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ch. 24:1-35     ch. 24:36-51


Signs Of The End Of The Age  (ch. 24:1 - 35)


The last verse in chapter 23 says that the Jews will not see Jesus again until He returns and they say, “blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord”.  These words are prophetic of the end of this age when God will pour out a Spirit of repentance upon Israel after He brings them to their knees because of the attack of the nations of the world on Israel.  These words lead us right into the topic of chapter 24.


After scolding the Pharisees Jesus simply walks away from them and the temple.  Some of His followers catch up to Him and comment on the magnificence of the Temple and its buildings. 


In verse 2 Jesus takes this opportunity to speak prophetically to these followers.  He probably points to the buildings and ask, “do you see all these things”?  The words “all these things” refer to the Temple and all that is associated with the temple.  Jesus goes onto tell them that not one stone will be left upon another.  This must have been shocking to the ears of the disciples. So much time and effort had been put into rebuilding this Temple from its state of ruins by the Gentile king named Herod.  It was the pride of the Jews, the center of Jerusalem.


What Jesus said here was a direct prophecy that as we’ve noted before came true in 70 A. D. when Romans soldiers attacked Jerusalem and leveled everything therein, including the temple. This was God’s judgment spoken by Jesus in the last chapter against the Jews for not embracing their Messiah.


In verse 3 we see Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives, one of His favorite places to be when He came to  Jerusalem.  The Mount of Olives overlooked the city of Jerusalem from the east, and you could see the Temple from there.  It is interesting to note that this same mountain that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem from is where he returns.  You see this in Zechariah 14.


Verse 3 is very important to understand the timeline of the rest of this chapter.  While on the Mount of Olives some disciples ask two specific questions that Jesus answers.  The two questions are; “when will this happen”, and “ what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age”? 


Their first question concerning “when will this be” refers to the destruction of the Temple Jesus just mentioned.  Jesus had just told them concerning the temple that there would not be one stone left on another.  It is interesting to note that in Luke’s account of these two questions Jesus’ answers are clearly distinguishable from each other.  This is not the case in Matthews account.  Matthew seems to mix the answers of both questions together.  To help understand Matthews account it is good to read both Mark and Luke’s account to see what part refers to question one and what part refers to question two.   


We cannot confuse the answers to these two questions as some have over the years.  Part of what Jesus will say is in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem which has already happened and has been fulfilled.  The rest of His dialogue concerning His return is yet to be fulfilled.


Before Jesus begins to directly answer the first question about the temple He gives a bit of general overview of prophetic history inverses 4 to 8.  He tells them in verse 4 to watch out that no one deceives them.  In verse  5 He says many people will come in His name claiming to be Him, the Christ, and they will deceive many.  As Jesus was saying these words there were already false messiahs on the scene, that’s one reason why the Jews rejected Jesus.  They viewed Him as just one more of many false messiahs.


Many people believe what Jesus is saying here is that history will be full of people coming in my name, claiming to be me or sent by me, and they will deceive many people throughout the age.  This is a simple fact of history.  Church history seems to be more about false messiahs and false teachers than about real godly men.  I’d dare say that old Roman Catholicism fits into this category.


I don't believe the false Christ's that Jesus is speaking about here are those who we've seen throughout the centuries.  These false Christ's are specific to the end of this age.  I will comment on this a bit later. One thing I will say now is that the false Christ's are necessarily people who claim to be Christ, but claim to be sent by God, but aren't.  I believe the Emergent church found in Evangelical circles as I write, is a false Christ. 


In verse 6 Jesus says that you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but He tells His disciples not to be alarmed because they must come.  Many people believe that Jesus is simply pointing out that history has been full of wars, and will be full of wars until He returns. They are a common occurrence and therefore don’t represent a specific sign of the end of the age.  I don't believe this.  These wars are specific to the end of this age.  I will show my reasoning in a bit.


