1 John 3:16

"By this we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

Monday, 18 October 2010

Great Tribulation

Though trouble was widespread in the Roman Empire from 60-70AD, the greatest blow would come to Judea. This is the period that Jesus spoke of in Matt 24:21. Jesus called this the time of the abomination and desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet. (Matt 24:15) In Luke, Jesus said that this was when the armies of Rome would encircle and destroy Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). See also Mark 13:14.

How is it possible that such a momentous season of trouble, that Jesus so clearly warned about, would not be in the apostle’s mind in some way and referred to in their writings in the New Testament? When the siege of Jerusalem finally occurred, Jews from the whole known world were there, for the siege began at Passover (Josephus, Wars, 6, 9, 3.). “Accordingly, the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world.” (Wars, 6 9, 4.).

And the people of the prince that shall come (Rome) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end shall be with a flood and to the end of the war desolations are determined…And for the overspreading of abominations He shall make it desolate; even until the consummation (end) and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Dan 9:26-27).

The Appearing

It is in such a climate that Peter encouraged the church concerning the appearing of Christ. We repeat the text:

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, be found to praise and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 1:7).

What might this term appearing mean in this context? It is referring to His kingdom, His intervention in the affairs of men at His appointed time, for the vindication of our faith and the comfort of the church with days of peace. Those who remain faithful to the Lord during the day of trial will be vindicated at the appearing of Christ’s authority. Our trials are not in vain, not only for our own souls, but also for the blessing and heritage we leave.

We see this meaning portrayed in Luke, where Jesus stated that He was speaking about the siege of Jerusalem:

And when you see these things begin to come to pass, then look up (be encouraged) and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near…So likewise you, when you see these things come to pass, know you that the kingdom of God is near at hand. Truly I say to you, this generation shall not pass away until all be fulfilled. (Luke 21:28, 31-32).

Could it be put any plainer? Jesus was not speaking to us, but to His disciples. He said that they would see all of this. He repeated it, saying that their generation would not pass away until all this was fulfilled. It is clear in the context that the redemption and the kingdom were the deliverance of the saints from their persecution by the Jews and Rome.

The Jewish and Roman persecution stopped. Roman persecution did not start again until the mid 3rd Century. There was sporadic persecution in the Roman Empire, but persecution did not become a state policy again until the reign of Decius in the mid 3rd Century and more so in the reigns of Diocletian and Galerius in the late 3rd and early 4th Centuries.

Parousia means coming and appearing. It is not limited to one event at the end of the world, at the resurrection of the dead. The word relates to the kingdom of Christ. It means Christ rules and He appears to the church, through the church and in history.

His kingdom and authority reign through the New Covenant. He comes to save, to fill with His Spirit, to vindicate His saints, to take to heaven when saints die, to bring down earthly kingdoms and to raise up new ones and He comes to end the curse at the resurrection, when corruption puts on incorruption.

There is no doubt that the apostles used the term Christ’s appearing to exhort the disciples in the perilous times that they were then going through, without meaning that the end of the whole world was at hand. They did not think that the whole world was about to end.

It is likely that references to last-days in Acts 2:7, 2 Tim 3:1, James 5:3, 1 Pet 1:5, 1 Pet 1:20, 2 Pet 3:3, 1 John 2:18 and Jude 18 do not refer to the end of this whole world. References to the last day in John 6:40, 44, 54, 11:24, 12:46 and 1 Cor 15:23 do refer to the end of this age at the second resurrection and final judgment. We discuss this in the next chapter.

However, Peter was not speaking of the end of the world, but of the fulfilment of the Jewish prophets, the time of consummation, when Jesus came to redeem us:
Who (Jesus Christ) truly was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. (1 Pet 1:20).

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Appearing of Christ

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, be found to praise and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 1:7).

If we remember what was happening in these days it brings a lot of meaning to the context. Christians were being burnt by Rome. Not only was Jerusalem against the church, but in Nero’s time Rome had become an enemy of the gospel. Nero demanded emperor worship, which the Christians would not give.

Rome burnt many Christians. Nero used them for human candles to light the streets of Rome at night. They were tortured and killed by gladiators and lions in Nero’s games as he tried to please the multitudes with entertainment, as Nero’s temperament grew worse and worse.

It is hard to imagine how we could read the New Testament without reflecting on the impact that these things made on its context. If today’s Christians were commonly burnt as street lamps and if a despotic and insane ruler was tearing down the fabric of society, our writings would comment on the trouble. This is exactly the context of the much of the New Testament. But with a Dispensationalist outlook, we shift our mind’s attention from their day to our day. This is not genuine exegesis of scripture.

Suetonius Tranquillus, a Roman government official, described Nero’s behaviour, which was not too dissimilar to what may happen in our own time:

He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his home attended by a great throng and treated him as his wife. And the witty jest that someone made is still current, that it would have been well for the world if Nero's father Domitius had that kind of wife.

This Sporus, decked out with the finery of the empresses and riding in a litter, he took with him to the courts and marts of Greece and later at Rome through the Street of the Images, fondly kissing him from time to time.

