THE DISCIPLES’ CONFUSION AT OLIVET (4)

PMW 2019-005 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is my fourth and final presentation in demonstrating that the disciples’ question to Jesus in Matt. 24:3 shows that they are confused. You might say that this is my “final judgment” on the matter.

When the disciples ask their double question in response to his short prophecy on the destruction of the temple, they bring in concepts that are not related to his prophecy. We have been seeing that they are often confused and how Jesus in the Olivet Discourse is seeking to dispel their confusion.

In the preceding article I noted that Jesus directly interacts with their confusion. In this one I will briefly demonstrate that he will clearly distinguish the events that they have merged. The disciples wrongly believe that the destruction of the temple will coincide with the parousia of Christ, bringing about the Final Judgment. But Jesus separates the two elements in their question. You will need to read the first three articles in order to properly understand this one.


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After dealing directly with the disciples’ confusion regarding the destruction of the temple, Jesus shifts his attention to their second question. This question regards issues they wrongly assume will be associated with the destruction of the temple.

As he begins answering their second question he pointedly notes that no one will know the time of the parousia/final judgment — even though there are both general and specific signs to the approaching destruction of the temple:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:36–39).

Thus, the parousia occurs suddenly and without warning. No particular signs announce its nearness. It will catch men off-guard, engaging in daily business affairs while being wholly unaware of the catastrophe about to overtake them. They will be casually engaging in mundane life affairs: eating and drinking, getting married (v. 28), working in the field (v. 40), and grinding at the mill (v. 41).

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Because of their constant confusion throughout his ministry and their current confusion regarding this prophecy (see previous articles), he emphasizes to them that his parousia will come unexpectedly:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt. 24:36).

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42).

“For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matt. 24:44).

“The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know” (Matt. 24:50).

“Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13).

Thus, it will be important for his disciples to discern the signs regarding the approaching destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:4–34). However, they will have no warning signs for the approaching parousia, for not even Jesus knows when that will be (Matt. 24:36).

Because of this, they must always “be on the alert” (Matt. 24:42), “be ready” (Matt. 24:44), be “doing” (Matt. 24:46), “be prudent” during the whole time of delay (Matt. 25:4–7), “be on the alert” (Matt. 25:13), be “faithful” through the long delay (Matt. 25:19, 21, 23), be engaged in works of mercy and ministry (Matt. 25:34–36).

Conclusion

In this series, I have shown that one prophetic episode has signs and is near (the destruction of the temple). The other prophetic episode has no signs and is distant (the parousia). Jesus sorts out the issues that the disciples merged together. We would do well to listen to Jesus’ patient instruction!

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13 thoughts on “THE DISCIPLES’ CONFUSION AT OLIVET (4)

  1. Jarrod P. January 15, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Good series. Very helpful for understanding what Jesus is doing in his Mount of Olive Discourse.

  2. Harrison Kelly January 15, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for the study. I will soon be teaching the Olivet Discourse and this study will help me introduce it.

  3. J. McKenzie January 15, 2019 at 11:41 am

    This was a fascinating study. What’s next? I hope you continue with Olivet discourse studies. Your views helped bring me out of dispensationalism. They also gave me material to persuade a brother to not adopt Hyper-preterism who was toying with the idea.

  4. Aaron Joshton January 15, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Great series. Interesting observations that can be easily overlooked. Thanks.

  5. C. R. Statton January 16, 2019 at 9:40 am

    I enjoyed this series very much. I hope you will do more like it. I can see where this would undermine Hyperpreterism right at the very start of the Olivet Discourse. If you get off on the wrong foot . . . .

  6. Doug Shuffield January 16, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for your insight on this passage!

    Quick question: Based on this understanding, how would you harmonize Luke 21 where there is no mention of Jesus coming and the end of the age in the disciple’s question? Where in that passage does the view move from the 70 AD destruction of the temple to the parousia?

    Luke 21: 7 And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?

  7. Kenneth Gentry January 16, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for reading. Matthew’s version is the fullest: it is longer than Mark’s and Luke’s and it employs several different terms not found in there’s. For whatever reason (as long as we believe each Gospel writer is writing inerrant Scripture), Mark and Luke gives a more summary statement, while Matthew gives a fuller statement.

    Both of these scenarios can be true simultaneously: (1) Jesus spoke of the Temple’s destruction; and (2) Jesus spoke of the Temple’s destruction AND the Second Advent. A summary statement does not contradict a fuller statement; a fuller statement does not contradict a summary statement (as long as they are both faithful to the original Discourse).

    I hope this is helpful.

  8. Doug Shuffield January 16, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks for the reply! I definitely believe each Gospel writer is writing inerrant Scripture, thus the desire to fully reconcile to two passages!

    So based on your understanding of Matthew, everything prior to vs. 36 is about AD 70, vs 36 and onward is about the parousia/final judgement. That would include the “coming” described in vs. 30 which would refer to Jesus judgement coming in AD 70. “these things” of vs 34 versus “that day” of vs 36 is the transition from the topic of the destruction of the Temple to the parousia.

