Matthew 24 -- A Premillennialist Playground
Matthew 24 -- A Premillennialist Playground
One of the more difficult passages in all of the Bible is oddly
enough one that premillennialists and dispensationalists use to bolster
up a false notion about the end of time. Today on this program we will
consider the Lord's teaching on Matthew 24. Please get your Bible and be
ready to study with us.
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(Matthew 24:1-3 reads, "Then Jesus went out and departed from the
temple, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the
temple. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you not see all these things?
Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another,
that shall not be thrown down. Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the
disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these
things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of
This event occurred after Jesus had finished His public earthly
ministry. He was preparing to return to the Father. Yet, He had a few
things to say to His disciples. He called their attention to the
buildings and then prophesied the utter destruction of the entire city.
In fact, the chapter is a chapter of prophecy. Being near the same
length as the Sermon on the Mount, some have looked upon this as the
Prophecy on the Mount.
Jesus called His disciples' attention to the array of buildings in
the sacred city of Jerusalem. From the Mount of Olives, He had a full
view of the entire city. The small group of men looked upon the city,
and focused on the Temple. Jesus prophesied, "not one stone shall be
left here upon another." This prompted an immediate response. The
disciples then asked, "When will these things be?" They added, "What
will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" You see, to
the Jew, the destruction of Jerusalem meant much more than the mere
physical ruin of a city. Other cities had been destroyed and laid waste.
The fall of Babylon, Tyre, and Carthage meant little more than the end
of a human government. But Jerusalem's fall meant the end of a great
age, the close of a dispensation, the end of something that began when
God called Abraham out of the Ur of the Chaldees to be the father of a
great nation, chosen of the Lord.
The questions are basically two. First, when will the Temple be
destroyed, and with that what will be the sign of your coming, and the
end of this age? To them, having now been fully convinced that He was
indeed the Messiah, they expected Him to come into power and rule in
Jerusalem. The destruction of their holy city meant the same as the
Flood did to those who lived in the days of Noah. It meant the end of
that particular age or era. Things would all be different. Little did
they know what He really had in mind. So, the end of the Jewish age and
the coming of the Messiah were the principal factors in their question.
Now read a bit further and notice the answers Jesus gives.
Verses 4-8 "And Jesus answered and said to them: 'Take heed that no
one deceives you. 'For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the
Christ,' and will deceive many. 'And you will hear of wars and rumors of
wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to
pass, but the end is not yet. 'For nation will rise against nation, and
kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and
earthquakes in various places. 'All these are the beginning of sorrows."
The destruction of Jerusalem was the primary topic of this
prophetic utterance from Christ. Yet, He could see even further, even to
the end of time -- all time. The first part of this chapter provides us
with His answer to their questions about Jerusalem and the Jewish
dispensation of time. The last part of the chapter gives His answer
about the end of time. We will consider the first answer first.
The first warning is against being misled. How badly that is still
needed. There are still misinformed preachers going through the land
putting themselves before us as prophets. They blatantly declare that
the end of the world is very near. They look at the things mentioned in
this section of Matthew 24 and suddenly see that they are coming to
pass. They speak of "wars and rumors of wars" and then declare, "See --
we are hearing of wars all the time -- the end is near." They find
places in the world where there are famines, pestilences, and
earthquakes and become convinced that these are signs that the end time
is just around the corner. How wrong and deceiving they are!
What did Jesus mean -- hearing or wars and rumors of wars, or
famines, pestilences, and earthquakes? Whatever it meant, it was in
direct response to His prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem and the end
of the Jewish age -- certainly not the end of time. It is a well
established historical fact that shortly before Jerusalem was taken and
destroyed by the Roman army, there were numerous outbreaks of
hostilities. One of the very well known ancient historians is Tacitus.
In, The Histories he wrote, "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 fell by the sword;
there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the
same time." (The Histories, 1:2). Also Josephus, another famous and
reliable ancient historian wrote, "Now the people of Cesarea had slain
the Jews that were among them on the very same day and hour [when the
soldiers were slain], which one would think must have come to pass by
the direction of Providence; and all Cesarea was emptied of its Jewish
inhabitants" (The Wars of the Jews, 2:18:1). So, Jesus warned the
disciples that they would be witness to these things and when this
happened, they were to be ready to flee for safety.
