Category Archives: Matthew 24

POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (7)

PMW 2020-053 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is my final installment in this series on the great tribulation as understood within postmillennialism. We come now to a few more difficult texts.

Christ’s coming

In Matthew 24:27 Jesus states: “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” This is the sort of language we expect regarding the second coming of Christ, when he comes publicly and gloriously to conclude world history. Did Christ come like lightning in AD 70: How can this sort of language apply to AD 70?

We must understand this declaration in terms of the context. The Lord had just cautioned his disciples: “If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them” (Matt 24:26). We must recall Josephus’ report in Jewish Wars 2:13:5 [261–62] cited above that records an episode in which an Egyptian false prophet arose in the wilderness claiming a great deliverance.

Jesus dismisses such by stating that when he physically comes again to the earth, it will be an unmistakable event: “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt 24:27). The “for” (gar) here shows that he is giving the reason why his disciples should not think he is off in some wilderness or in an inner room somewhere. When he does return in his second coming, it will be as visible and dramatic as a lightning flashing.

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He Shall Have Dominion
(paperback by Kenneth Gentry)

A classic, thorough explanation and defense of postmillennialism (600+ pages). Complete with several chapters answering specific objections.

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So again, we see how the prophecies of Matthew 24 find fulfillment in the first century. In that these prophecies are for that era (Matt 24:34), why should we opt for a futurist approach to the matter?

The stars will fall

As the Lord continues in detailing the dramatic events, he states in Matthew 24:29: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” This sounds like the universe is collapsing. Did such literally occur in AD 70?

Once again we are facing apocalyptic, hyperbolic language. Consider Isaiah 13:10–13 which as instructive for this point:

“For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud, and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I shall make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the Lord of hosts in the day of His burning anger.”

Despite the initial appearance, Isaiah is not referring to the end of history. In the context he clearly identifies historical, Old Testament Babylon as the object of this judgment: “The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw” (Isa 13:1). In verse 17 he also mentions the Medes as an element of God’s judgment against them: “Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them.” Not only are the Medes an Old Testament era people who no longer exist, but they would be meaningless if the preceding language speaks of some sort of cosmic catastrophe. Indeed, they themselves would fall under such catastrophic events.

This prophecy refers to Old Testament Babylon’s overthrow, with the Median invasion securing that overthrow. The God of the universe is acting by his providential superintendence; metaphorically he is darkening the light of heaven on this might nation. The same imagery applies to the collapse of Jerusalem in AD 70 — which will occur “in this generation” (Matt 24:34) as the temple is destroyed (Matt 24:2).

Coming on the clouds

In Matthew 24:30 the Lord makes a remarkable statement. Unfortunately, the NASB, which I have been using throughout this series, is poorly translated here. So we will cite both the King James Version and the English Standard Version to better capture the meaning of the text.

In this verse we read a statement that sounds very much like the second coming of Christ. The KJV reads: “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The ESV reads: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Did Christ come on the clouds in AD 70?


Tongues-speaking: Meaning, Purpose, and Cessation

by Ken Gentry

The position presented within is that tongues-speaking allowed the gift person to speak in a known human language without previously knowing it; tongues brought inspired revelation from God; the gift was a sign confirming the apostolic witness and warning of the coming destruction of Jerusalem; and therefore the gift ceased in the first century.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


This language certainly could be used of the second advent. But once again, just three verses later Jesus states very clearly and forcefully: “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34). Thus, we must recognize this as referring to the AD 70 event. A similarity of language between AD 70 and the second advent should not surprise us. After all, AD 70 is a distant reflection of that future, literal coming. Therefore the same dramatic language can apply to it, as well.

According to Jesus’ prophecy there will be a “sign of the Son of Man in heaven.” He is speaking of some sort of sign that he is at the right hand of God rather than in the cold hard ground. They will learn by some judgment sign that he is high and exalted, the one causing their judgment and anguish. This sign is (apparently) the smoke of the temple being destroyed. This will be the sign to the Jews that the Son of Man is no longer dead but in heaven at God’s throne, where he will moves against them in judgment. He warned the Jews that this would happen (Matt 26:64). After all, he promised his disciples: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1).

