Introduction – Victorious Eschatology
In tonight’s session we are going to look at a historical view of Bible prophecy in regards to the End Times. One of the most foundational principles of Bible interpretation is to understand the historical context of the Scripture we are reading and interpreting. Because Scripture was written to specific situations, and people, at a specific time for a specific purpose of God.
For example in 1Timothy 2, Paul gives instructions to Timothy about women in the context of their culture in Ephesus. Paul gives instructions for women not to teach, not be adorned with braided hair and fine clothes, and not hold a place of authority over a man.
Whole movements in the Body of Christ have misused this Scripture and not included women in ministry and the life of the church. Many women have been wounded by this interpretation, and the Body of Christ has lost out on all of the special gifting that women have carried.
Paul wrote these things in the context of the Ephesian culture, which was the center of the Temple of Artemis. In Ephesus, the women lead the worship in temple prostitution, and adorned themselves glamorously. They also had authority over men and the enemy used that authority to corrupt the true worship of God in the Ephesian church. Paul was bringing balance to a situation. We need to remember that Paul also wrote to Nympha who had a church in her house. He also mentions Junias as an apostle for Christ. Paul also mentions other women as being fellow workers in the gospel. Paul also worked with Priscilla and Aquila in ministry.
Having mentioned context and history, tonight we will breakdown Matthew 24 and look at what Jesus said in light of what really happened in history after Jesus spoke this to the disciples. Most of us are familiar with this passage and connect it to a Great Tribulation to come at the End of the World. It is important to recognize, that what we believe about the future determines how we live our lives today, and how we minister to others.
Lastly, the view I am presenting tonight is most prominent view of Matthew 24 in the whole history of the church. Tonight time does not permit a detailed exposition of End Times, but I suggest 4 resources for you to explore. Raptureless, Jonathan Welton, Victorious Eschatology, Harold Eberle and Martin Trench, The Destruction of Jerusalem, George Peter Holford, The Millennium, Loraine Boettner, Josephus. All of these resources are in PDF and found easily by a Google search. Prominent scholars that have endorsed this view are Esuebius, John Wesley, John Chrysostom, Charles Spurgeon, John Lightfoot, and Thomas Newton, Gary Demar, RC Sproul.
a) To understand Jesus’ answer we need to consider that Jesus just condemned the whole religious system of the Jewish nation, and declared the judgment of God on Jerusalem for rejecting Him as Messiah. Let’s look at Matthew 23:32-39.
b) The disciples pointed Jesus’ attention to the Temple because they had an expectation that the Messianic Kingdom would realized thru Jesus.
c) Jesus tells them, that the Temple would be literally torn down. This was a scandalous saying to an observant Jew as the disciples were. First God dwelt among His people at the Temple. The system of sacrifice for the covering of sin was there. The feasts and festivals were there. The Law was kept at the Temple. The priesthood was the conduit of the expression of faith in that culture. To condemn the Temple was unthinkable. Their whole belief system was challenged by what Jesus just told them.
Matthew 24: 3
a) The disciples as a series of questions.
b) When will the destruction of Temple happen?
c) What will be the sign of your coming? – It is very important to note that the disciples are not implying the Return of Jesus. At this point they did even have a grip on the cross or the resurrection of Jesus. John 12 thru 18 clearly shows us the mindset of the disciples in regards to this. They were referring to Jesus coming to rule as a Davidic King. He can’t be coming back if they don’t even know He is going. “Sign” is important because they are asking about an event that gives them evidence of Him coming to rule in power and authority.
d) The end of the age – The age of Temple worship in light of what Jesus just said about the Temple being destroyed in their generation/lifetimes.
a) Here is a short list of false messiahs who claimed to have power to remove the Romans and restore Israel.
b) Dositheus a Samaritan who claimed to be the messiah who Moses prophesied. 1 year after Jesus
c) Theudas – a false messiah who told the people he would deliver them at the Jordan River and at his command the Lord would divide it. All of the people who came to him were put to the sword by Cuspius Fadus.
d) Felix – AD 55 – a false messiah who gathered people on the Mount of Olives and declared that the Lord would deliver them and Felix’ command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall and they would wipe out the Romans. 400 of them died. Felix escaped.
e) There are many others in the same time frame, but I do not have time to expound them all tonight.
a) Rumors of wars –
b) 3 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, a war broke out between Herod and Aretus the king of Arabia.
c) Jews in Seleucia fought Greeks and Syrians because there was a pestilence in Babylon from where they fled and brought it there.
d) Caligula attempted to place his statue in Jerusalem at the Temple, and rumors of war spread, so that they did not even plant their land.
e) There are so many records of wars and rumors of wars in this time between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the fall of Jerusalem; I don’t have time to mention them all.
f) Jesus said this in the time of the PAX ROMANA. For Jesus to mention war and rumors of wars would really be a sign of His coming to judge the land.
a) The record of earthquakes in this time was many. Seneca wrote: “How often have cities in Asia, how often in Achaia, been laid low by a single shock of earthquake! How many towns in Syria, how many in Macedonia, have been swallowed up! How often has this kind of devastation laid Cyprus in ruins! How often has Paphos collapsed! Not infrequently are tidings brought to us of utter destruction of entire cities.”
