In Jesus’ last few days of ministry before the Cross, He gave His Disciples very profound revelation of the days that were coming. Matthew, Mark and Luke are record very detailed prophecies of destruction and God’s judgement. John did not detail these things in his account but, did describe incredibly intimate words to the faithful 11 to give them hope for their lifetime and ours.
After reading and studying the Bible with minimal education for almost a decade; I have finally been properly taught that one of the most important thing when reading Scripture is the “Historical Context”. Basically, who was this Scripture specifically addressed to? Why? And How would they have understood it? Because how we understand the Scripture is not based on wrongly assuming that it was specifically directed at us. All Scripture is God-inspired and profitable for us but, no Scripture was ever specifically addressed to us.
Do you see the difference?
If I wrote my wife a profound love letter, you could learn a lot about our life and relationship, if you read it 2,000 years later. There may even be very specific information about our family, property, culture and land. But, the details surrounding that geography and culture would only have historical relevance. You would not wrongly assume that an instruction to my wife about our house would be specific for your family and your house, 2,000 years later.
Consider what Jesus was recorded to have told “His Disciples” in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
JESUS’ PROPHECIED TO THE DISCIPLES~
This is the passage recorded by all 3, commonly referred to as “The Olivet Discourse” because they were looking at Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. You may have to ignore some “extra-Biblical” Headings or titles that have been introduced into our Bibles in recent years. Read the word of Jesus uninterrupted and without the interpretations of man (especially me) too, if you really want to know the truth. Read it in many versions…don’t rush this process because it may take some time too destroy old, misguided beliefs. I studied it intensely for a year or so and still do…
5Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”7“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
The Disciples spoke to Jesus very clearly in all 3 accounts about that Temple. There was a literal, physical building that they looked at and spoke about. Everyone knows that the Temple of Herod existed at the time of Jesus’ life but, how many “End Times Scholars” have studied the historical facts concerning that Temple’s destruction?
Jesus said to them concerning that Temple ;“The Temple that you are currently looking at will be completely destroyed!” Correct, that is not verbatim. But, if you reread the words of Jesus in all 3 accounts, you cannot help but come to the same conclusion that is what He meant.
The Disciples (they were still having a conversation) asked ~ “When? What will be a sign/indicator of the destruction of this Temple?”
Do you see that this conversation is not about a future Temple? Not one time is “A Temple” mentioned. Not one time does Jesus speak about a generation to come or other people. All of this needs to be considered from a “Historical Context” and not simply read as if it applies to some (or all) future generation. Please understand that it is important to continue to quote every verse for the sake of clarity, despite the length. Watch and consider how many times he addressed the Disciples.
8He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 9When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”
10Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.
12“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.13And so you will bear testimony to me. 14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17Everyone will hate you because of me. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19Stand firm, and you will win life.
I counted 17 times that Jesus addressed the disciples as “YOU” in those 11 verses. Why do we even wonder who He is talking about?
How would anyone think that Jesus was potentially talking to American churches, almost 2000 years later after Jesus spoke plainly when he addressed the Disciples? Not by the Scriptures. Only by twisted teachings of religion.
Uninterrupted, Jesus continued speaking to them. As Jesus spoke to them; he finally does introduce another group of people that he called “those” But, Jesus is still speaking to the Disciples!
20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.21“Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”
The disciples would see, with their own eyes that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed. Josephus, the universally accepted historian, recorded a detailed account of this catastrophic event in “Wars of the Jews.”
This well-known book has always been highly accredited by secular and Church historians throughout the past almost 2,000 years. How many “end times students” have even glanced at this very valuable work? I had not until the past year, when I was introduced to this idea of “the end times” called “pre-terism”. I have been liberated into freedom by the Truth! Imagine that….knowing the truth has set me free…
So, Jesus told the disciples that they would see this destruction (not some future generation) because they were the ones being warned to flee from Judea to the mountains. This was never a world-wide “Great Tribulation” but very specific too their “world”. That’s why we are not getting ready too “flee to the mountains” because we didn’t live in Judea or Jerusalem at 70 AD. We also don’t have flat roofs that we would potentially be on and don’t have to worry about going down to get our “robe”, flee in the Sabbath, the winter, or be concerned about having nursing babies. All of this stuff was recorded within these accounts and does not apply to us.
