario Two:
The Entire Chapter Refers to the “Second Coming” of Christ
Rather than the Fall of Jerusalem
There tends to be an implicit tension in the remarks of a number of scholars between this over-all explanation and their explanation of specific verses. Jack D. Kinsbury, for example, describes the entire chapter as “eschatological discourse,” [Page 30] while making repeated allusion to verses as containing reference to first century events. Anthony J. Saldarini describes (without any stated verse limitations) that chapter 24 is “speaking of the end of the world,” while making occasional remarks indicating a Jerusalem context. Some handle the subject overtly by explicitly conceding that a few Jerusalem references exist though emphasizing that the over-all context is that of the ultimate end.
Some form of this interpretation is very common among both scholarly commentators in general and also those who adopt a specifically premillennial interpretation to explain the text. In the most extreme form it is explicitly denied that any of these words of Jesus were originally intended to describe anything that had occurred in the first century. It is hard to understand how the apostles, listening to the discourse, would possibly have come to such a conclusion.
There are at least two major textual difficulties with the end of the cosmos interpretation. The first is in verse 34 where the fulfillment of the preceding predictions is placed by Jesus as occurring in the lifetime of some then living. Several explanations have been suggested for this (see the discussion of that verse), but they seem theory driven rather than natural or expected meanings of the verse. This does not necessarily prove them wrong since most explanations of any major subject normally pose difficulties at least in some areas and are adopted because they are, over-all, the most convincing. It is our position that the scenario we suggest best eliminates the need for such interpretative glosses while more accurately representing the original intent of the text.
Another text hard to fit into the end of time scenario is that concerning the abomination of desolation (24:15). Although the exact meaning has aroused much disagreement (see the discussion of that section), most revolve in part or whole around the events of the siege of Jerusalem. A satisfactory projection of the text into the distant future is very hard to accomplish. Perhaps the best approach to doing so (and in our judgment it still falls short because there is nothing in the text to hinge it on) is that of Wolfgag Trilling: if an act of horrible sacrilege is carried out by a future king “but on a larger scale and in a way which is significant for all [Page 31] nations--this will be a clear sign of the last days.” Although it is easy to imagine events in the history of modern nations (the “killing fields” of Cambodia) and ethnic groups (the Holocaust inflicted upon World War Two Jews), one finds it hard to imagine a parallel outrage that would inflict the entire human community of nations and peoples.
There are two possible unstated assumptions that would explain this phenomena of a thesis undermined by texts within the passage. The first is that Jesus erred in that He thought the world end and the fall of Jerusalem would be simultaneous. If true this would have the most profound consequences for the understanding of Jesus’ nature: not only did He make a fundamental error, it was proved to be such within the lifetime of His disciples.
Although it may be possible to erect an end of world interpretation of the entire chapter that delinks that event from the clear references to the fall of Jerusalem, the theological assumptions of much of modern scholarship in behalf of a fallible Jesus makes it unlikely to be very widely adopted. Hence it is not surprising find that many see no difficulty in the fall of Jerusalem being discussed by Jesus as part of or chronologically close to the end of the world or age.
The second possibility to explain the Jerusalem references in an end-time text is that Matthew edited the passage in a direction not part of Jesus’ original discourse. Although an extensive editorializing by Matthew is often assumed or asserted by modern commentators, the current text provides a powerful argument in the opposite direction. Since it is usually thought by such individuals that Matthew was written after the fall of Jerusalem, why would he--if he worked from the assumption that it was appropriate to engage in such massive reworking--not eliminate anything hinting at erroneous prophecy? Since it was clear that the world had not ended, its exclusion would have been called for. The lack of doing so argues that Matthew was functioning under a major sense of editorial responsibility for maintaining loyalty to the original intent, if not always the literal words, of Jesus.
Alternate Scenario Three:
The Two Themes are Jumbled Together
This approach can take one of four forms. One might be called the jigsaw approach: verses are believed scattered about through the chapter referring to one of the events, interspersed with no apparent rhyme or reason with verses referring to the other topic. The nineteenth century commentator Albert Barnes, for example, speaks of how Jesus “intermingl[es] the descriptions of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the end of the world; so that it is sometimes difficult to tell to what particular subject his remarks apply.”
The problem with this approach is that it makes exegesis virtually impossible: while one is “certain” that the subject matter is on one theme in a certain verse, the next one arbitrarily and with no apparent logic shifts to another, the third and fourth back to the original theme, the fifth jerks out to the other subject etc. It is hard to imagine any rational person of any age speaking in such terms, much less Jesus.
