PMT 2014-138 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
As I argued in the two preceding postings, Matt 24:1-34 presents Christ’s great prophecy against the temple. In that prophecy, known as the Olivet Discourse, he denounces the temple and warns of its soon-coming destruction. I noted that the Discourse deals with AD 70 as well as the end of history, with the line of demarcation drawn at Matt 24:34–36.
Nevertheless, a Second Advent intrusion appears in the near-term prophecy. Though I previously held that Matt 24:27 spoke of his judgment-coming in AD 70, I have come to realize I was mistaken. Read carefully in its context, it refers to the Second Advent. That statement reads: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
How can this be? How can Jesus give a sustained focus on AD 70, then 2/3 of the way through it, speak of the Second Advent? I do not believe the dispensationalists have the answer in declaring that the entirety of Matt 24–34 speak of the future Rapture of the church and the consequent great tribulation, then the Second Advent. Matt 24:34 and the other issues I dealt with in the preceding articles forbid such.
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Nor are the amillennialists correct when most of them argue that Christ mixes up AD 70 and Second Advent prophecies and it is up to us to sort them out. Such a hodge-podge approach to this well structured Discourse is simply not possible.
How then can I change my previous view and hold that Matt 24:27 actually does speak of the Second Advent? Actually it is quite easy, and most reasonable. And it was staring me in the face even while I held to my previous position. The context actually demands this! Let me explain.
In Matt 24:24–26 Jesus warns his disciples of “false Christs and false prophets” who “will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” He declares: “”Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.” He is about to die and return to the Father in heaven; he will no longer physically be on earth.
This warning was quite necessary in those days. For as we see in Josephus, many men attempted to present themselves as prophets and messiahs. Josephus records for us the following incidents that occur before the outbreak of the Jewish War with Rome.
“There was also another body of wicked men gotten together, not so impure in their actions, but more wicked in their intentions, who laid waste the happy state of the city [Jerusalem] no less than did these murderers. These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there shew them the signal of liberty.” (J.W. 2:13:4 §258–59)]
“There was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place.” (J.W. 2:13:5 §261–62)
A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get up upon the temple, and there should received miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now, there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose upon the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God. (J.W. 6:5:2 §285–86)
The Lord is here cautioning his disciples: “If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them” (Matt 24:26). We must recall Josephus’ report in Jewish Wars (2:13:5 §261–62) cited above, that recorded an episode in which an Egyptian false prophet arose in the wilderness claiming a great deliverance.
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Jesus dismisses such by stating that when he actually physically return to the earth, it will be an unmistakable event: “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt 24:27). The “for” (gar) here shows that he is giving the reason why his disciples should not think he is off in some wilderness or in an inner room somewhere. When he does return it will be as visible and dramatic as lightning flashing.
So again, we see how the prophecies of Matthew 24 find fulfillment in the first century. In that these prophecies are for that era (Matt 24:34), why should we opt for a futurist approach to the matter?