We need to note that the Greek word translated as "rumors" in the KJV can easily be translated as "reports".   In my thinking there is a difference, at least in our day, between a rumor and a report.  A rumor is something that is spread from one person to another, to another, and to another, and so on.  The rumor may or may not be true.  A report is something that someone states and is meant to be taken as fact.  We watch world events on television. Listen to them on the radio, and see them on the internet these days.  We call what we watch reports.  What Jesus spoke of here is taking place today.  We don't hear rumors of wars that may or may not be true.  We watch and hear of reports of wars that are true.  This is something we understand much better than the disciples Jesus spoke to.    


Jesus says that “such things must happen”.  Why would He say that “wars must happen”.  They must happen because they are a product of the spiritual warfare that is taking place in the heavenly atmosphere around us.  That’s where the real war is taking place.  Because the number one war is being fought between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of satan in the heavenly atmosphere around us, it must spill over to the world.  The earth and it’s people is what the fight is over.  Who will get to keep the earth and it’s people, God or satan?  Well, we know who wins in the end, and it’s not satan.


Another reason why these wars must take place is that they have been predicted by the prophets in the Old Testament.  Such wars as Ezekiel 38 and 39 and Psalm 83.  These wars are a prelude to the end of this age.  They must come to pass.


There is another reason, and maybe the most important reason, why these wars must come to pass.  You can easily substitute the word "necessary" in place of the word "must' in this verse.  These wars, and also what Jesus mentions next, is necessary because they are the prelude to the things that will take place at the very end.  For example, there are preliminary wars that must take place before the more important wars, or war, at the end of this age.  We see the Ezekiel 38 and 39 war, the Psalm 85 war, and others.  Are they the preliminary wars, or the wars at the very end?  I'm not sure. That being said, there are wars that will lead to the great and final war, the war of Armageddon.   

Yet another reason why wars must happen is that throughout Scripture see that God allows nations to sin.  He doesn't step into the affairs of men and nations right away, but, when the quantity and quality of national sins reaches God's predetermined limits, then He step into national affairs in judgment.  Therefore, sins like wars must take place until God's predetermined limits are met.      

In verse 8 Jesus says that nations and kingdoms will rise up against each other in war.  He also says that there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  He tells us that these are just the beginning of birth pains. 


We need to note the difference between a kingdom and a nation.  The United States is a nation.  She isn't a kingdom because she doesn't have a king.  Many middle eastern countries today are kingdoms.  They have kings. In this modern day in which we live, it is important that this world still has kingdoms, and they are around the middle east, around the area of this world that the disciples would have understood these wars to take place.  God has preserved the existence of kingdoms because they are important at the end of this age.  I believe the kingdoms spoken of here are those kingdoms in the middle east today.        


Some people say that these famines and earthquakes have been around for the last two thousand years and this is what Jesus is speaking about.  It's like the false Christs and the wars I've just spoken about.  I don't believe that.


The reason why I believe the false Christs, the wars, the famines, and the earthquakes spoken of here aren't in reference to the last two thousand  years is because Jesus relates these events to birth panes, contractions, of a pregnant woman.  A pregnant woman only has birth pains at the very end of her pregnancy.  She doesn't have them at any other time.  These events therefore, mark the beginning of the end, and if you relate these events to a pregnant woman, these events take place pretty much at the end of this age.   


Jesus compares the  tragedies of war, famine and earthquakes to “birth pains”, as a woman would have before she gives birth.  I believe Paul speaks of the same thing in Romans 8:17-22 when he speaks of creation groaning.  The groans is associated with these birth pains Jesus is talking about.


When man fell from God's grace as seen in Genesis 2, when man disobeyed God, creation fell along with man.  Everything now associated with God’s creation on earth is in a fallen state and eagerly waits the day at the end of this age when they will experience rebirth and renewal.  Until then, creation is groaning with pain. These groans are at the end of the age.