Gathering the elect

Another confusing feature of Christ’s prophecy is found in Matthew 24:31: “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.” Is this speaking of the rapture? Did it occur in AD 70? Whatever this verse means, we must recall once again that Jesus affirms only three verses later that “all these things” will take place in “this generation” (Matt 24:34).

Actually it is important to understand that the word “angel” (Gk.: aggelos) can be (and often is) translated: “messenger.” In Scripture it frequently refers to human messengers. We find this usage in Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:10; Luke 7:24 and 27. For instance, Jesus cites Malachi 3:1 as referring to John the Baptist: “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger [aggelos] ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’” (Matt 11:10).

Here Jesus is speaking of sending forth his messengers to trumpet the gospel of salvation. The collapse of the old covenant economy in the destruction of the temple is the sign that the gospel of God’s saving grace is spreading to all the world. The messengers are overflowing the boundaries of Old Testament Israel (cp. Psa 147:19–20; Amos 3:2; Eph 2:11–12). God is finished with sacrifices and human priests (Heb 8:13); he will no longer confine his grace to a single nation (John 4:20–24). Now the gospel will go to all nations (Matt 28:18–20).

When the messengers go forth and declare the gospel, they go “from one end of the sky to the other,” which means from one horizon (where the sky “touches” the ground) to the other, that is, in all directions (cp. Deut 4:32). They call people and gather them into a new body, the new covenant church of Christ. In fact, this “gathering” language appears in a very significant passage in Hebrews 10:25, where the Jews are commanded to “gather together” as Christians, and not to fall back into Judaism: “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

Conclusion

As we have seen in this analysis of Jesus’ teaching on the great tribulation, a strong case can be made that the tribulation is already past in that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 is that great tribulation. The great tribulation ends the old covenant economy and establishes the new covenant order. As the writer of Hebrews expresses it: “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (Heb 8:13).

Therefore, the great tribulation lies in our past, not in our future. Postmillennialism does have a place for the great tribulation — at the beginning of Christian history, not at the end. The postmillennial outlook is not undermined by Christ’s teaching on this time of terrible judgment.

For more information, see: https://www.cruciformministries.org/a-purchased-victory

POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (6)

PMW 2020-052 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

We are nearing the end of our series on the great tribulation in postmillennialism. if you endure to the end, you surely must be saved! Let us know consider the verse that directly mentions “the great tribulation.”

In Matthew 24:21 the Lord states that

“then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.”

Was AD 70 the worst catastrophe ever? What about World Wars I and II? Surely they were much worse than the first-century Jewish War with Rome. How can we explain this statement of Jesus while maintaining our first-century interpretation? Continue reading

POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (5)

PMW 2020-051 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

As I offer my fifth contribution in this series on the role of the great tribulation in postmillennialism, we come now to consider several interpretive difficulties. At least, verses that seem difficult to apply in the first century.

Jesus expressly states that all these things shall occur in “this generation” (Matt 24:34). Regardless of how difficult a first-century fulfillment may seem for some of Jesus’ statements, his clear time frame statement control our interpretation of the passage. Let us consider the troublesome issues that arise in the remaining prophecies.

Gospel proclamation

Many opponents of the first-century analysis point first of all to Jesus’ statement regarding the preaching of the gospel: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matt 24:14). How can we explain this statement? The “whole world” heard the gospel? This looks like a formidable objection against a first-century fulfillment. But looks are deceiving. Continue reading

POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (4)

PMW 2020-050 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is our fourth installment on the great tribulation in postmillennial eschatology. We are currently surveying Matthew 24 and its prepartory signs to the great tribulation, showing that these signs occurred historically in the first century.

We come now to Matthew 24:7b where he declares that “in various places there will be famines.” Famines are easy to document in biblical world of the first century where they were particularly devastating. For instance, in Acts 11:28 we read of Agabus’ prophecy of a “great famine” that occurs during the reign of Claudius (AD 50s): “There stood up one of them named Agabus and signified by the Spirit that there should be great famine throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.” This is probably the famine Josephus mentions as striking Jerusalem: “A famine did oppress them at that time, and many people died for want of what was necessary to procure food withal” (Antiquities 20:2:5 §51).