Tacitus described the persecution of Nero against Christians:

An immense multitude was convicted…of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. (Tacitus Annals XV.44).
Tacitus wrote generally of this period:

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…there were civil wars, more foreign wars and often both at the same time.

He went on to describe distress all over the empire, natural catastrophes and the many people who died and concluded:

Besides the manifold misfortunes that befell mankind…never was it more fully proved by awful disasters of the Roman people or by indubitable signs that the gods care not for our safety, but for our punishment. (Tacitus, The Histories).

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Perilous Times

We are saying that the term last-days was primarily about this transition for Israel, between the Old and the New Covenants. Many resisted this transition and still tried to live as though under the law, even as Christians. But when the temple was removed in 70AD they could no longer do this. This transition occurred during what the Bible called perilous times. In other places it was called great tribulation.

(We do not say that last-days only refers to that period. If can refer more generally to this present evil age, which is under God’s judgement, in which the lives of people are but a vapour [brief]. We speak of this in the next chapter. The principles that the 1st Century met still apply.)

Israel had entered this messianic age that they were expecting and that which the Essenes were preparing for. It was only that this messianic age was not as many of them had expected. Instead of ruling from Jerusalem in the Middle East, Jesus was ruling from the heavenly Jerusalem.

We will now look at how Peter used the term last time, or the end. Peter spoke of the salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. He spoke of the appearing of Jesus Christ. He said that the end of all things was at hand (1 Pet 4:7). What could he have meant by this?

1. The end of the whole world, in which case he was wrong. It is 2,000 years since Peter said this and the world has not ended.

2. He meant that the end was “at hand” or near from God’s perspective. But Peter was not speaking of God’s perspective here. He was speaking to those he wrote to and said to them plainly that the end was at hand.

3. By “at hand” Peter meant that we could die at any time and must be ready for judgement. That is, the end is always at hand for all of us. It is difficult to show that Peter meant this. He was referring to the historical events the people of that time were passing through.

4. Or was Peter referring to the perilous time of that generation, leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem?

It is clear that they were living in exceptionally perilous times. Paul had said perilous times would come in “the last-days”, while addressing how Timothy should conduct himself, meaning that Paul was referring to their own time (2 Tim 3:1).

In 1 Cor 7:26 Paul recommended not marrying, if any had the gift, due to the “present distress”. Paul addressed this in 1st Thessalonians 5, when speaking of the approaching trouble. Paul said that the Thessalonians (a mixture of Jew and non-Jewish believers) should be prepared for this, intimating that this was to happen in their own time.

Jay Adams, a respected Evangelical author, wrote in Trust and Obey: A Practical Commentary on First Peter:

In six or seven years from the time of writing, the overthrow of Jerusalem, with all its tragic stories, as foretold in the Book of Revelation and in the Olivet Discourse upon which that part is based, would take place.

Titus and Vespasian would wipe out the old order once and for all. All those forces that led to the persecution and exile of these Christians in Asia Minor—the temple ceremonies (outdated by Christ’s death), Pharisaism (with its distortion of O.T. law into a system of works-righteousness) and the political stance of Palestinian Jewry toward Rome—would be erased.

The Roman armies would wipe Jewish opposition from the face of the land. Those who survived the holocaust of A.D. 70 would themselves be dispersed around the Mediterranean world. “So,” says Peter, “hold on; the end is near.” The full end of the Old Testament order (already made defunct by the cross and the empty tomb) was about to occur.

We fully agree with Adam’s appraisal expressed here.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Former Sins

Jeremiah showed that in the New Covenant God would forget former sins, remove sin altogether and forever sanctify His people. The purpose of the New Covenant was, “I will put your sin from Me, as far as the east is from the west.” (Ps 103:12). This would make us New Creations. This gives us a new heart. Because of this new heart we do not forsake the Lord. This is the whole reason that Jesus came.

God’s problem with the Old Covenant was that the people broke it, “Which…covenant they broke…” (Jer 31:31-33) There was a continual cycle of sin, captivity, prophet, repentance, blessing, sin…(See the book of Judges.) This is not the life of one who is born again.

In Christ He has put all those former things away, “For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sins no more.”. Jeremiah continues in chapter 31 to say that God has not cast off His people despite their sin, but will bring them into this New Covenant of renovation and change of heart. This is what the book of Hebrews describes.

Isaiah also showed that former things are gone:

…because the former troubles (sins) are forgotten and because they are hid from mine eyes (through Christ’s blood). For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy. (Is 65:16-18).

The gospel is such good news.

A New Heart

A New Jerusalem is a new heart. We have something to sing about! Why would we be dragged back under an Old Covenant religious mindset, as if Jesus Christ did not prevail in fulfilling these prophecies? Hebrews describes this New Jerusalem:

But you are come to mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem…to the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven and to God the judge of all and to the spirits of just men made perfect and to Jesus…(Heb 12:22-23).

