STUDY TWENTY-FOUR: THE KING AS THE JUDGE 2 – 24:1-51

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012

Leaving the temple after his final denunciation of the scribes and the Pharisees Jesus, talking to his disciples, added yet another statement of judgement:

‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’ [24:2]

The disciples wanted to know when that would happen, and what would be the sign of his coming and the end of the age [24:3]. Today, people are still asking these questions. It would seem that in this discourse Jesus intermingles things that were going to happen within a short period after his death as judgement on that generation of Jews, and things that will happen towards and at his return at the end of the age, that is the ‘end of the world.’

So we have the difficult task of working through this chapter and sorting things out. Far more importantly we have the responsibility to listen to the warnings that Jesus gave privately to his disciples [3] throughout this chapter.

 

Verse

Content

Comment

4

‘Watch out that no one deceives you’

The command to ‘watch out’ tells us that we have to be sure we are seeing things clearly – that we are alert and on guard.

The high potential, in the matter of the ‘last things’ and the coming of Christ, is that people will deceive us.

Being warned to watch out for this is the first line of protection. If we are expecting deception we will be automatically sceptical.

5

‘Many will come in my name claiming, “I am the Christ” and will deceive many.’

Jesus states clearly that many will come claiming to be Christ, and many will be deceived by them. This should make us all the more sceptical about people and their claims.

Note that they even claim to be the Christ.

 

6

There will be wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Here we have one of the things that people often think is a sign of the end of the world. Jesus says they are not. They are simply things that ‘must happen’. They are not indicators of the end.

Note: Jesus says ‘see to it’ … it is our responsibility to not let ourselves be alarmed.

7-8

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

 

All of these things will happen. But they are not the end. Just as the first contraction pain is not the birth, even so all of these things are not the end. 

These things have been happening ever since.

9

You will be handed over … persecuted … put to death … hated by all nations because of me.

 

This has been happening to the disciples of Christ ever since he said it, in one part of the world or another.

10

Many will turn away from the faith and betray and hate each other

This started while the disciples were still alive [read 1John 2:18-19; 2Timothy 4:9-18], and continues right up to this day.

Note the ‘many’.

 

11

… many false prophets will appear and deceive many people

Note ‘many’ … ‘many’.

Note the deception that occurs.

This happened even while the disciples were still alive, and has continued to happen right up to today. All New Testament books, except Philemon, make some reference to false prophets or false teaching.

12

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold …

 

Note ‘most’.

13

… but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

 

The assurance of true faith …

14

… this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

 

Here at last we have a statement about when the end will come: first this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world … and then the end will come. 

Note that Jesus does not say ‘this gospel of salvation’; he says ‘this gospel of the kingdom’ – that is, the message that he, Jesus, is the king. This is not a call to ‘get saved’ – this is a command to acknowledge the King.

Note also, that Jesus does not say ‘so that many will get saved’; rather, he says, ‘as a testimony to all nations’. The gospel proclamation testifies to all nations that Jesus is the King.  

Only when all nations have been told will the end come.

 

15-

[A prediction that the temple will be desecrated/defiled. Reference to Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11]

 

‘when’ actually means ‘whenever’ … it is indefinite.

Historically:

[1] This had already occurred once before in 175-164BC when Antioches Ephinanes erected a pagan altar over the temple altar.

[2] It happened in AD 70 when the Romans entered Jerusalem with images of their emperor, whom they worshipped as god, on their standards, and bloodshed occurred in the temple, which was destroyed. Parts of its furnishings were carried to Rome. It has never been rebuilt.

[3] Today an Islamic mosque occupies the temple site.

 

15

… let the reader understand …

That is, let the reader look more deeply into Daniel’s prophecy because ‘what is said is less than what is meant’ [Fenton].

16-18

The need for urgent escape from Jerusalem.

There is an urgency and inevitability in these warnings. The only possibility of relief suggested is ‘pray’ [20].

Some of this is obviously about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. However, what Jesus says later [verse 29] indicates that immediately prior to his return there will be ‘distress’.

‘great distress’ = ‘great tribulation’ in KJV [= affliction, trouble, persecution]

19

The difficulty that will be experienced by pregnant women and nursing mothers

20-21

The added difficulty if this occurs inn winter

21

The extreme distress that will be experiences – unequalled before, and unequalled after.

22

If those days had not been cut short …

God deliberately limits this physical trouble to ensure the physical survival of ‘the elect’; in thus saving the elect others are also kept alive.

This verse seems to be a transition between prediction of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and predictions of the ultimate end of the world and return of Christ that are about to be given from verse 29 on. It connects with the tribulation suffered at the fall of Jerusalem, but also with a greater suffering that will occur in the era immediately before the end.

 

23

[Warning against false Christs ]

As indicated earlier [verse 5] many will come claiming to be the returning Christ. Jesus commands us not to believe it.

 

24

[Deceptive and great miracles performed by the false Christs and false prophets]

Just because a miracle happens does not mean God did it. Miracles do not authenticate the miracle worker.

[Read Matthew 7:21-23; 2Corinthians 11:13-15].