The difficulty of ever understanding the true intent of the text is also a major criticism of the simultaneous double reference approach. In this interpretation, in some verses (or sections) short term history is under discussion while the ultimate parousia is the secondary theme because the same rhetoric fits both. In other sections the long term, ultimate fate of the world is the theme with the secondary reference being to the fall of Jerusalem. To further complicate exegesis, the dominant/subsidiary emphases sometimes entirely disappear and only one of the two themes is discussed.
A third type of analysis divides the text into larger units and then argues that the discussion drifts shifts from one subject to another depending upon which section one is reading. Robert E. Obach and Albert Kirk, for example, find in Matthew 24 the end of the world discussed in verses 4-14, verses 15-22 describing the fall of Jerusalem, and verses 23-31 describing “the coming of the Son of Man in glory.” Although they distinguish the latter section from the theme of the first, conceptually they would seem identical and he concedes an overlap. Verses 32-36 are presented as a parable that could be discussing either the fall of Jerusalem on [Page 33] the coming in glory. Verses 37-41 refer to the return of Jesus. Finally, verses 42-44 allude to the coming of Jesus, a subject these commentators distinguish from the end of the age/world.
Myron S. Augsburger reconstructs the interspersed sections this way: the end of the world (24:3-14); the fall of Jerusalem (24:15-35); preparedness for the second coming of Christ (24:36-44). Leon Morris also identifies 24:15-28 as referring to the fall of Jerusalem and 24:36-44 to the final end. The first section leaves him perplexed: he sees value in the pre-70 interpretation, but also sees how at least parts could apply to the terminal end.
Shifting from Matthew to a Markian context, we might examine Ralph Martin’s reconstruction--which has elements of the large section and jigsaw approaches. To him Mark 13:5-13 refer to “the immediate situation and experience of the apostolic church,” 13:14-23 mores on to the period leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which leads in 13:24-27 to “a more distant focus” that takes one to the final end. In 13:28-31 the narrative “keep[s] switching” from one of these periods to another, as does the final section of 13:32-37.
In the context of Luke, one commentator sees four broad sections; verses 5-24 refer to the fate of the temple, 25-28 to refer to the second coming, verses 29-32 concerning being ready for the fall of Jerusalem, and 34-36 of similar preparedness for the ultimate end.
But why should the text jump from one theme to another--and back again--in these or any other scenario? Assuming that the text divisions are long enough, it could be that Jesus has laid out one point at adequate length and desires to turn to another topic that He regards as needing to be stressed. The smaller the text divisions, however, the less likely is this possibility.
The other possibility is that the chapter is an artificial construct, consisting of ideas, thoughts, and statements delivered by Jesus upon various occasions and put in the current form by the compiler of the book. Hence any confusion would be Matthew’s fault, not that of Jesus. Those who hold to any kind of “high” doctrine of inspiration will not be comfortable with such an approach. Even those not embracing such a conviction, might well find such a cut-and-paste reading of Matthew’s role difficult to accept as well: Are we really to believe that Jesus never [Page 34] discussed at length these very subjects? And if He did, would not the broad outlines be likely to be retained in the memory of His listeners? In short, it would be inherently more probable that Matthew worked with large segments of thought or text rather than the equivalent of isolated verses. Hence although jumping back and forth from one theme to another might occur, the greater the number proposed, the less likely is the reconstruction.
Nor is it implausible that all of this discussion originally came from one sermon. It is identified as occurring in the last days of Jesus’ life and the events of those days were so traumatic that they must have deeply scarred themselves upon the memory of the apostles. However vague their memories may have been concerning earlier events of the ministry, in this section they would have been intense and lasting. (We lay aside as a separate subject the matter of the nature and extent of the inspiration they possessed. The “stronger” the concept one embraces, the more likely a reliable presentation by Matthew.)
A fourth view--one that attempts to bridge the chasm between contemporary and a much latter application of the text--is that of continuous and repeated fulfillment. In this version, the text describes events that began to be fulfilled prior to the fall of Jerusalem, but which are characteristic of the entire span of history till the return of Christ. This approach suffers from the burden of the various Jerusalem-specific references found in the text. Jesus was quite capable of laying down broad general principles that would be true wherever and whenever His disciples might be (Matthew 5-7, for example). The Jerusalem specificity makes little sense if a broader point was in mind, especially since it could have easily been made without becoming wrapped up in this type of local reference.
