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Signs of the End of the Age September 3, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 24:1-35.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus and His disciples depart from the temple. Although His disciples are still in awe of the temple, He asserts that it will be devastated.

They respond by asking Him when:

  • the temple will be devastated
  • He will fully reveal Himself as the Messiah
  • will be the final end of the age of man.

He responds by warning them to keep their eyes open so that they would not be deceived. While there will be:

  • many false Messiahs who will deceive others
  • constant wars and rumors of wars
  • famines and earthquakes throughout the world

these events only mark the beginning of the final end of the age of man.

Later, true believers will be arrested, afflicted and even murdered – since they identify with Him. False teachers will deceive false believers, and false believers will betray true believers. Yet true believers will be saved after enduring these trials, and the Gospel message will be proclaimed throughout the world.

Now when they see that which is abhorrent to God that causes devastation in the temple – as referenced in Daniel 11:31 – they should flee. Those who are on their housetops should not attempt to retrieve their belongings, while those who are in their fields should not attempt to retrieve their outer cloaks. Moreover, pregnant women will be ripped open, and infants will be smashed to pieces. They should pray that their escape would not be hindered by the weather or by Sabbath-day laws, as they are witnessing the worst period in world history. He notes that if that period were not immediately curtailed, then no one would be saved – yet God will immediately terminate it so that those whom He has chosen will be saved.

He then asserts that some will try to deceive them by claiming that the Messiah has fully revealed Himself. Yet when the Messiah fully reveals Himself, that event will be public and glorious.

At that point, the entire universe will disintegrate – thereby fulfilling a prophecy in Isaiah 13:10. They will see Him in heaven. While all unbelievers will mourn this event, His angels will gather all believers throughout the world and bring them into His kingdom.

He concludes with the following lesson: just as when a fig tree puts forth its leaves, it is time for summer, so when they see all these things, it is time for them to be brought into His kingdom.

Thoughts: In verse 4, Jesus warns His disciples to not be deceived regarding the timing of His Second Coming. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

Irvingism and Mormonism have been only too successfully used as arguments for rejecting the whole doctrine of the second coming of Christ. Let us watch and be on our guard.

While I am (somewhat) familiar with Mormonism, I had never heard about Irvingism before I read that quote, spurring me to learn about Edward Irving. Based on my brief investigation, it appears that Edward Irving was simply another preacher who attempted to predict the Second Coming of Christ. Perhaps repeated failures to predict the timing of that event should spur believers to resist the temptation to “control God” by making such predictions. By not fixating on particular times and dates, we place His Second Coming into the hands of the Father, trusting that He will exercise His sovereignty on some future date.

Here, Jesus presents a list of catastrophic events that will occur before His Second Coming. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

One main subject of this part of our Lord’s prophecy is the taking of Jerusalem by the Romans. That great event took place about forty years after the words we have now read were spoken. A full account of it is to be found in the writings of the historian Josephus.

On a related note, I read through several transcripts of sermons by John MacArthur on this passage; in one of those sermons, he asserts:

Now, some people have tried to say that this is a sermon about the destruction of Jerusalem, that this whole sermon was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed. For many reasons that is impossible, as we’ve tried to point out in our previous message.

It is apparent that there is no single interpretation of this passage, and I am not prepared to resolve that debate. Given that the pastor at my previous church emphasized the significance of authorial intent in reading Scripture, I would posit that Matthew’s original audience would have understood Jesus’ prophecies in light of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. I would also posit that they would have had no concept of a future desolation that would last for seven years. That being said, I could be wrong on both of these points; thus, I anticipate learning the correct interpretation of this passage in the next life (or even in this life).

In verse 34, Jesus notes that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

Third, these verses teach us that until Christ returns the Jews will remain a separate people…The continued existence of the Jews as a distinct nation is undeniably a great miracle: it is one of those evidences of the truth of the Bible which the unbeliever can never overthrow…The Jewish nation stands before the world a crushing answer to unbelief, and a living book of evidence that the Bible is true.

While the meaning of “this generation” is also debatable, Ryle’s thoughts remind me of Paul’s assertion in Romans 11:25-32 concerning the ultimate salvation of the Jews. If Ryle’s interpretation of “this generation” is correct, then it is all the more remarkable at this point in world history that the Jews continue to exist “as a distinct nation” – since Ryle could not have anticipated the Holocaust. Indeed, I wonder if God is actually displaying His sovereign plan in continuing to preserve the Jews as “a separate people”; if so, when will He restore them to His favor and enable them to acknowledge the identity of His Son, Jesus Christ? That is an event that should spur all believers to rejoice in His abundant grace.

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