    Likewise in Luke, everything prior to vs 32 is about AD 70 including the “coming” of vs 27 which would refer to Jesus judgement coming in AD 70. Starting with vs 34, he has moved to the parousia.

    That seems to reconcile both accounts. Is that accurate description of your understanding?

    Doug

  9. Kenneth Gentry January 17, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Yes, that is it.

    Luke does not intend to focus on the Second Advent/Final Judgment here in Luke 21 (hence, so few verses about it). He appears to take warnings by Christ from the Second Advent/Final Judgment section of Matthew (Luke 21:34) and apply them to the Disciples in the first century (Luke 21:36). We must understand that in the Second Advent/Final Judgment section of Matthew, Jesus warns ALL Christians that they must live lives in readiness, circumspection, righteousness at ALL times. Though this is found in the Second Advent/Final Judgment section of Matthew, the truth applies to all Christians at all times.

  10. Doug Shuffield January 17, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for you patience. I hope you will indulge me at least one more time as it is not every day you get to pick the brain of the one and only Kenneth Gentry!

    Ken: “He appears to take warnings by Christ from the Second Advent/Final Judgment section of Matthew (Luke 21:34) and apply them to the Disciples in the first century (Luke 21:36).”

    And there is the rub…I’m sure this is not your intent, but I read that as “Luke misapplies the warnings by Christ about the 2nd Advent/Final Judgement to the disciples in the first century and the 70 AD destruction of the temple” How else would you characterize taking something Jesus said concerning one event and applying it to a completely different event for which Jesus didn’t intend?

    Also, when I attempt to explain this whole concept to my dispensationalist friend, his first question is:

    “Wait, you are saying that the coming or ‘parousia’ in v.27 and the ‘erchomenon’ of vs.30 is a different coming in AD 70 than the coming or ‘parousia’ in v.37 and v.39 and the ‘erchetai’ of v.42 and v.44 at the final judgment? It stretches credulity to believe that Jesus, the greatest teacher of all time, would attempt to answer a confused question asked by confused disciples with an equally, maybe more confusing conflation of two comings, AD 70 vs final judgment, separated by an indeterminate amount of time using the exact words and phraseology to describe both comings with no obvious and clear transition made from discussing one to the other! No wonder the disciples were confused, I sure am! Doesn’t it make more sense based on the text to say that Jesus was simply talking about one coming throughout the whole passage that hasn’t happened yet?”

    Now when I try to explain this concept to my full preterist friend, he has the same reaction except for the last question:

    “Doesn’t it make more sense based on the text to say that Jesus was simply talking about one coming throughout the whole passage that happened in AD 70?”

    I’m struggling with my answer for my friends…

    Doug

  11. Kenneth Gentry January 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    I am afraid you missed my point. Jesus teaches that we ought always be on the alert, i.e., living faithfully for him. But in Matthew’s account of the Discourse, Matthew only specifically records this in the second section dealing with the Final Judgment. This is because in the first section he is relating the signs Christ mentions and stating the nearness of the AD 70 event. Whereas, in the second section — where he records Jesus’ treatment of the Final Judgment — he says there are no signs , and thus because of this, you ought always to be ready. But Luke applies the “be ready” call also in the first section. There is no contradiction in this since we ought always to be ready, we ought always to live faithfully. Being ready or living faithfully is not something that cannot apply to AD 70.

    You have missed my comments on the parousia also. Matthew uses it only and always of the Second Advent. In fact, he is the only Gospel writer to even mention the word parousia in his Gospel. The disciples mistakenly link the parousia with the destruction of the temple in their question (Matt. 24:3), but Jesus separates it out. One way he does this is: while warning the disciples not to be deceived by false prophets, signs, etc., he quickly points out that no one can be deceived regarding the Second Advent/parousia when it comes. This is because it will be as obvious as a lightning bolt (v. 27). Furthermore, no one can know the time of the Second Advent, for not even Jesus knows it (vv. 36, 42, 50). Thus, Jesus is teaching that there is no way that any understanding believer should accept signs to an un-signed event whose date cannot be known, i.e., the Second Advent/Final Judgment.

    There are many evidences for a division at Matt. 24:34–36, which I have pointed out on this blog site and in my books. I will even provide more in my forthcoming book, my commentary on Matt. 21–25. In fact, in my blog post for 1/18/19 (tomorrow!) I will be listing some helpful scholarly commentaries that carefully make the distinction, including those by Jamieson-Faussett-Brown, R. T. France, A. I. Wilson, Jeffrey A. Gibbs, and J. Marcellus Kik (see article 2 in this series). There are too many evidences in the passage for a division between AD 70 and the Final Judgment to simply drop them, as you propose.

    Jesus was a good teacher; the Disciples were miserable hearers — even missing his statements that he must die (see all four of the articles in this current series). Would we say that Jesus was a bad teacher because the Disciples did not believe in his resurrection before it happened (John 20:8–9)?

  12. Doug Shuffield January 18, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Yeah, that was my friend that suggested the Jesus was a bad teacher, not me…:-)

    And I thank you again for your continued patience. I am looking forward to the new Revelation commentary and Matthew 21-25 commentary!