One of the reasons the various mixed-frame-of-reference theories is difficult for many religious conservatives to accept--though far from all--lies in the difficulty of reconciling it with a belief that God had any meaningful control over the type of record that Mark and the others composed. Would God leave it so jumbled? Even from a more liberal perspective in which inspiration is viewed as the impact on the individual reading the text rather than as a supernatural guidance on the writer to [Page 35] assure its accuracy and reliability, the admixture is odd and unexpected: this view assumes that the writers freely redid the materials they had available to make it fit their own private religious agenda. If so, why then did they not clarify the subjects into a more coherent whole?
Some commentators have attempted to place a positive spin on the intermixture theory and, intentionally or not, make it more-or-less consistent with one or other of the liberal/conservative approaches. One commentator, for example, argues that, “In its application to the lives of the hearers each event taught a similar truth, and conveyed a similar warning; and therefore a clearly cut distinction between them was as little needed as an exact statement of date.” Others speak in terms of the events connected with the fall of Jerusalem being so overwhelming that they are the only things in human experience anywhere near comparable to the final end and therefore it is not inappropriate that the two be blended together. Yet others speak of “a prophetic foreshortening which links essentially similar and related events to each other.” All this may be true, but if a sound exegesis allows us to avoid having the problem in the first place--and it is my contention it does--that would seem to be the far sounder approach to take.
R. T. France, Divine Government: God’s Kingship in the Gospel of Mark (London: SPCK, 1990), 78-79 traces in detail the linguistic linkage that ties together the parallel verses in Mark. Also see his diagram on page 128.
Two commentaries who come close to such an approach are John Drury and Edwin Rice. John Drury, The Gospel of Luke, in the J. B. Phillips New Testament Commentaries series (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc., 1973), 166-167, argues that Jerusalem references are blended in order to keep the apocalyptic rhetoric under control. Edwin W. Rice, Rice, Commentary on the Gospel According to Luke, Sixth Edition (Philadelphia: Union Press, 1900), 244, sees the second coming as the primary theme but concedes that a secondary reference in one or more places may be to the destruction of Jerusalem as well.
For example, Robert J. Dean, Luke, Volume 17 of the Layman’s Bible Book Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1983), 110-111; David L. Tiede, Luke, in the Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament series (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), 302-302; and Michael, Wilcock, The Saviour of the World: The Message of Luke’s Gospel, in The Bible Speaks Today series (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979), 163-164.
Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Volume 8 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library/Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 996, argues that “Luke 17 is more uniformly apocalyptic than Luke 21--i.e., no human agency appears here (in contrast to the besieging armies of 21:20” and, we might add, as is also true in the first thirty-three verses of Matthew 24.
Hence Craig A. Evans wonders out loud, “Exactly why there is a prohibition against going into one’s house is not clear. (Would it be any safer outside?)” [Craig A. Evans, Luke, in the New International Biblical Commentary series (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 262. Others point out that the most natural implication would be that one would avoid going into the house because one “should flee at once.” On the other hand “any thought of fleeing is, of course, out of [Page 37] the question” in a second coming context. (William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke, in the New Testament Commentary series [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1978], 808).
Evans, 262, deals with the problem as interpreting it “figuratively in the sense of the need to be mentally and spiritually prepared.” Hendriksen, 808, notes the difficulty, and interprets it to mean that one must “wholehearted[ly] surrender to Him and His word. Such complete devotion should be placed above all worldly interests.” As yet another commentator puts it, one must take “flight from worldly goods” in order to be prepared for Jesus’ return (Wilfrid J. Harrington, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke [Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1967], 211).
For related figurative or symbolic explanations of an instruction that in Matthew seems intended to be taken quite literally, see Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), 445; Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke, Fourth Edition, in the International Critical Commentary series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark: 1901), 409; Ray Summers, Commentary on Luke: Jesus, the Universal Savior (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1972), 204. At much greater length Alois Stoger attempts to provide a rationale but not as effectively as the much shorter references in the above works. See his The Gospel According to St. Luke, translated by Benen Fahy ([n.p.]: Herder and Herder, Inc., 1969; new edition, New York: Crossroad, 1981), 77-78.
Samuel G. Dawson, “Matthew 24-25,” Chapter 8 of his Denominational Doctrines: Explained, Examined, Exposed ([N.p.]: .Gospel Themes Press [Electronic book], 1990), [n.p.], argues this point at length. The author kindly provided a copy of the chapter for my usage. In that version it lacks specific page numbers.
On the contrast between “ample warnings” in the first half of the chapter and the tranquillity of the pre-return era, also see David E. Garland, Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel, in the Reading the New Testament series (New York: Crossroad, 1993), 240.