Note again in verse 6 that Jesus says that "these things must happen".  What does "these things" refer to?  They refer to the "reports of war".  Yet, the word "things" is plural here.  There is more than one thing that is necessary to happen before the end will come.  What are these other things?  I believe two other things are famines and earthquakes that Jesus mentions in verse 7.  I might add that Luke adds a couple more things.  In Luke 21 he adds, revolutions, pestilences, and signs in the heavens to the list.  I might suggest that there are other things that can be added to the list as well, things that are very disturbing to those who don't belong to Jesus.         


In verse 9 Jesus tells His followers that they will be hated of all nations and put to death because of Him.  In verse 10 He says that at that time many will turn away from the faith and betray each other.  In verse 11 He speaks of the rise of false prophets that He spoke about in the previous verses.  


All these things happened to the first followers of Jesus. They were captured and killed for the faith in Jesus.


Let me say at this point I believe there are significant parallels to the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to the end of the age.  This is why this passage is so confusing at times.  It’s confusing to some in terms of what has already took place and what will take place, because both have their similarities.  Prophecies often have double fulfillments.  I think we can take these words concerning Christian persecution as already have taken place around 70 A.D., and will also take place at the end of this age.


To add a bit more to the confusion, if you read Luke's account of this event, he says that "before" these things happen, that is the wars, famines, and earthquakes, the disciples will be persecuted.  Matthew doesn't exactly say it that way.  He suggests that after these things happen, the disciples will be persecuted.  This might well back up my point that as the first century disciples of Jesus were persecuted, so the last generation of disciples of Jesus will be persecuted.    


I do believe that along with the false Christs, the wars, the famines, the earthquakes, the revolutions, the pestilences, and the signs in the heavens,  there will be an escalation of Christians being persecuted at the end of this age.   


In verses 12 and 13 Jesus says that wickedness will get worse, and the love of many will grow cold, but he who endures to the end will be saved.  This was clearly the state of Israel before 70 AD and will clearly be the state of mankind and the so-called church before the end of this age. 


In verse 14 Jesus goes back to speaking of the end of the age when He says that the “gospel of the Kingdom” will be preached as a testimony to Him in all nations before the end would come.  I believe our modern technology will, and is in the process of bringing this prophecy about.  Through satellites, TV, internet, and computers, the gospel of the Kingdom is being preached around the world.  And let me point out, that the gospel Jesus speaks of here is more than the gospel of salvation, it’s the gospel of the present Kingdom of God that exists in the spiritual atmosphere around us that will soon come to earth in a material sense at the end of this age.  The gospel of the Kingdom is all about telling people of the time when Jesus will rule on earth over the nations of the world, when all the worldly nations will fall and give way to God’s Kingdom.  This is the specific gospel that will be preached at the end.  This is the specific gospel we should be preaching right now, but many aren't.  


 In verse 15 Jesus is specifically speaking to the disciples and not to us or those who will be living at the end of the age.  At this point I’d would like to suggest that in my thinking there are similar parallels to the destruction of Jerusalem, what Jesus is about to speak to, and the things that will happen at the end of this age.  You might say there’s a double meaning to this prophecy which is sometimes the case in Biblical prophecy.  Biblical prophecy many times has a primary and a secondary fulfillment.


Concerning the timing of the preaching of this gospel, we know it's just prior to the return of Jesus.  For this reason, many people place this last great evangelical proclamation to be during the Great Tribulation when the 144,000 Israeli evangelists will preach throughout the world as seen in Revelation 7.  The Old Testament book of Joel prophesies about a great final outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  In context, this outpouring takes place right before the end of this age.  So, it appears to me that the final proclamation of the gospel of the soon coming Kingdom of God will be preached by the 144,000 Israeli preachers.      


In verse 15 Jesus speaks of the “abomination that makes desolate” spoken by the prophet Daniel, and He tells those listening that this is something they should understand.  In short  this desolation was the desolation and destruction of the Temple , which is part of the answer to the disciple’s first question.  Daniel’s prophecy had a fulfillment in Daniel’s day and another fulfillment in the first century when Rome desolated Jerusalem.  The abomination was the Gentile Romans soldiers not only entering the temple, but destroying it.


