Sunday, January 01, 2006

Are Matthew 24 And Luke 21 The Same Teaching? Part 3

In this column, we conclude the discussion of whether Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are the same teaching. In the previous column, we looked at 13 distinctions between the two passages that strongly suggest that they are different teachings, given at different times, referring to different events.

In this column, we’ll look at the another aspect to this discussion – whether all events in Matthew 24 have been fulfilled (as the Luke 21 destruction of the temple has been fulfilled), and draw some conclusions about all of the evidence we’ve seen so far.

First, let’s look at the context of the first-century fulfillment of the Luke 21 destruction of the temple:

…these are the days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. (Luke 21:22)

This is the only verse within the distinctions that seems to contradict. It can appear, at first glance, to be teaching that all things are fulfilled in 70 AD. But is this really the case?

If the text is really saying that all things that were ever written about everything that would ever happen would be fulfilled at this time, there couldn’t be even a single prophetic event in the future after that point. If Luke was writing about what was to happen in 70 AD, nothing of importance could take place after 70 AD. If Luke was writing about a yet to take place persecution, nothing of importance could take place after that persecution.

Preterists try to say that v. 22 is proof of their position, but even they believe there are certain things that have been written that are unfulfilled, so if they honestly evaluated this passage, they would have to admit that, yes, “all things…fulfilled” must mean something different than they claim.

I was actually stumped by this as I pondered it until a friend pointed out the obvious. The simplicity of it slapped me. What is Luke writing about in verses 12-24? The destruction of 70 AD. So I believe the meaning of this verse must be, “These are the days of vengeance, so that all things which are written [about the 70 AD attack and the temple’s destruction] will be fulfilled.”

Final Thoughts Concerning the Thirteen Distinctions

We need to be careful to not interpret the scriptures in the same fashion that pre-tribbers interpret the Second Coming. They will read one passage that says that Christ will come after the great tribulation, and then read another passage about His coming that simply doesn’t address its timing in relation to the great tribulation. They then wrongly conclude that the two passages must be speaking of two completely different comings that take place at different times.

But we have not committed this flaw. I purposefully began this study with what appeared to be a lack of a location change to the Mount of Olives in Luke, and then discussed the before or after issue. Because the text clearly gives an undeniable timing indicator that shows that one persecution takes place before the birth pains, while another takes place after, we used this as our foundation. If we were correct about the before or after teaching, everything thereafter, within the two accounts, should also line up with what our foundation was saying. And it did.

The above thirteen distinctions between Matthew 24 and Luke 21 align perfectly with the thought that Matthew describes the end times, while Luke 21 describes the temple’s destruction that was to take place in 70 AD. These thirteen support everything the foundation was telling us. There’s not a single contradiction, and when the thirteen distinctions, the location shift, and the before or after issue are combined, it, in my opinion, becomes hard to argue another solution.

So How Does It Fit Together?

When one first reads Luke 21, it does appear that Jesus ties the temple’s destruction into the same time period as His return. But, as I hope you have concluded with me, this is not the case. Let’s break it down short-n-sweet. Jesus spoke about the exact same birth pains that He did on the Mount of Olives.

Many will come in My name…There will be wars and disturbances…Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:8-11)


Jesus concluded with the birth pains and added that there would be great signs from heaven. He then said

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you…(Luke 21:10-12)

Before the birth pains and the signs from heaven, there will be a persecution. He then spoke, in verses 12-24, concerning this particular persecution that would take place before the birth pains. He then smoothly shifted back, in verse 25, to the signs in heaven He mentioned in verse 12 where the textual shift first began.

“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, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory (Luke 21:25-27).


Why it’s written like this, I don’t know, but it is. If you want to better understand what the order of the events in Luke are, simply read verses 12-24 first. Then read 8-11, and conclude by reading 25-38.

And remember, the abomination in Matthew was said to take place after the birth pains. So this is what the two accounts look like when combined together.

1. 70 AD destruction (before birth pains)

Time of the Gentiles begins

2. Birth pains


3. Abomination (after birth pains)


4. Christ’s coming

Time of the Gentiles ends
during Christ’s
coming

The Authors

Another interesting observation involves the authors of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. When it’s understood who wrote them and where the individual writers gathered their information, it makes perfect sense that Matthew and Mark wrote about the end times tribulation, while Luke wrote about the first century persecution that would soon come.

The end times discourse written by Mark, a parallel account to the one recorded in Matthew 24, informs us that that the Olivet Discourse was given in private to a select group of Jesus’ followers—Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3). Mark was a very close associate of Peter, and therefore had direct contact with one of the four disciples who heard what Jesus had taught privately on the Mount of Olives.

Matthew was Jesus’ disciple and therefore had direct contact with the other disciples that were specifically taught on the Mount of Olives by Jesus. The point? The books of Matthew and Mark were written by those with direct knowledge of what Jesus privately taught to His closest followers.