For a summary of older views of divisions within the text of Mark in particular see Joseph A. Alexander, The Gospel according to Mark (New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Company, 1858; 1874 reprint), 342-344.
William G. Thompson, Matthew’s Story: Good News for Uncertain Times (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1989), 124.
Ibid., 125; cf. 123.
 Herman J. Waetjen, The Origin and Destiny of Humanness: An Interpretation of the Gospel According to Matthew (San Rafael, California: Crystal Press for Omega Books, 1976). In his view 24:4-14 involves a “summary warning not to be led astray” (227), while events related to the destruction of the Temple occupy 24:15-28. (227-228). 24:29-31 describe the sign that the parousia and end have arrived, verses 32-36 discuss the “when” of those events” and verses 37-25:46 present “six analogies” depicting “the style of life that the eschatological reality demands.” (230).
J. Enoch Powell, The Evolution of the Gospel: A New Translation of the First Gospel with Commentary and Introductory Essay (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 185.
A. Irvine Robertson, Lessons on the Gospel of St. Mark (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1898), 115. A division at this point is implied by Christopher Bryan, A Preface to Mark: Notes on the Gospel in Its Literary and Cultural Settings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 111.
H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company,1936; 1976 reprint), 469-470.
Donald Senior, The Gospel of Matthew, in the Interpreting Biblical Texts series (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1997) speaks of two basic issues being discussed: “the fate of the temple” and “the disciples’ double question . . . about the end time and the stance the disciple is to take in the face of it” (160). Verses 30-35 are explicitly described as the Son of Man coming “in triumph at the end of history” (161). Senior quickly adds that this date is unknowable and cites verses 36-44 (161). Since two issues are discussed, this would seem to require that verses 3-28 be concerning the fall of Jerusalem, especially when no alternate view is presented by the author.
[Page 40] Evans, 310; Wilfrid J. Harrington, Luke, 237; Stoger, 158-159; Tiede, 355, 357; Darrell L. Bock, Luke, in the IVP New Testament Commentary series (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 334; cf 332; Robert J. Karris, Invitation to Luke: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke with Complete Text from the Jerusalem Bible (Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1977), 238; C. C. Martindale, The Gospel according to Saint Luke, in the Stonyhurst Scripture Manuals series (London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1957), 170.
John J. Owen, A Commentary, Critical, Expository and Practical on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (New York: Charles Scriber & Company, 1860; 1866 printing), 307, 316. For an extended discussion see pages 327-328.
For example, C. VanderWaal, 49, 51; A. Bruce Curry, Jr., Jesus and His Cause, Revised Edition (New York: Association Press, 1926), 96; Ezra P. Gould, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark, in the International Critical Commentary series (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896; 1905 reprinting), 241(cf, 240, which makes plain that the analysis goes through verse 37); Larry W. Hurtado, Mark, in the Good News Commentary series (San Francisco, California: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1983), 200; Harold Riley, The First Gospel (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1992), 41.
[Pager 41] Ched Myers et al., “Say to This Mountain:” Mark’s Story of Discipleship, edited by Karen Lattea (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1996), 171, 174, implies this view. The same assumption is the basis of the strictly first century events scenario found in Burton L. Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 315-317.
Myers, Mountain, 174; cf. Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1988), 343.
Henry Cowles, Matthew and Mark (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1881), 209, argues that the alignment of the tragedy and triumph existed in the apostles’ mind, but that Jesus responds to both of the questions as if they are distinct.
Dawson, [n.p.]. He points to Matthew 16:21-22, Matthew 20:20-22, and Luke 18:31-34, 19:11.
Dawson, [n.p.], points to John 14:1-3, 16:16-18, John 20:9; Luke 24:21ff.; Acts 1:6ff, to emphasize that even after the resurrection and their acceptance of its reality that the apostles did not have any concept of any additional “return” at a later date.
Dawson, [n.p.], notes that he originally took the parables as ones of Divine judgment. As he originally saw it, what Jesus does in the formal judgment day scene is to apply that principle of judgment to the final personal reckoning. Now he believes that scene is a reference to the fall of Jerusalem as well. Beyond a reference to the fact that the parables’ admonition to “watchfulness” alluded to being prepared for the fall of the city, he presents no exegesis of the individual parables in this context.
The same difficulty accompanies describing the story of Lazarus in Hades (Luke 16:19-31). It is further complicated by the fact that a person’s specific name (“Lazarus”) is attached to the poor man, a phenomena totally without parallel in the parables. Whatever the teaching may be described as, “parable” is certainly an extremely inappropriate one.