We have come to this now. We are in this New Creation that God has made in Jesus Christ. This is what the gospel is. This new order is our redemption:

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He said, Behold, the days come when I will make a New Covenant… (Heb 8:7-8).

Passages such as 2 Chron 7:14 do not apply to the church:

If My people who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways: then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

This was the problem of the Old Covenant. The people did not know God and did not continue in His ways. God kept sending them deliverers and they would go back into sin. Considering the state of their heart under the Old Covenant God cried out, “Behold, I make all things new.”. We are not saying that we never sin, but God’s people who are in Christ are not repeatedly brought down into a cycle of sin and deliverance and should not expect to be, nor should they pray like that.

A backslidden nation needs to pray this prayer and the people of that nation given a new heart. Then our nation’s lands will be healed.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Not a Temple of Stone

Dispensationalism claims that the above passage (Is 66:21-23) is about Jesus returning to Jerusalem and setting up the temple and making Gentiles literal Levites in the temple. This is wrong for several reasons:

1. Jesus never said this and neither did any apostle in the New Testament.

2. It denies the clear intention of prophetic language.

3. It is literalism.

4. It denies the New Covenant in Christ.

The clear interpretation of these passages by the apostles cannot be denied:

To whom (Jesus) we come, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. You also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on Him shall not be confounded. (1 Pet 2:4-6).

True Zionism is Jesus Christ and His church. So how can it be said that we are spiritualizing the texts? This is what Peter said: “A spiritual house.”.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

New Heaven/Earth

God applied the same language to the removal of Israel and the Old Covenant and the bringing in of the reign on His Son in the New Covenant. This is the greatest establishment of a New Order in prophetic history.

And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, says the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, says the Lord. (Is 66:21-23).

This is about the New Covenant, as the Gentiles worship the Lord. God said that He will take of the Gentiles and make us Levites and priests. The term Levites here means that God will make priests of the Gentiles through the New Covenant. Levites is not used literally, but symbolically for priests.

Imagine the outrage of the early Jews over this. “How could those Gentiles be made priests?”. We are made priest through Jesus Christ, through new birth and by the gift of the Spirit. This is the only priesthood now and it includes believing Jews also.

Then God said that this New Heaven and New Earth would remain before Him forever. That is, the new order, the New Covenant, is an eternal covenant in His Son. There is no doubt that the New Heaven and New Earth are symbolic of the New Covenant, the everlasting covenant where there is an eternal remission of sin by one sacrifice.

Heb 9:10 claimed that the Old Covenant was “ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation”, meaning correction or perfection. Kittel, in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, commented on the Greek word διόρθωσις (reformation), saying that the Old Covenant:

Lasted until the setting up of the order of the fulfilled time…when the Law and the Prophets were replaced by the διόρθωσις…the time of the true order…From this time on there is in force the order of the dawning time of consummation in the fashioning of the relation between God and man. Thus διόρθωσις is a witness to the fulfilment of Judaism in Christianity and an expression of the eschatological faith of primitive Christianity.

Eschatology in the mind of early Christendom meant the fulfilment of the Old Testament expectation in Christ. Is 66:23 also uses the term Sabbath symbolically for worship. Paul said that the literal Sabbath was abolished forever in Christ (Col 2:16). The literal Sabbath will never return. To say it will return in a future dispensation opposes the finished work of Christ.

Hag 2:5-7 and Heb 12:26-28 together also show that the New Heaven and New Earth refer to the New Covenant. This is the contextual meaning of the passages. (We discussed in the previous chapter.)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

All Nations to Battle

Prophets such as Joel and Zechariah spoke of the “latter days”. By this they meant the end of the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant or Mosaic era. The period was definitely in the latter days of Israel’s nationhood, hundreds of years after those prophets wrote. Our mistake is that we do not read the Bible from the perspective at the time that it was written.

They spoke about all nations coming against Israel. Nations means ethnos, Gentile people groups. This was fulfilled by Rome which gathered the nations in that region into its army (much as a UN army would today) and destroyed the state of Israel. This is where the rulers of Israel fell, its governors and priests, as stars and the sun from heaven. Any historical commentary would show us this.

The prophets also referred to many battles that would precede this last event, such as Ezekiel’s reference to Gog and Magog. Historical commentaries show that these were tribes in that region that came against Israel in the Intertestamental period.

The prophets then spoke of a restoration of Israel in the New Covenant after its destruction in the 1st Century. This restoration was fulfilled by the gospel. This is what John the Baptist declared in the opening of his ministry. The nation was about to be thrown into the fire, but there was an escape through the Son of God.

God has not cast off His people, but has called them into His Son, where all His promises are fulfilled. This is how Paul and the early apostles interpreted the prophets and these events.


So we are speaking about the fall of the nation state of Israel, as declared by the prophets and the restoration of those called to salvation through the Seed of David. The language used to depict this fall was the same language used concerning the judgement of Idumea;

And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falls off from the vine and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea and upon the people of my curse, to judgement. (Is 34:4-5).