24

[… even the elect would be deceived if that were possible]

This points to the powerful impact of these false Christs and false prophets, and is a stern warning of the need to be ultra vigilant, and ultra sceptical.

 

25

See, I have told you ahead of time.

We have no excuse if we allow ourselves to be deceived.

 

26-27

[During that time of great distress, when people tell you that Christ has come to a certain place, don’t believe them, because when he does come it will be obvious to all.]

These false claims are concurrent with the great distress. This is not surprising, for in such extreme distress people long for the relief that Christ’s coming will bring. They are easy picking for any scam. 

The knowledge that these false Christs will appear protects us from joining those who follow madly after false teachers who identify a certain place or a certain date for Christ’s return.

 When he does return every one will know it – just as lightning is visible right across the sky, not limited to one specific limited spot.

There is no need to fear that we will not see him when he comes. [See Revelation 1:7]

 

28

Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

 

 

People who run after false rumours of Christ returning are here likened to vultures … what the vultures gather around is a dead carcass. Even so, false Christs are as useless and as repulsive as a carcass.

Do not imitate the vultures.

29

[Things that will happen immediately after all the great distress he mentioned in verse 21.]

 

Jesus now tells us some things that do happen immediately before/at the same time as, his return.

  • The sun will be darkened
  • The moon will not give its light
  • The stars will fall from the sky
  • The heavenly bodies will be shaken

This all happens together. It is not a long period of darkness and chaos. It is a single event.

 

Hoekema comments: ‘We conclude, then, that the sign of tribulation is not restricted to the end-time- but characterizes the entire age between Christ’s two comings. Because of the continued opposition of the world to the kingdom of God, Christians must5 expect to suffer tribulation and persecution of one kind or another during this entire age. On the basis of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:21-30 … it would appear that there will also be a final, climactic tribulation just before Christ returns. This tribulation will not be basically different from earlier tribulations which God’s people have had to suffer, but will be an intensified form of those earlier tribulations.’ [The Bible and the Future, page 150f]

30-31

At that time …

  • The Son of Man will appear in the sky
  • All the nations of the earth will mourn
  • They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory
  • He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call
  • They will gather the elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other

At the same time as the above …

Jesus will come back … this will cause the nations of the earth to mourn because now the see him … his power, his great glory.

 

There will be a loud trumpet call and all the angels will gather ‘the elect’ from all over the earth.

32-35

[The certainty that the things he has predicted will happen.]

  • Just as fresh leaves on a fig tree indicate summer is near, so the signs he has predicted are very near
  • ‘this generation’ will not pass away until all these things have happened.
  • Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away

There is no clear understanding about the meaning of these verses. Scholars disagree about an important point: 

Is Jesus talking about his predictions about the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem [by which he answered the disciples’ first question [verse 3a], or is he talking about his glorious return [by which he answered their second question [verse 3b]? The simplest answer is that he is talking about the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in AD 70. This easily explains the meaning of verse 34.

 But it is not necessarily the correct interpretation. In verses 33 and 34 he uses the phrase ‘all these things’, and he has just been listing specifics about his return. That he is talking about his return seems to be the natural flow of the discourse. However, this raises the problem of the meaning of ‘this generation’ in verse 34. Obviously the generation hearing Jesus speak passed away almost two millennia ago. So, if he is referring to his return then ‘this generation’ cannot have its normal meaning. It could mean: ‘this race’ [i.e. the Jews]; it could mean those who oppose and persecute him and his followers [indicating that persecution will be sustained throughout the period between his first and second comings; it could mean believers, and therefore be an added assurance of the perseverance of the saints. 

Verse 35 locks the certainty of Christ’s return as he described it into the trustworthiness of his words. What he has said will come to pass. And that is that.

36

No one knows about the day or the hour – not the angels, nor the Son, but only the Father

Although his return is locked in, that time of that return is not known.

This makes it futile to try to work out when he will return, and foolish to listen to anyone who says they do know. 

It is interesting that Jesus states that ‘the Son’ does not know. Some scholars assume that he is in this referring to his knowledge as a human, but this can create a different set of problems.

37-41

As it was in the days of Noah –

  • Everything was normal [38]
  • When the flood came [39]

So it will be when the Son of Man comes.

People will be caught out by his coming – one taken, another left.

People had not prepared themselves for the flood, even though Noah was preparing for it for many decades. Even though they had been warned they were caught unawares, and unprepared.

42

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

We know that he is coming; because of that, and because we do not know on which specific day, we are commanded to be ready [this is what ‘keep watch’ means] always.

41-44

[Comparison with house owner being ready for a thief and repeat of the command to be ready.]

Jesus uses simple logic in his reference to the house owner keeping watch for a thief.

Knowing what we know – that Jesus is coming back, and given what we don’t know – the exact time – we must be ready.

45-51

A short analogy about a servant being ready for his master’s return at any moment

Jesus here helps us understand what he means by ‘keep watch’ and ‘be ready’. His points are:

  • A faithful and wise servant will be doing the job he is entrusted with when his master returns
  • A wicked servant, taking advantage of his master’s extended absence, will beat up his fellow servants, and eat and drink with the drunkards
  • The master will return unexpectedly and catch him in his negligence. He will be punished