Dawson, [n.p.]. He utilizes a different translation but one that makes the same point. Dawson argues that the baptism of fire threatened by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:10-12 also refers to the destruction of Jerusalem rather than to an eternal destiny after some yet future judgment.
Jack D. Kingsbury, Matthew, Second Edition/Revised and Enlarged, in the Proclamation Commentaries series (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1986), 18, 55, 58. On the other hand he states that 24:8 refers to the “present age” (94), 24:9 was occurring in the first century (page 22), and 24:14 refers to the “ministry to the nations of the post-Easter church” (page 31; cf. 44, 99).
[Page 43] Anthony J. Saldarini, Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 53. Indeed, he lumps together chapters 24 and 25 as jointly discussing that topic (78, 106). He considers the “end of the world” to also be under discussion in 24:7 (80) and 24:9 (80). He concedes, however, that 24:1-2 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem (41). Since Jesus’ followers were observing the Sabbath day journey law (24:20; 126), a first century context is required there as well.
David C. Sim, Apocalyptic Eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 160, and Wolfgang Trilling, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, volume 2, translated by Kevin Smyth, in the series New Testament for Spiritual Reading (New York: Crossroad, 1969 [Britain]; 1981 [United States]), 184.
John P. Meier, The Vision of Matthew: Christ, Church, and Morality in the First Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1979, 1991), 276, 286, 291; Francis J. Moloney, The Living Voice of the Gospel: The Gospels Today (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1986), 134; and Beda Rigaux, The Testimony of St. Matthew, translated by Paul J. Oligny (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1968), 89-90. Cf. William H. Barnwell, Our Story according to St. Mark (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Winston Press, 1982), 233.
Henry W. Frost, Matthew Twenty-Four and the Revelation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1924), 15-16; John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 24-28 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), 24-64; J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ: A Study of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 398, and [Page 44] Howard F. Vos, Mark: A Study Guide Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 111-116. A more moderate premillenial approach is that of John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), who concedes that verses 4-14 describe events that recur until near the second coming (184). In contrast, verses 15-25 shifts to specific warning signs of the parousia (185) and verses 26-31 describe the actual second coming (189).
MacArthur, Jr., 63-64.
Wolfgang Trilling, 196.
Cf. Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, in the series Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993), 274, 281.
Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, one volume edition. (reprint, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1963), page 1133. For a critique of this extreme approach see Owen, 307.
H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel according to Luke (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, 1940; 1974 reprint), for example, argues that verses 10-11 (395) and 25-26 (400) have a dual application to both Jerusalem and the final end. Verse 12 refers to the pre-A.D. 70 period exclusively (295) as does “much” (402; our emphasis) of the chapter.
[Page 45] For a defense of this approach from the standpoint of the gospel of Matthew see Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, Third Edition (Boston: Lee and Shepard, Publishers, 1880), 161-162. Alford’s Greek Testament (also utilized in the research for this book) is designed primarily for those knowledgeable in Greek. This volume includes much of the same material (New Testament, page 2) but with supplemental comments and revisions.
Robert E. Obach and Albert Kirk, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 242..
Myron S. Augsburger, Matthew, in The Communicator’s Commentary series (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1982), 269.
Ibid. He explicitly identifies 24:15-28 (271), by implication, 24:29-31 (272-273); in regard to 24:32-35, he states that this “may” be about that topic as well (274).
Leon Morris, The Gospel of Matthew, in the Pillar commentary series (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992), 603.
In discussing “all these things,” in verse 8, Morris, 598.
Mark, in the Knox Preaching Guides series (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), 76. Another believer in a “jumbled” scenario in Mark is I. H. Marshall, St. Mark, in the Scripture Union Bible Study Books series (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), 49, and C. Leslie Mitton (adopting the chronology of Dr. Vincent Taylor), The Gospel According to St. Mark, in the Epworth Preacher’s Commentaries series (London: Epworth Press, 1957), 101.
Frederick Coutts, Editor, The Four Gospels, in The Armoury Commentary series (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973), 90. Also available in a U. S. edition under the title Living in the Word: A Devotional Commentary on the Four Gospels (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1974).
[Page 47] Robert H. Smith, Matthew, in the Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament series (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1989), 284-285, in regard to 24:5-28. Of phenomena described through verse 35 in general (289). The remainder of the chapter he sees as describing not the external warning signs but the “happy times” and “normal occupations” being engaged in prior to the return (290). Frederick D. Brunner, Matthew, Volume 2: The Churchbook, Matthew 13-28 (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1990), is convinced that though the entire chapter describes the end times, verses 15-28 are intended to picture both that event and the fall of Jerusalem (858).
I. H. Marshall, 49.