Here again is a parousia (come down). It is used in terms of judgement. The Lord said that the heavens would be dissolved. All the stars would fall down and the heavens would be rolled up as a scroll.

This is the same language that Peter used in his second epistle. Peter said, “The heavens being on fire shall dissolve (2 Pet 3:12). We read this and suppose that Peter was speaking literally. But was he? Are we not interpreting his words according to pagan chiliasm (spoken of in our previous chapter) and not according to the Hebrew literary intention?

If the heavens were not literally destroyed in the reference to Idumea, but it referred to their leaders and kingdom being completely removed and dissolved, as it was, then why should we apply a different principle of interpretation to Peter’s prophecy? Again, why the distinction? We will address this prophecy of Peter further below.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Old World

Peter spoke of the last-days in Acts 2:17. He referred to Joel’s prophecy about the last-days, when God would pour out His Spirit. Peter said “this is that”, meaning that the events of Acts 2 were those that were to occur in Joel’s last-days.

Peter referred to Joel’s prophecy about the sun and moon turning red and said it was fulfilled in his time then. These were not the last-days before the Second Coming of Christ, but the last-days of the law and the prophets and the last-days of the nation of Israel as a nation under the Old Covenant.

The prophecies about the sun and moon are again symbolic. We can see this in many Old Testament texts. They refer to earthly kingdoms, rulers and princes. The symbolic language means that one kingdom, era, order, rule, dynasty or nation is about to come down and a new order arise in its place.

This is the time when the Old Covenant was ended by Christ and the New Covenant established. A whole new order had been brought in.

Sun, Moon and Stars

Take Babylon for example. When Isaiah prophesied of its destruction this is the language that he used:

For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth and the moon shall not cause her light to shine…Therefore I will shake the heavens and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord and in the day of His fierce anger. (Is 13:10, 13).

If we read the whole chapter in Isaiah we will see that Isaiah was speaking about the coming judgement on Babylon. Isaiah used symbols to show that the destruction would be complete. All the leaders fell and the empire was overturned. A whole new order in terms of earthly dominion was established.

God said that the stars, sun and moon would be darkened and the earth would be removed. The heavens also would shake. We read this and know that it is symbolic. The earth was not literally removed out of its place. The stars, sun and the moon still gave out their light.

If it is clear that this did not literally happen in Babylon’s time and that it was symbolic, then why would we interpret New Testament verses like this literally? Why would we go to the same statements that Jesus made in Matthew 24 and say that these must be literal? Why the distinction?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

What Others Say

Because this is new to many Christians, we will list a few statements from other believers. We will get a bit ahead of our topic with these quotes, which include a few matters that we will discuss further below.

John Owen, in his sermon to the British Parliament (The Advantage of the Kingdom of Christ in the Shaking of the Kingdoms of the World, available at www.ccel.org/ccel/owen) commented on Matt 24:29:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. The Judicial state, in all the height and glory of it, was utterly consumed; so that all flesh, all the Jews, were in danger of utter destruction. (Referring to 70AD).

John Gill, famous Evangelical commentator and mentor of Charles Spurgeon, wrote much on these matters. We have just a line here. On Mark 13:26 Gill noted:

And then shall they see the Son of man, etc. Not in person, but in the power of His wrath and vengeance; of which the Jews then (in 70AD) had a convincing evidence. (Commentary on Mark).

The well known Evangelical commentator Adam Clarke said on Matt 24:30:

Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man. The plain meaning of this is, that the destruction of Jerusalem will be such a remarkable instance of divine vengeance, such a signal manifestation of Christ's power and glory, that all the Jewish tribes shall mourn and many will, in consequence of the manifestation of God, be led to acknowledge Christ and his religion.

By ‘land’, in the text, is evidently meant here, as in several other places, the land of Judea and its tribes, either its then inhabitants, or the Jewish people wherever found. (Commentary on Matthew).

Bishop John Lightfoot (not the liberal Lightfoot, but John of the 17th Century) was a signatory of the Westminster Confession and he held to the same view on Matthew 24. You can find his works easily on the Internet. He wrote much on the topic.

There are many more authors in our current day that could be listed here, including Kenneth Gentry and Gary DeMar. See DeMar’s books End Times Fiction and Last-days Madness. Jay Adams is a respected Christian author today. He has written two books on these issues that are worth reading; Time Is At Hand and Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox?

Preterism comes from the Latin root for past. Preterists claim that prophecy has been fulfilled. We hold to partial preterism, meaning some prophecies are fulfilled, but the final prophecies about Christ Second Coming and the resurrection have not yet been fulfilled. We write more on this in our next chapter.

Marcellus Kik, John Lightfoot, Jay Adams, Kenneth Gentry, Andrew Sandlin, C. Jonathin Seraiah, Richard Pratt, David Chilton, Gary North, Rousas Rushdoony, Lorraine Boettner, Adam Clarke all interpret Matt 24:31 as the destruction of Jerusalem, none of whom are full preterists.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Troublesome Texts

Further texts that describe the Lord’s coming follow. Consider what these mean:
But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another: for truly I say to you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. (Matt 10:23).