Perhaps the most important verse within all of this prophecy was v.22 ~ “22because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”
Those days (the time that those disciples would and did see!) were the “days of vengeance”. Wow.
The Lord Jesus Christ, The Word of God in the flesh and God himself, said that time (not a time in the distant future) would be the time that all things written would be fulfilled! How many things written in the Scriptures would be fulfilled in front of the Disciples eyes?
All things. Not some things in the Scriptures…All things fulfilled. Completely.
He continued uninterrupted as he described the horrible atrocities also recorded by Josephus. ~23“Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
He was still speaking to the Disciples but, now he did not refer to them as partakers but as by-standers. Josephus recorded that not one Christian was found among the MILLION plus Jews and Gentiles who died amidst the 3.5 year siege of Jerusalem.
There was great distress upon that land and God’s wrath to that people. They fell by the sword of the Romans and were lead captive as slaves (and spectacles in their arenas). Jerusalem was literally trampled underfoot by many Gentiles because all of this happened at the time of Passover, when many local Jews and converted Gentiles gathered to celebrate the Feast together.
Jesus continued ~ “25“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27“Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. 28“But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Jesus still spoke to the disciples about “those” who ultimately rejected him and his words. However he did tell the disciples that their redemption (not ours) would draw near when they saw all those things!
So, how do we believe the words of Jesus when the sun, moon and stars were never shaken and still remain? It’s important to remember that Jesus was also a Prophet. Just like the OT Prophets used grandiose language to convey climatic events, Jesus prophesied with very mysterious symbolism! Consider how Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah concerning Babylon’s judgement that was also recorded by secular and Biblical historians. You may need to continue man’s recently added headings and only read the word of the Prophet.
THE HEAVENS SHAKEN!
Isaiah 13 ~ “1The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.”
…4A sound of tumult on the mountains,
Like that of many people!
A sound of the uproar of kingdoms,
Of nations gathered together!
The LORD of hosts is mustering the army for battle….
6Wail, for the day of the LORD is near!
It will come as destruction from the Almighty….
8They will be terrified,
Pains and anguish will take hold of them;
They will writhe like a woman in labor,
They will look at one another in astonishment,
Their faces aflame.
9Behold, the day of the LORD is coming,
Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation;
And He will exterminate its sinners from it.
10For 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….
Pause here. This so-called apocalyptic language cannot be taken literal. The well-known and respected Commentaries throughout Church history have understood these same prophetic words to be merely symbolic.
Consider Matthew Henry ~ “Such expressions are often employed by the prophets, to describe the convulsions of governments.”
Barnes ~ “A strong, but common figure of speech in the Scriptures, to denote great commotions, judgments, and revolutions.”
James-Fausset-Brown ~ “Image for mighty revolutions (Isa 24:19; 34:4; Hab 3:6, 10; Hag 2:6, 7; Re 20:11).
Matthew Poole’s ~ “a poetical and prophetical description of great errors and confusions, as if heaven and earth were about to meet together.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Bible ~ “Some think this was literally fulfilled at the taking of Babylon, when the heavens were shook with dreadful thunders and lightnings; as well as what is said above of the sun, moon, and stars, not giving their light; and so is likewise what follows,and the earth shall remove out of her place; and that there was a violent shock by an earthquake at the same time; but rather all this is to be understood figuratively, as expressive of the great confusion men would then be…”
I cannot research all of Church history’s commentaries and scholars but,This information is from every Expositor who detailed this verse listed at Biblehub.com
God’s judgement came upon Babylon in the 500’s B.C. but, did the heavens literally get shaken and turn black? What matters is not how we interpret God’s words; what matters is how HE meant them to be understood.
11Thus 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….
16Their little ones also will be dashed to pieces
Before their eyes;
Their houses will be plundered
And their wives ravished….
17Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them,
Who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold.
Did God punish the whole world when the Medes conquered Babylon around 540 BC? He punished their entire world. We have to remember the historical context of this prophecy. At the very beginning of the chapter ~
“1The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.”