Concerning the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple the following facts are important.  The attack began in March of 70 A D and ended at the end of  Sep. of 70 A D, although there had been skirmishes on and off for several years. Jewish zealots often tried to overthrow the Romans with little success.


The Roman army numbered about 70,000 men while the Jews had about 13,000.  The Jews had built some defenses around Jerusalem to prevent the Romans from getting in.  The Romans surrounded Jerusalem on all four sides.  They let Jews in for Passover in March, meaning that there were more Jews in Jerusalem than normal. 


Because of a lack of good leadership on the part of the Jews, and even a sense of sloppiness, the Romans decided to move in.  By the end of August the temple was destroyed.  Most historians suggest that it was not the intention of the Roman army to destroy the Temple because of its value, but a Roman soldier threw a stick which was on fire towards the temple.  The temple caught on fire and was totally destroyed.  The fire eventually spread to many city streets, destroying a large section of Jerusalem.


Josephus claims that 1.1 million people were killed in the fall of Jerusalem, most of which were Jews.  Another 95,000 Jews were captured and imprisoned. 


Jerusalem was a great city, one of the most wondrous and beautiful cities in the world with all sorts of gardens, beautiful tree lined streets and much more.  But once it was laid waist, there was little left.  The only thing left was a few towers and the western walls that the Romans kept for a memorial to this great city.  


There is sufficient evidence from Old Testament prophecies that the same abomination will take place at the end of this age, with a rebuilt temple, possibly with the help of the anti-christ.  If you struggle over the idea that the temple will be rebuilt by the anti-christ, you must realize that the temple in Jesus' day was also rebuilt by a gentile Roman who was Herod.                      


In verse 16 Jesus tells those that are in Judea, the province where   Jerusalem was, to flea to the mountains.  What He is saying is that when you see the Roman soldiers come to  Jerusalem, get out of the city as soon as possible and head for the mountains.


In verse 17 Jesus speaks to the seriousness of the matter.  He says that if anyone is on their rooftops, don’t even go down into your house to get some of your things.  Just get out and flea. Rooftops were flat back in those days and people often used these flat roofs as a place to sit.


In verse 18 Jesus says something similar.  If you are in your field working, don’t go back to your house.  Once again, just head for the hills and get out of the path of the Roman soldiers. 


In verse 19 Jesus expresses His sorrow over the fact that there will be pregnant women and nursing mothers who will find it hard to escape the terror as fast as they might like.  Another reason for Jesus’ sorrow is that things were so bad that woman were killing their babies for food which had also been prophesied about in the Old Testament days.  This was actually listed as one of the curses upon Israel by Moses when Israel would disobey their God.  


In verse 20 Jesus says for His disciples to pray that their journey, or their escape won’t be in the winter or on the Sabbath, so their trip will be easier to make.  There would have been time for many Jews to have escaped Jerusalem as the Romans soldiers began their movement to surround Jerusalem.  One problem was the Passover in March of 70 AD when the Romans began to surround the city.   Most Jews would have entered Jerusalem instead of leaving the city.    


In verse 21 Jesus says that “in those days there will be great distress”.  He goes on to say that such distress has never been seen in the world and never will be.  He’s obviously not speaking about the Roman invasion.  He’s speaking of the end of the age and which some people call the Great Tribulation.  At least this is the Futurist interpretation to this verse.  The wars spoken of in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation mark a time of destruction that has never been seen.  Nuclear warfare is most likely part of these wars. 


In verse 22 Jesus says that these days of trouble will be so bad that if they weren’t shortened, no one would survive. Yet for the sake of the elect God would shorten these days.  He would bring an end to the bad things that would take place.  Some see a pre-tribulation rapture in this verse.  They suggest that the shortening of the days speaks to such a thing.  But to me that does not make sense.  The elect, or God’s people have to be going through this trouble in order for God to shorten those troublesome days on their behalf.