He tells them "this is the beginning of sorrows." A stronger word
might be "travail." The Cambridge Greek New Testament for Schools and
Colleges notes, "Literally, pains of travail, that preceded the birth of
a new order of things, a fresh aeon, the Regeneration." F.W. Farrar
wrote, "The 'travail- pangs' would end in the regeneration of the
present order -- the Palingenesia or Apokatastasis of the world." (Texts
Explained, page 39). The old order of Judaism was ending. Christ came
and fulfilled the law by which it was governed. He came to offer them
everything for which they had so long waited. They blundered in their
rejection of Christ. But the travail or pain of birth would bring into
being His great messianic reign as King and Lord, at the right hand of
the Majesty on high.
There are those who see His statement as the prelude to what is
called "The Great Tribulation." This is an imaginary period of time in
which the saints are to endure persecution. Last week, on this very
broadcast, that topic was dealt with. An offer was made for anyone in
the listening area to produce a verse that substantiates this view of a
"Tribulation Period." None has been received -- and for a good reason.
There is none. Jesus here warned the disciples of the beginning of
sorrows, associated with the birth of Christianity -- not some prelude
to the equally imaginary "Battle of Armageddon."
Jesus prepared their minds for the gigantic work they would be
called upon to do when the kingdom would be established. That was within
just weeks from the time He spoke to them. He said, in verse 14, "And
this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a
witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." The end He has
in mind is still the end of Jerusalem -- not the end of the world. But
someone may wonder, "Did they preach the gospel to the whole world?" Let
Paul answer. "If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and
steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you
heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I,
Paul, became a minister" (Colossians 1:23). Can anyone dispute the
divine testimony of an inspired man? He claimed the gospel had been
preached "to every creature under heaven." So, Jesus' charge to His
disciples had been fulfilled before Jerusalem fell.
He said, "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,'
spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever
reads, let him understand)" (verse 15). This is identified as a prophecy
from Daniel. Daniel prophesied that at the end of the Jewish age, the
Temple would be profaned, the holy place would be defiled. This came to
pass literally. Listen again to Josephus: "And now, when the multitude
were gotten together to an assembly and every one was in indignation at
these man's seizing upon the sanctuary, at their rapine and murders but
had not yet begun their attacks upon them ... Agnus stood in the midst
of them, and casting his eyes he said, 'Certainly, it had been good for
me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many
abominations, or these sacred places that ought not to be trodden upon
at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains ...'"
(The Wars of the Jews, 4:3:10.)
F.W. Farrar adds, "'The abominable wing (kanaph) which maketh
desolate,' to which Daniel alluded, was the little heathen altar erected
by Antiochus Epiphanes, on the top of the great altar of sacrifice, when
he desecrated and defiled the Temple precincts. Perhaps the turn of
expression in the Hebrew may have been due to the fact that on this
altar was carved the figure of the Syrian or Roman eagle.
"The abominations of desolation after the Crucifixion were many,
but the definite allusion may be to the Roman eagles and standards
carried by the victorious Romans into the very sanctuary at the
destruction of the Temple by Titus (A.D. 70), within the lifetime of
some whom our Lord was then addressing." (Ibid.). The Romans repeated
the desecration of the Temple first done by the Syrians -- and also
fulfilled the prophetic words of Jesus Christ. One problem for the
millennialists is that there is no Temple in which this can be done.
Before this can take place again, somehow there must be the
reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It so happens that on the
very place where the Temple must be built is the second most sacred
place in all the world to the Muslims -- the Dome of the Rock. But do
not look for a future fulfillment -- Jesus' word was fulfilled when Rome
invaded Judea and destroyed Jerusalem.
Next come the warnings. "then let those who are in Judea flee to
the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take
anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back
to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with
nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in
winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such
as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no,
nor ever shall be" (verses 16-20). The obvious reason for this warning
was for the protection of the disciples. They were given foreknowledge
of the destruction which would have taken their lives had they remained
in Jerusalem. It is impossible to make this a prophecy relative to
anything this side of the fall of Jerusalem.
Finally, verse 34 reads, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation
will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled." That
generation meant those living then. And Jesus word came to pass. All
things up to this point in His prophecy were fulfilled when Jerusalem
Time forbids today, but next Sunday I will continue this study and
we will find out what is meant by the sign of the Son of Man, the Coming
of the Lord, the falling of the stars, the sun darkened, and the shaking
of the powers of heaven. But today, just remember, everything up to
verse 34 is already fulfilled and there is no future fulfillment in
Thank you for listening. If you would like to have additional study
materials on this topic, or any other, please let us know. If you would
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Bowling Green, KY. 42101, or call 842-7880. Thank you very much for
listening and until next Sunday, goodbye.
Radio Sermon No. 54