God spoke to Isaiah concerning Babylon and their world. This is also not a prophecy concerning the future or our world. Isaiah’s prophecy was completely fulfilled within about 200 years of his life and not meant for Gentile believers thousands of years later…
A few (but not all) of the same commentaries ascribe the same kind of fulfillment of these symbols to Jesus’ words and also John’s “Revelation of Jesus Christ” concerning the “Heaven’s” being shook, darkened, etc…
However, it’s even simpler than believing the Commentaries interpretation of prophecy because Jesus and Paul confirmed this idea in their own words! If we would only stop trying to “see and touch” but, merely believe!
BACK TO JESUS’ WORDS ~
The very next passage in Luke 21 ~ 29Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they put forth leaves,you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31“So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
Jesus was still speaking to the disciples but, notice that he was clearly speaking with symbolism. That’s what a parable is. It’s a symbolic story containing a real and profound truth. Jesus more than once contrasted the Law with his words but, His word will endure forever!
Jesus spoke of the nearness of the Kingdom of God to them! He included the disciples in this very clear warning to that generation because Jesus, Paul and other N.T. writers all declared the wickedness and/or destruction on that generation 28 times according to my count!
Who are we going to believe?
If Jesus’ Prophecy to the Disciples did not come true, why did they die for the Gospel? Why did all of the NT writers declare so clearly and adamantly that “the end is near”, “this is the last hour” and such urgent warnings to the churches before 70 AD?
Now the biggest stretch of all for me was “Heaven and earth” passing away. The truth of Scripture had already revealed that God created literal Heaven and earth to last forever. I can only give you a taste of this profound reality because I have much too learn but consider what Jesus prophesied about The Law and The Prophets (Old Testament Scriptures) in the “Sermon on the Mount”.
THE END OF ALL THINGS ~
Matthew 5 ~17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.18“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
These words troubled me for years. I did not understand how I could be “under grace and not under the Law” since Jesus basically said the Law was binding until “Heaven and earth” passed away…I literally spent years “wandering in the wilderness” as I jumped back and forth between OT Laws like “Sabbath-keeping”, trying to pronounce the Name of the Lord (Yahweh) properly, attempting to honor certain Jewish feasts, etc…Looking back now; I recognize a lot of calamity that I brought upon myself, while trying to find favor and be justified by the Law.
Fortunately, we can now see from the consistency of the Gospel as preached throughout the New Testament (mainly by Paul) that ALL that was written in the Law was accomplished. Remember Jesus’ words in Luke 21:22! The Law did have a purpose! It lead us to “The Faith”, to Jesus Christ as Lord but, since the Law’s purpose had been completely fulfilled, it no longer applies to us!
This is the Gospel that Paul preached and articulated in many different ways to different churches! This is getting long and my family is awake. I need to wrap this up quickly, so I will just throw out some passages for anyone that has read this far to prayerfully consider. I can’t imagine any serious student of the Scriptures to be persuaded by a blogpost anyway 🙂
Galatians 2 ~ Paul introduced the conflict between him and some of Jesus’ faithful Apostles because he currently (around 55 AD) had a more profound revelation of the Gospel than even James and Peter! Examine his words and their meaning in 2:19-2:21
Galatians 3– 5 built on Paul’s premise to Peter, as he elaborated our freedom from all 613 commands of the Law to them! I have read, heard and studied 2-5 literally dozens of time in the past few months because it’s all about this amazingly profound freedom into the fullness of the Gospel!
There is so much more but when I grasped these truths; the powerful mystery of Hebrews opened up to me in a whole new way! Hebrews 8:13 summarized this previously hidden secret very plainly. The Law had served it’s purpose and pointed to Christ. It was fulfilled (fully completed) and therefore obsolete. We have the New Covenant!
13In speaking of a “new” covenant, he has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”
The main problem in church history has been agreeing and embracing the reality of this New Covenant. I choose to believe Jesus.
The Gospel is Good News of peace to the world. Let’s make peace in the Middle East. Let’s not ever be afraid of unity in the world-wide church but embrace the promises of Jesus that the world will know him by our love for the brethren! We have a bright, hopeful future to live in liberty as sons and daughters of God; completely free from a yoke of Law forever!