Jesus said that His disciples (them, not us) would not have reached all the villages of Israel before He would come. Some have said Jesus was crazy, that He predicted His soon Second Coming and was wrong. The parousia Jesus was speaking of here was with reference to Jerusalem in that generation. This scripture was fulfilled.

J.W. McGarvey, Albert Barnes, F.F. Bruce, D.A. Carson, R.C.H. Lenski, Theodor Zahn, W.W. How and J. Barton Payne are among the many commentators who claim that the “coming” in Matt 10:23 is the Roman invasion of Palestine, which occurred in 66-70AD.
Truly I say to you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt 16:28).

Jesus said that there were some that He was speaking to, who would not die before He would come. This cannot be fulfilled by His glory being revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration or by His coming at Pentecost, because the transfiguration was a few days later and Pentecost was within a few months. None of the people Jesus addressed had died by then (except Judas).

The normal meaning of this statement is, “Among you lot standing here, many will have died in the normal cause of events, but some of you will still be alive.”. This is about the time of one generation. To interpret this some other way is to change its natural meaning. Jesus said that He would come before that generation had all expired. Like it or lump it, this is what He said.

Again the high priest asked Him, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61-62).

When the high priest slapped Jesus, Jesus answered that he would see His coming of in glory. Coming in the clouds of heaven are the exact words used in the Old Testament for judgement against a city. The meaning to the priest was clear. The priest was judging Jesus, but it was the temple and priesthood that was about to be judged.

Jesus here made a clear reference to Daniel 7, about the Son of man ascending and given authority. The priest knew it. It was an answer to his question, “Are you the Son of God.” Jesus said, “Yes, I am the one in Daniel.” The biblical meaning is as plain as day. This is why the priest rent his clothes are cried, “Blasphemy.”

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Roman World

In Matt 24:14 Jesus said that the gospel shall be preached in all the word and then the end shall come. The end Jesus was referring to was the age His disciples asked about – the temple era. The world He referred to was the Roman world.

Jesus used the Greek word oikoumene for world. This means a region. When Joseph and Mary were taxed, Caesar sent out a decree to “all the world.” (Luke 2:1). This is the Roman world. See Strong’s Greek Dictionary for world in Matt 24:14:

3625: Land, i.e. the (terrene part of the) globe; specially, the Roman Empire.
On the Day of Pentecost people were present from “every nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:5). This is not literal, it does not include Australia! Paul said a few times that in his day the gospel had been preached in all the world and to every creature under heaven. Again, he was referring to the Roman Empire.

…your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Rom 1:8).

Obviously Paul did not mean the whole planet. He was using a figure of speech referring to the region in which they lived. In Col 1:6 and 23 Paul said that the gospel in his day had been preached in “all the world” and to “every creature which is under heaven”. Again, he was talking of the Roman world.

These verses show that Jesus’ prediction was fulfilled exactly. Before that generation expired the gospel had gone to the whole Roman world. It appears that God gave the Diaspora of the Jews throughout the Roman Empire one generation after the Lord’s coming to hear the gospel and repent. When the gospel was preached to the world Jesus spoke of, all that Jesus said about that generation came to pass.
This is just as Peter said, the Lord is patient, not willing that any should perish (2 Pet 3:9).

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Coming of the Lord

Now we look at another part of the disciple’s question; “What would be the sign of Your coming?”. Today we think of this language as referring to the Second Coming of Christ. Is this what the disciples had in their mind? Did they know about His Second Coming then? They had no idea about that.

What then was their context or mind? We answer this by looking at the word they used – parousia. Parousia is a Greek word meaning coming, presence or appearing. It is used many times in the Old (Septuagint) and New Testaments and it rarely refers to the Second Coming of Christ. The Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines parousia;

Strong’s 395: from the present participle of 3918; a being near, i.e. advent (often, return; specially, of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked)…

Old Testament

Parousia is also used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is translated “come” in English:

The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rides upon a swift cloud and shall come into Egypt…(Is 19:1).

In this verse we have the parousia of the Lord on a cloud to judge Egypt. This is the same language that Jesus used about His coming on a cloud. The disciples would have thought about such Old Testament texts when they asked their question about the judgement on Jerusalem. This was the disciple’s mind.

He bowed the heavens also and came down: and darkness was under His feet…yes, He sent out His arrows and scattered them; and shot out lightening and discomforted them. (Ps 18:9, 14).

This is exactly the language that Jesus used in Matthew 24 about His coming on a cloud with lightening. Why should we interpret Matthew 24 literally when the clear indication of the Old Testament is that this language is symbolic in prophetic literature of judgement?

For, behold, the Lord comes forth out of His place and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall quake under Him and the valleys shall cleft…(Mic 1:3-4).

When these same terms are used in Revelation some people interpret them literally. Again, why when in the Old Testament these terms are clearly symbolic of judgement, should we interpret them literally when they appear the same way in the New Testament? To literalise these terms is clearly not biblical.