b) Many earthquakes are mentioned in the New Testament, including at Jesus death (see Matt. 27:51-52) and again at His resurrection (see Matt. 28:2). Earthquakes also happened when the building was shaken in Acts 4:31 and when Paul and Silas were freed from prison in Philippi (see Acts 16:26).
c) Famines – The record of famines at this time in Judea was extensive. Actually we see mention of them in Acts 11:28-30 and in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3.
a) At this time the Christian church was persecuted ruthlessly by the Jews. Stephen was stoned to death. Peter and John were imprisoned, Paul was beaten, and Nero persecuted the Christians in Rome and put to death Paul and Peter.
b) Saul in Acts, before he was converted was leading a persecution to imprison Christians,
c) The book of 1 Peter was written to Christians who were being persecuted in Asia Minor.
d) The book of Galatians and Hebrews were written to those Christians who about to depart from the faith because their love of Jesus was growing cold.
a) Gospel will be preached to whole world. Greek word is not Cosmos. It is OIKOUMENE – The portion of the world inhabited by Greeks, as opposed to barbarian lands. The civilized world to the extents of the Roman Empire.
b) Paul says the he preached the gospel to the whole world – same word –
a) History does not record any that any Christians perished in the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. The whole Christian community in Jerusalem fled to Pella and escaped the Roman siege.
b) The abomination was the Roman Army with the ensign of the Eagle/Vulture surrounding the holy city.
c) John Levi and Simon – lead 2 warring factions for control of Jerusalem, defiled the Temple and city with bloodshed, and Simon put to death the High Priest.
d) Great Tribulation – has never before occurred or ever will. In the scope of bloodshed, 2 million Jews died by famine or sword by the Romans or John Levi and Simon. In scope this slaughter was worse than any slaughter in recorded history, even until today. Only 95,000 of the whole Jewish race survived, and were sold for no money. Fulfilling Deuteronomy 28.
Let’s skip to Matthew 24:28. Jesus repeats the subject of the former verses and prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem again to the disciples. However this in these verses He uses apocalyptic language common to the Old Testament and to them in regards to the judgments of God.
a) The Roman ensign was an eagle/vulture – Greek AETOS – Eagle – Note that Jesus now begins to use prophetic language or apocalyptic language.
a) “The sun darkened and the moon will not give its light and stars will fall from the sky.” This is a figure of speech and not to be taken literally. To a first century Jew, this was the type of language of the OT prophets when they prophesied judgment on governing authorities.
b) Let’s look at several OT passages that described judgment in the same type of language. Ezekiel 32:7-8, Isaiah 34:4-5, Isaiah 13:10, Amos 8:9, and Habakkuk 3
c) These countries were destroyed as prophesied. It is important to understand that prophetic language often used picture images or type and shadows to communicate God’s truth. It is what Proverbs call dark sayings and parables.
d) In Joseph’s dream in Genesis, God gave Joseph the same symbols that represent authority. Sun, moon and stars.
e) Immediately after that tribulation, the Jewish religious system that ruled the culture fell, and never exercised authority over Judaism ever again.
a) Sign of the Son of Man in the sky – Josephus documented seven signs in detail. The parallel passage here is Luke 21:11.” Fearful sights and great signs from heaven.”
b) A meteor in the shape of a sword hung over Jerusalem for 12 months of which he eye witnessed.
c) On the eighth month of Zanthicus, before the feast of unleavened bread, a light shined around the altar as bright as the light of day for about ½ hour.
d) At Passover, before the destruction of Jerusalem a heifer gave birth to a lamb on its way to sacrificial altar. Josephus documents this in detail. This is the same season in which our Lord became the one sacrifice.
e) In the night, a bronze gate to the Temple that required 20 men to close was blown wide open.
f) After a Passover feast, before the setting of the sun, chariots and armed men were seen in the air, passing around Jerusalem.
g) At Pentecost that same year, the priests in the Temple heard murmuring that eventually came to loud voices that said, “let us depart from here”.
h) Josephus says the most fearful sign, was a prophet from the lower class, Ananus, during the feast of tabernacles before the destruction of Jerusalem, declared all thru the city, “a voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jersusalem, a voice against bridegrooms and brides, a voice against the whole people.” This man was scourged, but showed no sign of fear or pain, he prophesied this over and over, and became casualty in the siege from a Roman war engine, as he prophesied his own death.
i) Tribes of the land – not earth – Greek word is GE – not Cosmos – The tribes of the land where the tribes of Israel, not the globe.
j) Again the reference to Jesus coming on the clouds is reference to Him coming in Judgment against the nation and the religious system.
Jesus will return in bodily form at the second coming. This is very clearly taught in Scripture. However we need to be intellectually honest and interpret Matthew 24 in the context of the culture and the disciple’s questions to Jesus.
The good news is that the great tribulation has happened as Jesus accurately prophesied. The generations of Christians after this have to look forward to the great mission of the church in preaching the gospel, disciplining nations, and preparing a planet to receive Jesus at His second coming. This is the most glorious time in salvation history, because the church is not facing a Left Behind scenario, but a momentum of revival that ushers in the return of Jesus.