    Ok, I think it has become clear…I may be as dense as the disciples…Let me loosely paraphrase the section to see if I capture the concept (and I mean loosely…):

    Jesus (v 2): Not one stone will be left on another in AD 70…

    Disciples (thinking to themselves on the way to Olivet): What!? If the temple is destroyed, that must be Jesus’ final coming/advent (parousia) and the end of the age (synteleias tou aionos)! Let’s ask..

    Disciples (v 3): When will this happen (the destruction of the temple),and what will be the sign of your final coming/advent (parousia) and the end of the age(synteleias tou aionos) because they obviously happen at the same time?

    Jesus(v 4-35): Discussing AD 70 and the lead up to it:
    (v 4-5) Don’t be mislead by false Christs
    (v 6) Wars and rumors of wars. Don’t be alarmed because it is not the end of the AD 70 event (telos)
    (v 7) Nation vs nation, kingdom vs kingdom Famines, earthquakes
    (v 8) Things are just getting started…These are just the beginning of birth pains..
    (v 9) You (the disciples I am talking to and others) will be delivered to tribulation, killed, hated because of Me
    (v 10) Many won’t be able to take it and will fall away and will hate one another
    (v 11) More false prophets will mislead many
    (v 12-13) Lawlessness -> love grows cold, but you must endure to the end (telos) to be saved from the AD 70 destruction of the temple.
    (v 14) Gospel must be proclaimed in all the earth first and then the end (telos) or the destruction of the temple in AD 70 will come

    [DOUG] v 14. Now here is where I might have been dense…Would I have equated Jesus telos with my synteleias tou aionos? Probably, but Jesus must be talking about the end of the AD 70 destruction of the temple…

    Continuing… Jesus is still discussing leading up to AD 70…

    (v 15) Look for this specific sign talked about by Daniel, the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. Or as Dr. Luke puts it, the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem…
    (v 16-20) When you see it, no matter what you are doing, flee for the hills.
    (v 21) There has never been or never will be a tribulation like what will happen in AD 70.
    (v 22) It will be so bad no one would survive unless the days are shortened, and they will be for the sake of the elect.
    (v 23) So again, leading up to AD 70, if anyone says “Jesus is back!” or “He’s over here!” don’t believe them
    (v 24) Because leading up to AD 70 many false Christs and prophets will appear on the scene and perform great signs and wonders, so convincing that, if it were possible, you would be mislead
    (v 25) But you won’t because I just told you that it is going to happen..So don’t be dense!
    (v 26) So again, if they say I’m in the wilderness, inner room, etc. as though my coming/advent (parousia) has happened, don’t believe it

    (v 27) Because my coming / advent (parousia), which won’t happen in AD70 but in the indefinite future, will be like a bolt of lightning that will be unmistakable and everyone will see it.

    (v 28) Wherever the carcass is the vultures will gather

    [DOUG] v 28. Another word picture of an unmistakable indication Jesus’ coming / advent (parousia) has happened and not having to do with AD70?

    Continue to next comment…

  13. Doug Shuffield January 18, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    Continued from previous comment…

    (v 29) Now back to AD 70…Immediately after the tribulation I just talked about, some weird stuff is going to happen: sun darkened, moon not give its light, stars fall, and powers in heaven are shaken, etc.

    [DOUG] Obviously highly figurative language to describe the events of AD 70…And possibly some physical manifestations as well…

    (v 30) My sign will appear in heaven and then everyone will mourn and see Me coming (erchomenon) on the clouds with power and glory in judgement on the Temple in AD 70 using the Romans as my tool, but its not my final coming / advent (parousia).

    (v 31) And I will sound a trumpet and send the angels to gather the elect from the earth and the heavens

    [DOUG] v 31. Again, dense…Is this something that happened in AD70? What is its manifestation?

    (v 32) Let me give you an analogy…Fig tree, leaves = summer is near
    (v 33) In the same way, When you see everything I just described happening in v4-25, know that I am right at the door and v29-31 is about to go down

    (v 34) Don’t misunderstand because I am telling the truth, this generation, or within about 40 years, everything from v4 – 26 and v29- 31 will occur including the temple destroyed.

    (v 35) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away, they will come to pass!

    Jesus now switching gears to final coming/advent (parousia)…

    (v 36) Now concerning my final coming/advent (parousia), unlike AD 70 that is within this generation, no one knows, not the angels, not even me, just the Father knows when that day will come. It is in the indefinite future.

    (v 37 – 38) Just like in Noah’s day, people were going about their business and without warning or sign, it started to rain…A lot…

    (v 39-41) And they were taken away. Just like at my coming/advent (parousia), people will be going about their business and without warning or sign I will come and one will be taken and the other left.

    (v 42) So keep watch and be ready because you don’t know (and I haven’t told you when) my final coming/advent (erchetai) will happen

    So I am satisfied I get the concept well enough that I can cogently explain it to my friends . Still some minor questions, but heading in the right direction, I hope! Thanks so much for your help!

    Doug

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