See also a few other examples; Gen 11:5, Ex 3:8, 1 Chron 16:33, Ps 50:3-4, Is 31:4, Ezek 32:7-8, Zeph 1:15. These all speak of a parousia of the Lord. In each case it is referring to judgement.

In all of these texts clouds, lightening and coming down are all symbolic language for storms of judgement. Judgement is obviously portrayed by storms: thick, black clouds coming from the horizon, showing that strong wind, lightening and destruction are on their way. The symbolic intention is plain.

In none of these texts was there a physical appearing of Christ. If that is how the scripture is interpreted then why should we interpret the same words that Jesus used in Matthew 24 differently?

To show what Jesus meant, the theme is repeated in Luke 17. Here the lightening from one side of the sky to the other is mentioned (vs. 24), then the revelation of the Son of man, followed by calamity. Jesus warns those on housetops to flee, meaning to get out of Jerusalem. In this context Lot’s wife is remembered, meaning, “Do not tarry but move out hastily”.

Why would they be fleeing Jerusalem after the Second Coming of Jesus? This is plainly speaking of the Christian Jews fleeing Jerusalem before 70AD. This is the context of two men or women and one taken and one left (vs. 34-36). It has nothing to do with a rapture. It means that one is taken in death by the calamity and one is left. It is a warning.

When Jesus spoke about His coming on the clouds and that every eye shall see Him, He was answering the disciple’s question about Jerusalem, expressing the severity of the judgement and not speaking about His Second Coming. Matthew 24 is not about the end of this world. It is about the end of the Old Covenant era.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

That Generation

The context tells us that Jesus was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem. He said that all this would come upon that generation:

Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled. (Matt 24:34).

Notice that this verse is recorded late in the chapter, after the advent of Jesus on the clouds of heaven. Jesus said that everything He spoke of in Matthew 24 would be fulfilled before that generation passed away.

Was Jesus speaking about His Second Coming? Some have said that He was mistaken, because that generation passed away and His Second Coming has not yet taken place. If everything that Jesus spoke of had to be fulfilled in that generation then He could not have been speaking of His Second Coming. He must have been speaking of the destruction of the temple in 70AD.

A generation is about 40 years. Matthew used this word generation many times in this Gospel and it always meant the people who were alive at that time. (See Matt 1:17, 11:16, 12:39, 12:41, 12:42, 45, 16:4, 17:17, 23:36, 24:34.) We cannot change the meaning of the word to refer to some future generation that Jesus was not addressing then.

Jesus was speaking to a group of people face to face and said, “This generation.”. The plain meaning of the text is that He was referring to the generation that He was speaking to. The passage says nothing to indicate a different meaning. We have to assume a different meaning if we wish to interpret the passage some other way.

Jesus spoke this about 30AD. This puts 70AD well within the time frame that Jesus was speaking of.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian alive when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD. He may not have been a Christian, but he gave a graphic detail of events, showing that everything Jesus said in Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the period when Rome destroyed Jerusalem.

About the period 53-60AD Josephus said, “The country was full of…false prophets, false messiahs…who deluded the people with promises of great events.” (Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5-6.). Many Jews followed these false messiahs and lost their lives. Josephus described the blasphemy and punishment of Jerusalem during that period as a direct fulfilment of Daniel, i.e. the abomination that made desolation (Dan 9:26-27).

These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of man and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets they ridiculed them…for there was a certain ancient oracle…that the city should be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots disbelieved these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment. (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 1:321. 4.7.3.).

According to Jesus and Josephus the prophecy about an abomination in Jerusalem has been fulfilled and is not a future event. Rome laid siege against Jerusalem for 3 ½ years, before destroying it in 70AD, just as Revelation 11 stated would happen.

Josephus recorded many signs in the heavens that signified God’s judgement, such as a sword that stood over the city, a comet that continued a whole year, a light that lit the area at night, chariots and housemen seen on the clouds around the city, as well as shakings and noises from heaven. As the high priest offered a heifer, it gave birth to a lamb (Josephus, The War of the Jews, 1:453-54 6.5.3., 1:454 6.5.3).

When Roman stones began to destroy the city, some cried out, “The Son is coming.”. James, brother of Jesus, had publicly testified in the temple that the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven to destroy Jerusalem and the Jews mocked this (Stuart Russell, Parousia). See also Eusebius, Church History for James’ testimony, which according to Eusebius occurred when he was martyred.

Historians of the period speak of wars in the whole region of the Roman Empire. Ancient writings referred to provinces within the Empire as nations and kingdoms, for kings ruled over each of them, such as Herod and Agrippa. Millions of people died between 55-70AD, including millions of Jews. Millions more Jews went into slavery. History records a great increase in earthquakes, famines and false christs in those days.

