PMW 2018-054 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
The Olivet Discourse is a fascinating eschatological discourse given by the Lord to his disciples. It is the largest discourse of Christ recorded in Matthew (Matt. 24:4–25:46), the only one given over to issues beyond the temporal boundaries of Matthew’s storyline (which ends shortly after Christ’s resurrection, Matt. 28:1–7), and is his last (therefore, climactic) discourse in Matthew (Matt. 26:1). Hence, for Matthew it is clearly significant for his theological point (which I will be discussing in a new book I am working on, see note at the end of this article).
The key to understanding the first portion of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:4–35) is to recognize its local, first-century focus. We see this from several angles: (1) The Discourse is prompted by Jesus’s declaration of the approaching destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2), which we know happened in AD 70. (2) It is clearly a local event, for the tribulation surrounding it can be escaped by fleeing from Judea (Matt. 24:16). And (3) it will happen to the first-century generation of Jesus and his disciples (Matt. 24:34), the same generation in which the Pharisees resisted Christ’s earthly ministry (Matt. 23:36; cf. vv. 29–35). I have dealt abundantly with the Olivet Discourse in other blog articles.
However, some Christians become confused because of Matthew 24:31. This text seems to look beyond the first-century events associated with the temple’s collapse. That text reads:
“And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
But a close consideration of this text will shows that it fits beautifully within a first-century understanding of Christ’s ministry and the progress of redemptive history. Let us see how this is so.
Olivet Discourse Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)
Verse-by-verse analysis of Christ’s teaching on Jerusalem’s destruction in Matt 24. Show the great tribulation is past, having occurred in AD 70.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
The statement regarding the great trumpet and angelic gathering should not be interpreted in a pedantic, literalistic fashion. Rather, it symbolically announces the arrival of the ultimate Jubilee Year. With the fulfilling of the old covenant in Christ’s person and work, the temple is no longer relevant and will soon pass away (Heb. 8:13; cp. John 4:23).
That is, because of the completion of Christ’s redemptive work, man’s ultimate debt is forgiven: his sin debt to God. Because “it is finished” (John 19:30), the “day of salvation” has come and now the good news will spread to the nations. Let me explain the Jubilee typology in this article, then show in the next how it serves as Jesus’ backdrop as he teaches his Jewish (old covenant) disciples.
The Jubilee Year in the Old Covenant
In the Old Testament, the sabbath year was a God-ordained year of rest for the land, which was to occur every seventh year:
Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, “When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. . . . During the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.” (Lev 25:2, 4)
Built on this sabbath year of rest was the Jubilee Year. This Jubilee was the year that followed after seven consecutive sabbath years. That is, the Jubilee occurs after the passing of seven sevens, or after forty-nine years. Under this law every fiftieth year was to culminate all of the sabbatical tokens of rest. In the Year of Jubilee, all of Israel was to experience release from bondage and debt:
You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field. On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property. If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend, or buy from your friend’s hand, you shall not wrong one another. (Lev 25:10–14)
The typology of redemption contained in the Jubilee legislation lent it a beautiful prophetic utility. Isaiah employs Jubilee imagery to prophesy of the coming ultimate Jubilee:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God. (Isa. 61:1–2)
Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (by Ken Gentry)
Technical studies on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, the great tribulation, Paul’s Man of Sin, and John’s Revelation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Since the full redemption typified in the Jubilee comes through the work of Jesus Christ, he introduces its fulfillment in his ministry. He does this in the synagogue in Nazareth when he preaches from the Isaiah 61 passage stated above:
And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17–21)
The Jubilee Year in the Olivet Discourse
Now back to Matthew 24:31. When Jesus employs imagery drawn from the Year of Jubilee legislation in Leviticus 25, he is speaking of the final stage of redemption which he brings to pass. This redemptive culmination begins in his earthly ministry, as we may surmise from such passages as Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Thus, Christ’s ministry introduces “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:19), “the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:6), which the righteous of the Old Testament longed to see (Matt 13:17).
This is why Jesus mentions the sounding of the “trumpet” in Matthew 24:31. It was the means for announcing the Jubilee, for we read in Leviticus 25:9: “You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land.” Thus, according to the imagery of Matthew 24:31, when the Temple order collapses Christ’s “angels” will go forth into all nations joyfully trumpeting the gospel of salvific liberation: “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” The strong word of God may be expressed as a “voice like a trumpet” (Isa 27:13; 58:1; Jer 6:17; Rev 1:10; 4:1).
The word for “angel” here is aggelos in the Greek. It can be translated “messengers,” signifying human messengers, as in Matthew 11:10 and several other places in the New Testament (e.g., Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52). Here in Matthew 24:31, it does not seem to refer to the supernatural heavenly beings. Rather the idea here is that those who know Christ as Savior will go forth into all the earth proclaiming the message of full salvation, the removal of man’s sin debt to God.
But even if we interpret this as a reference to angels, it could then refer “to the supernatural power which lies behind such preaching,” as R. T. France argues. Upon this interpretation it would teach that the angels of God attend the faithful proclamation of the gospel message. The Scriptures teach that God’s angels are interested in and involved with his saving work among men (Luke 12:8–9; 15:10; Acts 8:26; 10:3–6, 22; 1 Pet 1:12; Rev 14:6).
But now what about the gathering of the elect from one end of the sky to the other? This will be my topic in the next article.
JESUS, MATTHEW, AND OLIVET
I am currently researching a commentary on Matthew 21–25, the literary context of the Olivet Discourse from Matthew’s perspective. My research will demonstrate that Matthew’s presentation demands that the Olivet Discourse refer to AD 70 (Matt. 24:3–35) as an event that anticipates the Final Judgment at the Second Advent (Matt. 24:36–25:46). This will explode the myth that Jesus was a Jewish sage focusing only on Israel. The commentary will be about 250 pages in length.
If you would like to support me in my research, I invite you to consider giving a tax-deductible contribution to my research and writing ministry: GoodBirth Ministries. Your help is much appreciated!