Classical writers testify to the widespread, recurring famines in the AD 50s and into the 60s. We discover these in the works of Suetonius, Dio Cassius, Eusebius, and Orosius. For instance, speaking of Rome in AD 51 Tacitus writes: “This year witnessed many prodigies . . . . Further portents were seen in a shortage of corn, resulting in famine. . . . It was established that there was no more than fifteen days’ supply of food in the city.” (Annals 12:43) Continue reading

POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (3)

PMW 2020-049 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

The great tribulation is deemed by many to destroy an possibility of a long-range hope for history, such as is in postmillennialism. In this ongoing series I am explaining how the postmillennialist can explain the great tribulation, while maintaining his historical hope for the long run. This is the third article in this series. So, let’s get to work.

As per my last article, Jesus forthrightly declares that the great tribulation events will occur in the first century. That being the case, we should expect to find evidence that they did in fact occur then. And we do! Let us survey a few of these. We will see the first-century historical fulfillment of several of his statements in Matthew 24.

False prophets

In Matthew 24:5 and 11 Jesus warns about false christs and prophets. That is, he is warning about the danger of false religious enthusiasts who will arise in an attempt to distract and disturb his disciples.

False religious leaders are an abundant problem in that day, as we see in the examples of Theudas (Acts 5:36), Simon (Acts 8:9, 10), and Paul’s general warning to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29–30). For instance, Paul expresses his fear for the Ephesian church: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30).

The historical record of the first-century Jewish historian and priest Josephus (ca. AD 37–101) also documents false religious leaders who operated during the Jewish War with Rome which brought about the destruction of the temple: “such men deceived and deluded the people under pretense of divine inspiration” (Jewish Wars 2:13:4 §259). He speaks of others as “impostors and deceivers [who] persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs” (Antiquities 20:8:6 §167–68).

Clearly, Scripture and contemporary historical records testify of the very real danger of false religious teachers leading the Jews astray shortly after Christ dies.

Wars and rumors of wars

Matthew 24:6 and 7 speaks of “wars and rumors of wars.” This is a sign that we constantly hear about today in eschatological discussions. Since there have always been wars, to which ones is Jesus referring? How is this rather broad sign helpful?

To understand the significance of this sign we must consider an important political fact of first-century history. When the Lord gave this sign to his audience they were experiencing the famous pax Romana (Latin for “the peace of Rome”). But what is this “peace of Rome”? And how is it significant for understanding Jesus’ prophecy?

By military conquests and political savvy, the Emperor Augustus Caesar established this period of remarkable peace shortly before Christ was born (he was the reigning emperor when Jesus was born, Luke 2:1). This was an impressive time of widespread peace that enjoyed freedom from war. The first-century Jewish philosopher Philo (ca. 29 BC–AD 50) speaks of the Roman empire being “free from all sedition, and regulated by and obedient to admirable laws” (Embassy to Gaius 2:8). Roman naturalist and writer Pliny the Elder (who died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79) describes “the immeasurable majesty of the Roman peace” (Natural History 27:3). The third-century church father Origen (ca. 182– 254) mentions the “abundance of peace that began at the birth of Christ” (Against Celsus 2:30).


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A popularly written antidote to dispensational sensationalism and newspaper exegesis. Convincing biblical and historical evidence showing that the Beast was the Roman Emperor Nero Caesar, the first civil persecutor of the Church. The second half of the book shows Revelation’s date of writing, proving its composition as prior to the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. A thought-provoking treatment of a fascinating and confusing topic.

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New Testament scholar, Bo Reicke, notes that “in the Roman Empire proper, the period of peace remains comparably undisturbed until the time of Nero.” The emperor Nero breached the pax Romana by engaging the Jewish War that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple. Consequently, the Lord’s prophecy offers a significant sign that warns Christians that despite the pax Romana, they will hear of “wars and rumors of wars” when “nation would rise up against nation.”