Jesus said that there would be trouble such as there never was before or ever shall be again (Matt 24:21). Whether this is literal in terms of the number of deaths we do not know for certain. But this is a Hebrew idiom used to lay emphasis, such as when both Hezekiah and Josiah were said to have served God more than any before them or after them (2 Kings 18:5, 23:25). See also Ex 10:14, 11:6, Ezek 5:9, Dan 12:1 and Joel 2:2.

For a full description of the terrible events in Jerusalem and Roman region in the decade leading up to 70AD see the Full Works of Flavius Josephus, available on the Internet and in libraries. See relevant extracts from Josephus in The Last-days According to Jesus by R. C. Sproul. This book is an examination of issues raised in Matthew 24.

See also The Most Embarrassing Verse in the Bible for a commentary on Matthew 24, by Assemblies of God pastor and president of the International Correspondence Institute, Australia, Andrew Corbett. You can buy this as an e-book at www.andrewcorbett.net.

Monday, 4 October 2010


The wider context of Matthew 24 is important. In Matt 21:33-46 Jesus gave the parable of the vineyard about those who killed the prophets and the Son. The elders of Israel agreed that the Lord “will miserably destroy those wicked men and let out His vineyard to another husbandman, which shall render Him the fruits in their season.”(vs. 41).

Jesus then said, “The stone that the builders rejected is become the head…” (vs. 42). Here He is referring to Dan 7:13-14. The one they crucified ascended, sat down, was given a kingdom and dominion and returned in judgement and glory against that generation. The theme continues in Matt 23:33-36:

You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes: and some of them you shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall you scourge in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city:

That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

Jesus said that the generation He was then speaking to would have a visitation of the judgement of God. Matthew 24 then described this visitation in detail. Jesus spoke of earthquakes, famines, false Christ’s, wars and rumours of wars. He said all the tribes of the land shall mourn (Matt 24:30). The Greek word used here for tribes is phule and the Greek word for land is ge.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia claims that apart from rare exceptions phule is used for the tribes of Israel. (See its use in Matt 19:28, 24:30, Luke 22:30, Acts 26:7, James 1:1, Rev 7:4, 21:12.) Stuart Russell claimed, “The restricted sense of the word ge in the New Testament is common; and when connected, as it is here with the word “tribes” (phulai), its limitation to the land of Israel is obvious.” (Stuart Russell, The Parousia).

Jesus spoke to those that He was addressing face to face and told them to take the warning from the fig tree. Just as they know the season by the leaves of a fig tree, so they shall know when these troubles begin that the time of the destruction of Jerusalem was at hand. He told them to flee the city in that day.

This fig tree has nothing to do with our own day and has nothing to do with Israel becoming a nation again in the 20th Century. Jesus spoke this only in regard to the Roman advance on Jerusalem.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Matthew 24

In Matt 24:1-3 the disciples asked Jesus about the “end of the age”. Some translations put it “the end of the world”. At that time the disciples did not know anything about the Second Coming of Christ. They did not even understand that Jesus would die for sin and rise again. They did not understand that He would ascend to heaven and one day come again.

This should be apparent without listing the Bible references. The disciples did not then know why Jesus had come. Peter told Jesus not to go to the cross. John and James’ mother wanted her sons to reign with Jesus in Jerusalem. Judas Iscariot was trying to make this happen. Even after the resurrection Jesus rebuked them for still not understanding why He came. It was not until they were filled with the Spirit at Pentecost that they understood.

So what did their question in Matt 24:3 mean?

And 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, See all these things? Truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the world? (Matt 24:1-3).

The context is the destruction of the temple. Jesus said the buildings would be totally destroyed. The disciples asked one question in three phrases, when would this be, what would be the sign of Your coming and the end of the world, or age? Mark and Luke also record this incident and show it was only one question about the destruction of Jerusalem.
And Jesus answering said to him, See these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down…Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled. (Mark 13:2-4).

So the end of the world they asked about was the “end of the age” that Jesus said would be signified by the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. The Strong’s Greek dictionary defines the word used here for world as “age”:

Strong’s 165…properly, an age…

This was the end of the Mosaic age and the end of the political nation of Israel. John the Baptist had already warned the Jewish nation of this, saying “The axe is already laid to the root of the tree.” (Luke 3:9). Malachi had called this the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5). Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah, whom Malachi said would come before this day (Matt 11:14).

Donald Hagner (Fuller Theological University) claimed in his Matthew Commentary, "The conceptual unity of the Parousia (coming) and the end of the age is indicated by the single Greek article governing both (Sharp's Rule). The disciples thus were unable to separate the two events in their minds: the destruction of Jerusalem must entail the end of the age and the Parousia of Jesus...".

This shows that the disciples were asking only one question: “When was the current age going to end in the messianic fulfilment?”.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Consummation

The term in the Greek for “last” is eschaton and can refer to common things as well as theological. We can have the last-days (eschaton) of a school term for example. The term can apply to any use.

In prophecy it can mean three things:

1. The end of the Old Covenant Jewish age as expected by the Old Testament prophets.

2. The kingdom of Christ, in which we now live, as the eschaton expected by Israel.

3. Or the end of the world which is yet ahead of us.

How did the apostles use the term?

