PMW 2019-003 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is the second in a four-part series on the disciples’ confusion regarding Jesus’ prophecy of the temple’s destruction in Matt. 24:2. In Matt. 24:3 they ask privately: “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” It is important that we recognize that Jesus untangles their confused thoughts in the Olivet Discourse that follows. What the disciples have joined together, the Son of Man has separated, you might say.
In my forthcoming commentary on Matt. 21–25 and very briefly in this blog series, I will be explaining Jesus’ resolution to the disciples’ confusion. I will be showing that the disciples assume the destruction of the temple will occur at the end of history, the end of the age when the Final Judgment is to occur (of which he had taught them earlier, Matt. 13:39–43, 47–50). Though they claim to understand Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 13:51), Jesus will correct their error by unscrewing what to them was inscrutable. That is, though he will affirm the theological linkage of AD 70 and the Final Judgment, he will declare the historical distinction of these two events: one occurs at the beginning of Christian history, the other at the end of human history.
The psychological evidence reviewed
In my last article I showed that the disciples are repeatedly confused over Jesus’ teachings and actions. They even go so far as to rebuke him for his clear teaching based on their confused thinking! This gives us an important insight into the disciples’ psychology of confusion. They long continue in their mental state of disorientation and inability to think clearly — despite being in the presence of the greatest teacher in history!
Special Eschatology Studies (3 MP3 downloads)
by Ken Gentry
Includes: (1). Radio interview on the Beast and Daniel 9: WMCA Radio (New York). (2) “The Beast is an Eighth,” a study on the tricky verse Rev 17:11 that is sometimes used to rebut the Neronic date for the writing of Revelation. (3) “The New Creation in Rev 21,” which presents a picture of the glory of the Christian faith as the spiritual phase of the New Creation that anticipates the consummate New Creation. See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
The disciples’ own lifelong focus on and love of Israel has put Christ’s teaching on the kingdom of God out of focus (e.g., Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6–7; John 1:49). The same can be said of the eleven disciples just before Pentecost (Acts 1:6–7). After his resurrection, Jesus rightly rebukes two of his disciples (Cleopas and an unnamed disciple, Luke 24:18) on this very matter: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).
But there is further evidence for the disciples’ confusion that Jesus seeks to dispel in the Olivet Discourse:
Contextual evidence introduced
Now we should note that the disciples incorporate something into their two-part question that does not arise from the context of Jesus’ teaching. Their first question is: “Tell us when will these things happen?”(Matt. 24:3a). This is very contextual, being sparked in direct response to Jesus’ clear prophecy of the temple’s coming destruction (Matt. 24:2). Unfortunately though, their second question does not arise from anything Jesus has just taught. Let me explain.
The disciples’ second question in response to Jesus’ temple-destruction prophecy is: “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3b). But, nothing in the preceding context has mentioned either his “coming” (i.e., his parousia) or “the end of the age.” He says nothing about a “coming” to judge in his lengthy rebuke of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:1–36) and of the Jerusalemites (Matt. 23:37–38). Nor does he mention a “coming” in his prophecy of the temple’s destruction (Matt. 24:2). Nor does he mention the arrival of “the end of the age” in either context.
Nevertheless, the disciples are so Israel-focused and Judaically-oriented that they assume “the end of the age” (involving the bodily resurrection of all men and the Final Judgment) must come about at the collapse of the temple.
The temple had been destroyed previously by Nebuchadnezzar in the Old Testament (2 Kgs. 25:8–9; 2 Chron. 36:19; Ezra 5:12). And yet it was later rebuilt — according to biblical prophecy (Ezra 5:1–5; 6:14–15; Hag. 1:1–2). However, Jesus’ rejection of the first-century temple is final, complete, and permanent. This time there will be no rebuilding of the temple, for he himself has spiritually replaced the whole temple system by fulfilling its meaning in his redemptive work — as he teaches his disciples (e.g., John 1:14; 2:19–22; and as we learn elsewhere, Heb. 7:23–24). The temple system is wholly and permanently fulfilled by his redemptive labors (John 4:21–23; Heb. 8:13; 9:1–28). Theologically there is no room for another temple — even though earth history will continue. And neither Jesus nor the Apostles teach anything about a rebuilt temple.
Prophecy Studies (4 downloadable mp3s)
by Ken Gentry
Dispensationalism dominates the evangelical market regarding eschatological discussions. But dispensationalism is radically mistaken regarding the eschatology of Scripture. In this series not only is dispensationalism analyzed, but also the postmillennial eschatology of the Psalms, and a preterist analysis of Revelation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
The disciples’ problem is rooted in their Sitz im Leben, their first-century “situation in life,” as devout Jews. The fact that they point out the beautiful stones of the building indicates that they assume it will continue as an appropriate and glorious place for worshiping God. Somehow after three and one-half years of Jesus’ teaching ministry, they still do not understand that he is fulfilling and replacing the temple. They do not even remember that early in his ministry he declares temple worship to be ending soon:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-25).
The disciples were devout Jews, who were committed to Judaism. And Judaism expected the temple to remain as long as the world remained. The first-century Jewish philosopher Philo (Spec. 1:76) shows this strong belief when he comments on the economic value of the temple. Notice his words that assume the temple’s perpetual endurance:
“The temple has for its revenues not only portions of land, but also other possessions of much greater extent and importance, which will never be destroyed or diminished; for as long as the race of mankind shall last, the revenues likewise of the temple will always be preserved, being coeval in their duration with the universal world.”
Even during the Jewish War with Rome, Josephus pleads with the Jews to surrender. But one of the revolutionaries, John of Gischala, declares that “he did never fear the taking of the city, because it was God’s own city” (J.W. 6:2:1 §98). Josephus (J.W. 5:11:2 §459) records the confidence of the beleaguered city with its temple within, when they mock Titus. They believe
“that yet this temple would be preserved by him that inhabited therein, whom they still had for their assistant in this war, and did therefore laugh at all his threatenings, which would come to nothing, because the conclusion of the whole depended upon God only.”
As the Sib. Or. 5:420–23 expresses the matter: the “temple of God [was] made by holy people and hoped by their soul and body to be always imperishable.” Thus Gedaliah Alon (The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age, 49) points out that “there was a strong belief among the people that the Temple was eternal, as indestructible as the nation itself.”
David Flusser (Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 392) adds: “the hope that when the Gentiles invaded the Holy Land, Jerusalem would not fall, was widespread at that time. As we have seen, others that thought even though Jerusalem would be conquered, the Temple would not succumb. This the opinion of the Zealots in the besieged city” (see 1 En. 56:5–8; Sib. Or. 5:106–10). In fact, Roman statesman and historian Dio Cassius (65:5:4) even speaks of the despair of the Roman soldiers due to their “suspecting . . . that the city was really impregnable, as was commonly reported.”
Thus, we see that the disciples import their own confused, Judaic thinking (Matt. 24:3) into Jesus’ clear prophetic pronouncement regarding the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2). Jesus has not mentioned his “coming,” his parousia in the previous context. The disciples simply surmise it — because of their life-long training in and commitment to their Judaic faith. Thus, they believe the current temple will last until the end of history, “the end of the age.” Consequently, since Jesus prophesies the temple’s destruction, their psychological reflex is to assume that it will occur as history ends in the Final Judgment brought about by the parousia of Christ.
So again, we see how the disciples are confused (see previous article). But there is more! Stay tuned.
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