When the Jewish War erupted in the late AD 60s, it broke the famous pax Romana. In this important war, Rome victoriously marched across Israel and mercilessly crushed that restive state. Though the Jewish Revolt initially flares up in late AD 66, the resulting formal war began in the Spring of AD 67. That was when Nero formally commissioned his general Vespasian to crush the revolt. As Josephus puts it: “Nero upon Cestius’s defeat, was in fear of the entire event of the war, and thereupon made Vespasian general in this war” (Jewish War Pref., 8 §21; cp. 3:1:1–3 §1–8).

In that war Syria, Arabia, Egypt, and other nations aligned themselves against Israel. Josephus notes that Vespasian secured “a considerable number of auxiliaries from the kings in that neighborhood” (Jewish War 3:1:3 §8). He later writes:

“there were also a considerable number of auxiliaries got together, that came from the kings Antiochus, and Agrippa, and Sohemus, each of them contributing one thousand footmen that were archers, and a thousand horsemen. Malchus also, the king of Arabia, sent a thousand horsemen, besides five thousand footmen, the greatest part of which were archers; so that the whole army, including the auxiliaries sent by the kings, as well horsemen as footmen.” (Jewish War 3:4:2 §68)


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See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


When Vespasian’s son Titus took over the fight, Josephus mentions the greatly increased number of foreign national troops engaged in the siege of Jerusalem: “those auxiliaries that came from the kings, being now more in number than before, together with a considerable number that came to his assistance from Syria” (Josephus, Jewish War 5:1:6 §42).

But not only does this era experience the Jewish War, but it also resulted in a great and destructive civil war in Rome itself. In June of AD 68 Nero committed suicide as Rome erupts into civil upheaval and military strife (Josephus, Jewish War Pref., 9 §23). Britain, Germany, and Gaul revolt against Rome and seek to break out of the empire. Rome feared that the Parthians from the East would mobilize because of the Empire’s disarray during that time.

Roman historian Tacitus (AD 56–117) writes: “The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors failed by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars and often both at the same time” (Histories 1:2). He laments that “Rome and Italy are thoroughly wasted by intestine war” (Hist. 4:75). Josephus reports similarly that: “all was in disorder after the death of Nero” (Jewish War Pref. 1:2 §5).

Thus, both Jerusalem and Rome were experiencing nation arising against nation (Matt 24:7). These “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt 24:6) were truly signs for that first-century generation.

The historical facts are fitting our exegetical understanding of the Olivet Discourse and its emphasis on the great tribulation. But there is more. Much more. Please join my in my next article.


OLIVET IN CONTEXT: A Commentary on Matthew 21–25
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!


POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (2)

PMW 2020-048 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is my second in a multi-part series explaining how we can believe in postmillennialism, even though Jesus teaches about “the great tribulation” that is to come. In this series of articles we will learn a remarkable fact: The great tribulation is past. Indeed, it occurred long ago in the first century and was concerned with the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

Obviously, if this is so, then the great tribulation punctuated the beginning of Christianity (as the new covenant-phase of God’s kingdom) and has no direct bearing on the end of the Church Age (supposedly lying in our near future). Thus, it does not contradict postmillennialism’s historical optimism. Let us consider the evidence.

Most evangelicals focus on the remarkable judgments in the Matthew 24. And they do so to such an extent that they overlook important contextual clues that go against the popular conception of the great tribulation. And they do this despite the fact that these clues are quite clear and compelling. Continue reading

POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (1)

PMW 2020-047 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

With this article, I am beginning a series on how contemporary postmillennialism deals with the great tribulation. This will basically be a survey of much of Matthew 24. This series ought to provide the interested reader with a basic understanding of how postmillennialism answers the complaint that Jesus’ prophecy of “the great tribulation” undermines our historical hope. As such, I am hoping postmillennial readers might share these studies with their non-postmillennial friends — especially if they really don’t need friends anymore.

This series is significant in that American evangelical Christians are intensely interested in what the New Testament calls “the great tribulation.” Many enormously popular, best-selling books have been written on this phenomenon, including The Late Great Planet Earth (30 million copies sold) and the Left Behind series (65 million copies). Continue reading