God…has in these last-days spoken to us by His Son…(Heb 1:1-2).

This verse is referring to the end of the Old Testament age, when all the law and prophets were fulfilled by the coming of Christ. It is the last-days of the Jewish age and the beginning of the age of Messiah. It is the time of the consummation (fulfilment of the types, shadows and prophecies), the establishment of the New Covenant through Christ’s work.

But now once at the end of the world has He appeared to put away sin…(Heb 9:26).

This cannot be referring to a literal end of the world, for Hebrews was written some 2,000 years ago and the world has not yet ended. This is not said to scoff, but to have a sensible look at the meaning of the apostle, while we believe in the inerrancy of scripture.

The Greek word for world here (KJV) does not mean this planet, but it means ages. A better translation is the end of the ages. The term refers to eras, ages, or order of things. This term the end of the world literally means the consummation of the ages.

Heb 9:26 is speaking of the consummation where a new age replaces the Old Covenant. Jesus did not appear to put away sin at the end of the whole world, but at the end of the Old Covenant age. In Heb 9:26 the end of the age means the fulfilment and end of the Old Testament law and prophets, when Christ came to put away sin.

The book of Hebrews was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and temple. While the Old Covenant had ended with the cross, resurrection and ascension of Christ, the temple was still functioning when Hebrews was written. Heb 8:13 refers to it’s soon demise.

Heb 9:26 says that Christ appeared to put away sin at the end of the ages. The results of this were:

1. The end of the Old Covenant through the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.

2. The beginning of the New Covenant on the Day of Pentecost, with the gift of the Spirit.

3. A time of gospel proclamation to that generation of Jews.

4. An end of the old age structures by a removal of the temple and judgment on Jerusalem.

This is what John the Baptist and Jesus both said in the Gospels, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15). They were moving out of one era and into the next era. It was the time of the fulfilment of all the prophets had foretold. Paul said the same,

…they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Cor 10:11).

This term again literally means the consummation of the ages. Paul was not referring to the end of this planet or the Second Coming of Christ. Many have accused Paul of thinking that the Second Coming of Christ was at hand in his time. None of the authors of the New Testament said that. Paul was referring to the transition from the Old to the New Covenant age, which occurred in their day.

Friday, 1 October 2010

New Nature

A born again Christian has a new nature. When Paul taught we are justified by faith and not by what we do, people thought he was teaching that we could continue in sin and it would not matter. But Paul’s answer was, “How shall we who have died to sin continue any longer therein?” (Rom 6:2).

Paul’s claim here is that when someone is born again their old sinful nature is crucified and buried with Christ and so its power is broken. This is not a process, but an instantaneous miracle in the new birth. Therefore, Paul’s teaching was, if the sinful nature is dead with Christ, then how can sin rule in our lives? The obvious answer is sin cannot rule in the life of one born again.

John said he who is born of God cannot sin because the seed of God remains in him (1 John 3:9). He was talking about the nature of Christ within the born again believer. Because of this new nature, the believer cannot continue in sin. This is not saying a believer will never sin, or will live in sinless perfection. It is saying that sin cannot take dominion over any child of God. John said this is how you know those who are of God (1 John 3:7).

So a believer is not free to live a life of sin. This is because Christ lives within him and has put to death the body of sin. A believer will choose according to his nature. A believer chooses righteousness, not of himself, not of works, but of grace, by the life of Christ within, which makes him alive to Him daily.


A person will choose according to his nature and his nature is according to his birth. That is, if we are born in Adam we choose according to that nature. If we are born in Christ we choose according His nature. This is not freedom in a humanistic sense, but it is freedom from sin. We are only free when we are a bond servant of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.

Freedom does not mean that we are free to live for self. It means that the Son of God sets us free from sin. This is the only freedom, the freedom of the grace of God. His life gives us faith, hope and love and the desire to do His will. This is freedom. The Father has life in Himself and has given the Son to have life in Himself and to make alive whom He will. The Son‘s life gives us the ability to be free.

God commanded Israel that they should not make bond servants of their own people (Lev 25:39-40). This is because God had redeemed them from bondage, through the blood of the Passover lamb. We should never bring people into bondage. They are God’s. And if we lord it over other people’s faith, then they cannot stand on their own faith (2 Cor 1:24).

This redemption pictured in Israel also meant that if a person was in slavery for a debt he owed, in the seventh year he must be set free. But if the servant loved his master he could choose not to be set free. Then he would have his ear pierced as a mark that he was a love slave, by choice, for the rest of his life (Ex 21:1-6). This was a grace relationship. He served in love.

Paul (Rom 1:1, Phil 1:1), James (Jam 1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1) and Jude (Jude 1) all called themselves bond servants of Jesus Christ. In society today we talk of freedom, but redemption means that we are bought with a price, that we belong to the Lord, because by love He has changed our heart. We are servants of Jesus Christ, not of ourselves. And we are servants of one another in the Lord.