PMW 2020-046 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In response to my published views on Matthew 24:3 and its influence on the structure and interpretation of the Olivet Discourse, a reader has sent me a question. I argue that the Discourse speaks to both AD 70 and the Second Advent. This is partly based on the Disciples’ question in v. 3, which (I argue) has them confusing the AD 70 judgment with the Final Judgment. Let me present then respond to his concern.
In the light of Matthew, until that moment the Lord had not spoken of another “coming” but that of AD 70. The few texts (before Matthew 24) that speak of his coming or his return (Matt. 10.23; 16.27-28) are clearly connected with AD 70; this being so, why should the disciples ask about another “advent” unknown to themselves? And why should Jesus answer them about something that he never taught them before?
Actually your concern is mistaken. To answer your question, we need to keep several things in mind:
(1) We have to recognize that the Gospels do not record everything that Jesus did and taught (e.g., John 21:25). And if this is so, then your statement that “until that moment the Lord had not spoken of another ‘coming’ but that of AD 70″ could be (and I believe is!) mistaken. How do we know he never taught about his Second Coming to Final Judgment before then? After all, some of his recorded messages can be read in two or three minutes, whereas they must have had much more content than has been preserved for us in the Gospels. We should suspect their larger size in light of several issues:
For instance, in Matt. 23:37, Jesus says to Jerusalem: “How often I wanted to gather your children together.” This shows that he had been in Jerusalem on several occasions (which John actually records; John 2:23; 4:45; 5:1; 7:25), where he undoubtedly taught many things. However, Matthew only records this one visit at the very end of his ministry.
Why I Left Full-Preterism (by Samuel M. Frost)
Former leader in Full Preterist movement, Samuel M. Frost, gives his testimony and theological reasoning as to why he left the heretical movement. Good warning to others tempted to leave orthodox Christianity.
See more study materials at: KennethGentry.com
Furthermore, Matthew does not mention the temple cleansing at the beginning of his ministry, as does John (John 2:16ff). He only mentions one occurring at the end (Matt. 21:12ff). This does not mean that the earlier cleansing did not occur. In addition, Paul even quotes a statement from Jesus not found in any of the Gospels: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Thus again, we see that Jesus taught more than is recorded for us. So over his three and one-half years of ministry, the disciples would have heard a lot more than we have recorded in the Gospels.
Yet, (2) during his ministry Jesus does teach about the eschatological complex involving the Second Coming and Final Judgment. And he does so before the Olivet Discourse. For instance, in John 6 he speaks of the last day and the resurrection (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54).
Of course, it is true that he had not been teaching on this topic when the Disciples assumed he must have meant such here. But we must understand that the Disciples are often confused at his teaching (see PMW 2019-002).
The latter portion of the disciples’ 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). 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.
But actually, (3) earlier in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus had in fact taught about his Second Advent/Final Judgment. He referred to that time as “the end of the age” which would experience the resurrection and judgment (Matt. 13:39–41). Elsewhere he links it with the AD 70 judgment: in Matthew 16:27–28, AD 70 serves as a pointer to the Final Judgment (see PMW 2018-061 and PMW 2018-062).
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
(4) In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus will carefully draw a distinction between the sign-filled era (Matt. 24:4ff) leading up to AD 70 and the no-sign era (Matt. 24:36ff) of the Second Advent. See PMW 2019-047.
Then (5) later in Matt 25:31ff he will speak of his Second Coming, which initiates the Final Judgment.
But with the first-century Jewish conviction that the temple will stand until the end of history (as noted in Philo and other early Jewish writings), the Disciples make an understandable error in connecting the temple’s destruction with the coming of the end and the Final Judgment.
As George Beasley-Murray notes regarding Matt. 24:3: “every Jew assumed that that temple would be the centre of the earth in the kingdom of God; its ruin then could only be in connection with the end of the age and the coming of the final kingdom.” Or as Donald Hagner explains the Disciples’ thoughts: “the thought of the destruction of the second temple could …. only signal the time of final judgment.” Thus, their first-century cultural and historical setting prompts them to (wrongly) associate the temple’s destruction with the Second Coming/Final Judgment.
Tagged: disciples' confusion, Matthew 24:3
Hi Dr. Gentry,
Thanks for this reply. I believe it confirms my personal conviction about how to split the Olivet Discourse up. I am convicted that Mt. 24:1-35 speaks of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem, while Mt. 24:36-25:46 speaks of Christ’s second coming. As I studied the phrase “end of the age,” in Mt. 24:3 I kept thinking about the parable of the Wheat & Tares in Mt. 13:24-30 & Mt. 13:36-43. In this parable Jesus speaks about the harvest being at the “end of the age” which clearly seems to be a reference to His second coming. Moreover, in vs. 38 Christ teaches that “the field is the world.” The Gk, word translated ‘world’ in vs. 38 is ‘kosmos’ which refers to “the created world, the universe” (Lexham Theological Workbook), and “The universe as an ordered structure . . . [or] all that exists” (Louw-Nida, 1.1, V 1, p 1). Since this is the case, if Jesus is teaching that the “end of the age” occurs at the “harvest of the world (kosmos),” then it seems logically that “the end of the age” is indeed speaking about Christ second coming, and not the destruction of Jerusalem.
Hello, a simple question comes to mind about the disciples’ confusion. The disciples Jewish aspirations were for their long awaited Messiah to come and restore the ancient kingdom of Israel. Thus, their expectation was for a divine political deliverer to save them from the Roman yoke. Jesus, during His ministry with them, repeatedly told them of His mission, even at one point chastising Peter for his misunderstanding and being an adversary. It was not until after Jesus’ resurrection that He clarifies their understanding in Luke 24:44-49. So, the questions of the disciples in Matthew 24:3 relate to the coming judgements. They did not understand the true function of His first coming, so how could they understand His second coming at that time?
Hi, Dr. Kenneth.
How should we interpret james 5:8,9? Does it refers to second coming?
Before too long I hope to put up a brief study of James 5:8-9. Stay tuned.