Some people believe that the wrath of God spoken of throughout the Bible takes place during the last half of the last seven years. They believe it's just before that time that the elect are taken from the world  They see the first half the last seven years as satan's wrath and the last half of the seven years as God's wrath, and the Bible is pretty clear that the elect will not suffer God's wrath.  See  1Thessalonians 5:9.     


At this point I insert an article I wrote that explains who the elect are in this verse.



Divine Election


I was raised in an Evangelical world that believed Jews were God's chosen people.  When I would ask if the "elect" people seen in Matthew 24:21 and 22 were Jews or the church, no one seemed to know.  I guess that was to be expected.  It's a confusing issue.  "Divine election", as theologians call it, has been debated for centuries.  I suggest you consider what I say as you study the issue for yourself.


As Christians we often begin our study of Biblical issues in the New Testament.  Both hermeneutics and common sense dictate we start any study in the Old Testament.  So, I begin in Genesis where our English word "chose", and other related words, are translated from the Hebrew word "bachiyr".  There's no religious significance about this word.  It simply means to pick or choose. 


Right after God judged humanity at Babel , the Bible introduces us to Abraham (Genesis 11:27 - 32).  He lived in the land of the Chaldeans, which today is southern Iraq .  We know little about Abraham prior to his introduction in Genesis, but since the Chaldeans worshipped many gods, it's presumed he was a polytheistic pagan.   


It's no coincidence that the Bible introduces Abraham right after God judged the newly formed nations of the world.  These nations needed divine help.  For this reason God chose, or elected, Abraham to be the father of a great nation we know as Israel (Genesis 12:1).  In case you're wondering why God chose Abraham over other pagans, don't bother wondering.  It's a futile endeavor.  The Bible doesn't provide the answer.     


To birth this promised great nation God chose Abraham's son Isaac over his son Ishmael.  God then chose Isaac's son Jacob over his son Esau to continue on the path to nationhood.  The Apostle Paul explained the reason for these choices in Romans 9:11 and 12.  "In order that God's purpose in election (His choices) might stand: not by works but by Him who calls (NIV).  In other words, God's choices in this matter was based on His sovereign will, not on any goodness Abraham, and Isaac may or may not have possessed.  Being God, He can choose whoever He wants for whatever He wants.  


Further to God choosing Abraham as Israel's father, He appointed, or chose, Israel to be His priest or representative to the ungodly nations (Exodus 19:6 - Isaiah 49:6).  This choice is confirmed throughout the Old Testament as seen in these two of many examples.  " Israel , whom I have chosen (Isaiah 44:1)."  " Israel , my chosen (Isaiah 45:4)."  


The above Old Testament facts should form the foundation for our thinking concerning divine election.  They're critical when figuring out who the elect people are in Matthew 24:21 and 22.  Here, Jesus spoke about a time of great distress, unequaled in human history, which would overtake the world.  I believe this distress will occur during what many call the Great Tribulation.  Jesus then said that if those days weren't cut short, no one would survive, but, for the sake of the elect, those days would be shortened.   Like its Hebrew counterpart, the Greek word "eklekios" that's translated as "elect" in this passage has no religious significance.  It simply means to pick or to choose.  So, who are these elect people that God chose to rescue from this distress?


Both Jesus and those listening to Him were Jews.  They would have believed that Israel was God's elect nation as stated in the Old Testament.  It makes no sense that Jesus would deviate from this traditional Jewish thinking without informing His disciples.  In fact He would have misled them if He had deviated without an explanation.  It's thus clear to me that the elect in this prophetic passage is Israel , which is important when studying Biblical prophecy.       


