JESUS, AD 70, AND THE FINAL JUDGMENT

PMW 2019-026 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

In this article I will offer a brief review of an important and helpful new book on the eschatology of Jesus, Jesus and the Future. To paraphrase a well-known biblical proverb, we might say that “the writing of many books on prophecy is endless.” And too many of current prophecy books are downright useless, so that we must confess “that such is wearisome, for the eye is not satisfied with seeing charts and graphs, nor is the ear filled with hearing Antichrist and Rapture predictions.” But this is one of the rare prophecy books that is well worth reading.

Review of Jesus and the Future: Understanding What He Taught about the End Times, by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Alexander E. Stewart and Apollo Makara (Wooster, Ohio: Weaver, 2017). Paperback, 196 pp.

Köstenberger, Stewart, and Makara have written a helpful summary of Jesus’ eschatological teaching that is aimed at evangelical laymen in our confused times. They have designed this small work to “cut through the maze of end-time teaching” that has so befuddled contemporary evangelical thought (p. 17).

In that this work is intended for laymen, it avoids exegetical technicalities and scholarly jargon (pp. 17, 28), even while offering serious reflection and careful argumentation. It is an easy read that offers substantial analysis. And though studying “cold” biblical doctrine (eschatology), it frequently offers warm evangelical calls to faith (e.g., pp. 169, 175). Thus, it is both instructional and exhortational. The authors also offer occasional helpful excursuses on important biblical, theological, and historical matters (e.g., pp. 42, 53, 58, 75, 113).


An Eschatology of Victory
by J. Marcellus Kik
This book presents a strong, succinct case for both optimistic postmillennialism and for orthodox preterism. An early proponent in the late Twentieth-century revival of postmillennialism. One of the better non-technical studies of Matt. 24. It even includes a strong argument for a division between AD 70 and the Second Advent beginning at Matt. 24:36.

For more Christian educational materials: www.KennethGentry.com


Jesus and the Future focuses primarily on the Synoptic Gospels, which have more of Jesus’ prophetic teaching than John’s Gospel. Yet, it does offer one chapter on John. By the very nature of the case, the bulk of the discussion focuses on the Lord’s “Eschatological Discourse” — the Olivet Discourse, which is given three chapters of analysis. This is important in that this is Jesus’ most extensive teaching on the subject, and at the same time one of his most debated discourses. Significantly, Olivet does not appear in John’s Gospel.

The work is fully orthodox. The authors hold firmly to the deity of Christ, the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, a future, literal Second Coming, a future, bodily resurrection of the dead, the Final Judgment, and eternal hell, to name a few of the doctrines that become evident. Contrary to the most popular works on prophecy, the authors are very much opposed to dispensationalism (e.g., pp. 17, 27, 62, 74n, 79, 85, 146, 171, 173).

In addition, the work is also quite conservative. It holds that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel associated with his name (p. 156n) and that Paul wrote all of the “Pauline epistles,” despite critical opinion. The book even holds to an early date for the Synoptics prior to AD 70 (e.g., p. 36) — though a late date for John’s Gospel (e.g., p. 158). It also appears to assume the priority of Matthew, over against widespread critical and evangelical commitment to Marcan priority (p. 32).

The important theological concept of the Already/Not Yet principle of kingdom inauguration is presented in the book (e.g., pp. 78, 127, 133, 154, 161). This principle is essential for sorting through some of the thorny issues in eschatology. And despite most so-called “prophecy experts” (i.e., televangelists, Hyper-preterists, and other Bible-thumpers) the authors recognize that it is sometime difficult to separate AD 70 statements from Second Advent statements (e.g., pp. 27, 38, 53, 128). Thus, they simply do not treat Scripture as if it were a mere box of Tinker Toys to be played with.

Matthew 24 debate


Matthew 24 Debate: Past or Future?
(DVD by Ken Gentry and Thomas Ice)

Two hour public debate between Ken Gentry and Thomas Ice on the Olivet Discourse.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Consequently, one often-stated position is well-summarized in the following statement: “we’ve seen that Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveal that, regarding the near future, Jesus prophesied that there would be (1) persecution of his followers and (2) a judgment of ‘this generation’ with special attention on the Jewish religious leadership for their rejection of him. Regarding the more distant future, we’ve seen that Jesus taught that (3) the Son of Man will come with power; (4) and there will be a future resurrection and final judgment followed by eternal reward and punishment” (p. 154; cp. p. 170). I whole-heartedly concur with this.

The authors offer an insightful analysis of the Olivet Discourse, recognizing that it begins with prophecies regarding the destruction of the temple in the first century, then turns to focus on the Final Judgment at the end of history’s last century. Consequently, they properly recognize that AD 70 is a pointer to the Final Judgment. I whole-heartedly concur with this.

A distinctive of this work is its offering an interesting structure for the Olivet Discourse. This structure rightly separates the Lord’s AD 70 statements from his Final Judgment comments. This is where so many “prophecy experts” stumble. Köstenberger et al. argue that “there are good reasons to think that Jesus transitioned [from the disciples’ first question, which deals with AD 70] to the second question (included only in Matthew’s Gospel) about his coming and the end of the age” (p. 63). I whole-heartedly concur with this.

They argue that, especially in Luke’s version, “the destruction of Jerusalem is separated from this cosmic upheaval by an indefinite period, the time of the Gentiles (the past two thousand years, and counting)” (p. 63). But in Matthew, they see the transition from AD 70 to the Final Judgment in Matthew’s version of Olivet as occurring in Matt. 24:23–28. They hold that because of the universal implications of verses 29–31 (cp. Mark 13:24–27; Luke 21:25–28), these verses cannot be applied to AD 70. Thus, they offer a tidy division between the two prophetic foci, unlike many exegetes who deem Matthew 24 as a mishmash that is so inscrutable we can hardly unscrew it.

Despite their careful argument for a separation of AD 70 from the Final Judgment in the Olivet Discourse, their particular presentation fails to convince me. I follow the more detailed exegesis of R. T. France in this regard, which recognizes Matt. 24:34–36 as the transition passage. I feel that the authors of Jesus and the Future too hastily dismiss France (pp. 63–69). (Of course, France’s commentary on Matthew is much larger and more detailed and Köstenberger’s is designed for laymen and avoids technical details.)

What is remarkable about this failure is that their argument against Matt. 24:29 applying to AD 70 is that they themselves recognize that such language can be metaphorical and applied to historical events: “This interpretation is possible and makes good sense,” though they conclude that “the fact that an interpretation is possible does not necessarily make it probable” (p. 65; cp. p. 68). Indeed, they confess that “these responses by themselves aren’t sufficient to disprove the interpretation offered by N. T. Wright and R. T. France” (p. 69).

Since Jesus and the Future its topically arranged around Jesus’ eschatological teaching, it is necessarily repetitious. However, if we are to fully understand Jesus’ eschatological teaching, studying the distinctive angles of each of the Gospels is important.

One disappointment I have with the book is that it lacks an index. This problem is partly resolved, however, by its offering a “Contents in Full” after its Table of Contents, which they call “Contents in Brief.”

I highly recommend this sane treatment of Jesus’ eschatological teaching, even though I cannot agree with one of its key arguments regarding the proper place to divide the Olivet Discourse. The book, nevertheless, has much to offer laymen in our time. And I am glad to see competent scholars recognizing that Olivet speaks to both AD 70 and the Final Judgment without engaging in mishmashic arguments like many of the rabbinical midrashic arguments of old.

The book may be ordered from Weaver Book.


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!


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