But Luke was a converted Gentile doctor that later came to Judea in order to “investigate everything carefully (Luke 1:3),” interviewing eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection. It seems probable that Luke would have been able to find individuals who were at the temple the day that Jesus spoke about the 70 AD destruction that he later recorded. If not, this teaching would have been the public teaching that the majority would have been familiar with and explains why Luke would have gained this particular information for his chronicles of Christ.

While the above information about the authors seems true, the fact remains the same. It’s speculation that Matthew wrote a particular truth because of a certain outside influence. It’s speculation that Luke possibly wrote something else because of do-dad of another. It’s interesting, but the bottom line is that it all comes down to the true Author. What is God teaching, why, and how can it be applied?

Conclusion

I believe we have systematically approached this subject with enough care so as to not be ignorant in our conclusion. While I freely admit that I understand why people would believe Matthew and Luke are referring to the same persecution, I cannot agree that they are when we look at the text closely with care.

This conclusion not only gives us a better picture of history, and what the scripture is teaching, but proves, once again, that Jesus was more than just a man. He knew it all before it “went down.” Within this finding, another truth is revealed whether or not it was our original intent. Preterism, the belief that the coming of Christ and The Day of The Lord were fulfilled in 70 AD, falls flat, and becomes an impossibility.

Preterism teaches that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all speak exclusively of the first century Roman attack on Jerusalem. It is said that all things within these passages are fulfilled, and that there will not be an abomination of desolation, a great tribulation, or an apostasy in the future.

But the only way one can dismiss the fact that Matthew and Luke unquestionably teach that there was to be a persecution before the birth pains and that there will also be one after the birth pains would be by claiming that we have a major flaw in our translation of this section of scripture. There is no textual or historical reason to argue this point, and therefore, the only reason one could make such a claim would be an attempt to change scripture in order to fit their belief system.

The Big Picture

So what is the big picture? Luke 21 speaks of the horrendous attack on Jerusalem that would take place approximately 38 years after Jesus spoke these words at the temple to His disciples and bystanders.

This attack, brought about by God through Israel’s enemies, the Roman Empire, because of Jerusalem’s rejection of the God man, their Messiah, Jesus Christ, would lead Jerusalem’s inhabitants to disperse into all the nations, which would also ironically contribute to the Gospel being spread to other nations by the Christians who also fled the city.

Josephus, who was a firsthand eyewitness, wrote that over one million Jews were killed and that others were taken as slaves. It’s very interesting that Josephus also claimed that the 70 AD temple was actually destroyed on the very same day that the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians so many years earlier in 586 BC—the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av.

The temple was torn down, the city was ravished, and when combined with the final attack in 135 AD, Jerusalem became a heap of ruins and the land over and around the temple was literally plowed by the Romans in one final attempt to heap total disgrace upon the Jews.

Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, Her priests instruct for a price and her prophets divine for money yet they lean on the LORD saying, “Is not the LORD in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us.” Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. (Micah 3:11-12)

The inhabitants of Jerusalem were sent among the nations while the land lay desolate. In Mark Twain’s book, Innocents Abroad (1867), he wrote about the land of Israel, then named Palestine. He wrote, “Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes…is desolate and unlovely… It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land.”

God told Moses what would happen to Israel if they did not follow Him, and foretells of the desolate wasteland that would come, as we know, more than once in the Jewish Nation’s lifetime.

But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments…I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. (Lev. 26:14, 30-33).

But just as scripture predicted, the Jews began filtering back to their homeland in the 1800’s. Is was 1948 when Israel became a nation for the first time in almost 1900 years. In 1967 they regained Jerusalem. It’s coming to past right before our eyes.

It’s only by this reentering into Israel’s homeland that the events in Matthew 24 are allowed to unfold. There can be no abomination of desolation standing in the holy place and a future tribulation, as Jesus indicated in Matthew, unless there is in fact a holy place with inhabitants in Jerusalem. A barren, thicket infested land, just wouldn’t do.

The persecution during the great tribulation will be similar to that of 70 AD, but broader in its parameters. The Church will not escape the suffering. But we will be given relief when the Lord will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire. They will deal out retribution to the enemy, shutting them out from the presence of God, and throwing them into eternal destruction!

We will forever live together with Him in the New Jerusalem. We’ll have no need of the sun or the moon, for the glory of God will be our light as we eat of the tree of life, sit at His feet, and enjoy our inheritance in His eternal presence as His sons and daughters!

3 comments:

Jim P said...

Dave,
Thanks for putting this in order and making it so even I can understand. I knew that the key was separating where? The Temple where Jesus taught and Mt.of Olives where Jesus spent the nights and what the disciples were asking. You did a very good job of organizing this and making both harmonize. Things aren't always as simple as we would like them to be. It requires work but most of all Spirit must reveal. When I pray that God would reveal his truth to me, He sometimes uses people such as yourself to show me what I am seeking.
Thanks for allowing our God to use you.
I'm looking forward to reading your book.
In Christ,
Jim P

Dave Bussard said...

Thanks, Jim. Glad I could help.

Katherine Hall said...

Letting you know I just read all three parts. Sure makes a whole lotta sense from the perspective you've laid out. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for all the work you've put into it.