The debate heats up even more when we read Colossians 3:12.  The Apostle Paul called the Colossian believers, which included both Jews and Gentiles, God's chosen or elect people.  Contextually speaking, Paul used the word "elect" to refer to that which we call church, not to the nation of Israel .  We should realize, however, that even though Paul's use of the word "elect" in this verse differs from Jesus' use of the word in Matthew 24, that doesn't permit us to rethink what Jesus said and make Him say something He didn't say.      


The Apostle Peter also used the word "elect" in 1 Peter 1:1.  Here, scholars are divided.  It's debatable whether Peter was addressing Jews, Gentiles, or both Jews and Gentiles.  Because of this uncertainty, we can't use 1 Peter 1:1 to support any position on this issue.


In one sense of the word, the New Testament community of Christ is God's chosen or elect people for the age in which we live.  That being the case, we cannot disregard the long standing Old Testament fact that I believe Jesus confirmed; Israel is God's chosen or elect nation with respect to prophetic history. 


I conclude the following.  New Testament believers are God's special chosen people for this age, not because of any goodness they may or may not possess, but because of God's sovereign choice as seen in the cross of Christ.  Abraham was God's special chosen man, not because of any goodness he may or may not have possessed, but because of God's sovereign choice to make him the father of a great nation.  Israel is God's special chosen nation, not because of any goodness it may or may not possess, but because of God's sovereign choice for it to some day be His priest to the nations.  It's called "divine election", and for that reason, I as a chosen New Testament believer choose to support God's chosen nation of Israel . 


I now return to my commantary. 


In verse  22 to 25 Jesus tells us that in these days of trouble there will be false teachers and prophets who have power to do miraculous things.  This can be seen in the book of Revelation.  The devil will demonstrate all the power that he has to bring people over to his side.  But Jesus says not to pay attention to these false prophets. 


Jesus says that these false miracles would “even deceive the elect, if that were possible”.  This suggests to me that it might well be possible to deceive some of God’s people who have little knowledge or faith.  Others might argue the words “if possible” means that it’s not possible to deceive the elect.  Nevertheless, whatever way you take these words, the miraculous signs are going to be very powerful, and they will convince the non-believer.  This also tells me that the elect will on be earth when these miracles take place.  They have not yet been raptured away. 


In verses 26 and 27 Jesus warns His followers once again about false messiahs, and really this warning is not really to those listening.  It’s to those who will be living at the end of this age.  He tells those people that if anyone says the Messiah is here or there, you don’t believe them.  The Messiah will come, but He’ll came like the lightening flashes from one end of the sky to the other.  This too is seen in the book of Revelation.  Jesus literally returns in the clouds, from the sky, as a lightening bolt.  Everyone will know it is Him coming.  No one will have to tell anyone that Jesus is returning.


In verse 28 Jesus says that “wherever there is a carcass, the vultures will be”.  This appears to be in direct reference to the very end of the age.  As Jesus returns all the armies of the world that are gathered to destroy Israel will be wiped out by the return of Jesus.  They will lay in fields as dead carcasses, and the vultures will fly over head.  Some might also suggest this might be in reference to the war of Ezekiel 38 and 39 because as that passage states, there will be thousands of those who attack Israel killed in that war.


In verse 29 Jesus quotes from Isa. 13:10 and 34:4 when He says that immediately after these days the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shine, the stars shall fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. The words “immediately after these days” refers to the tribulation and the coming of Jesus when He destroys the armies of the world and their carcasses will be seen on the ground and in the streets.  This tells us that not only the earth will be shaken and go under God’s judgment, but the universe around us will experience these things. 


The answer to the disciples second question is answered in verse 30 when Jesus says that “at that time the sign of the Son of man will appear in the sky”.  The sign appears to be the lightening that flashes from one end of the sky to another.


Jesus continues to say that when He returns, “all the nations of the earth will mourn”.  The question is why will the nations mourn?   They mourn because the kingdoms of the world opposed the King of the Kingdom of God.  They’ve now been defeated by one whom they have been fighting.  I believe from my study of the book of Revelation that at the very end, the nations of the earth will know that their real fight is against God, and they fight to that end. 


In verse 31 we see that Jesus will at that time call out His angels to gather His people from the four winds and from one part of the heavens to the other parts.   Some might suggest that the saints aren’t on the earth because in this verse it seems to suggest that they might not be.  They’re in the four winds or the heavens instead.  Yet on the other hand “the four winds” are the  four winds of the earth as seen in the book of  Revelation.  Yet as I think of it, I think these words suggests that all saints will be gathered from wherever they are.  Some might well be on the earth, while others indeed will be in heaven since they died prior to this point, or as some might believe, been raptured.


In verses 32 and 33 Jesus tells a little parable.  He says that when you see a fig tree in the spring beginning to grow leaves you know that summer is near.  The point that Jesus makes here is that in the same way that you see the leaves appear knowing that summer is near, when you see the things mentioned you know tat the end is “at the door”.  I believe the door is now being opened for the soon return of Jesus.


The things that Jesus mentions hear are the things that He has just spoken about, and what He has just spoken about are in fairly general terms when compared to the book of Revelation.  Jesus might not be speaking of all the prophetic events that take place in the years leading up to the end.  He might well be speaking of the things at the end of the things leading up to the end, such as when the sun and moon lose their light.  They are at the very end of this age.


Verse 34 has been disputed for years.  Jesus tells us that ‘this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened”.  Some believe that this generation refers to the Jewish people at the end of the age.  They say this because of the parable of the fig tree in the last few verses.  The fig tree is often prophetic language for Israel.  Therefore, when the events of the end begin to start, that generation of Jews will be alive at the end.  Some people see this prophetic clock beginning in 1948 when Israel became a nation, or, in 1967 when Israel captured Jerusalem.  There are a number of reasons for this thinking that I will not get into talking about here. 


The next question in this thinking is, “how long is a generation”?  There’s been various answers to this question.  Many people thought the forty years was a generation.  The problem with this is that it has now been more than forty years after Israel becoming a nation.  The forty years would have ended in 1988, and the end has still not come as I write in 2008. 


As a result of this math problem some say the forty years should start in 1967 when Israel gained Jerusalem.  But we have a math problem here to, because it’s now 2008, one year after the expiry of this calculation. 


So over the years people have changed dates and times to try to figure out when the end will come in reference to what Jesus says here.  I need to note that the Greek  word translated as generation can also be translated as  “a race of people”.  In this case Israel became a nation in 1948, and this race of people, not this generation in terms of years, but the nationhood of Israel will be around at the end.  Israel will not be destroyed and it’s people scattered, but will be in existence at the end.  Israel became a nation in 1948, and will remain a nation until Jesus returns.  This thinking accounts for no specific time period or math calculations.  


At this oint I would like to insert an article I wrote concerning verse 34. It is as follows.



The Generation That Ends This Age


I was 15 years old when Happy Together by the Turtles was a hit song in what pop culture called the "Summer Of Love".  One of my favourite songs in the summer of 1967 was "Windy" by the Association.  I liked the "59th Street Bridge Song", otherwise known as "Feeling Groovy".  It was recorded by Harpers Bizarre, but it sure sounded like Simon and Garfunkel who originally wrote and recorded the song. America's manufactured response to the Beatles was the Monkees, who conscripted Glen Campbell and others on their earlier albums to improve their sound.  I liked Glen Campbell's guitar solo on Valarie.  The big album that summer was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".  It put the Beatles on a new musical path, or should I say, took them on a "Magical Mystery Tour", if you catch my drift.   


Every July our family attended the Free Methodist Camp just north of Brighton, Ontario, Canada, and the summer of 1967 was no exception.  While listening to songs like "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" by Procol Harum, which I'm sure wasn't acceptable at a church camp, I overheard the adults talking about the end of the world.  Such talk was scary for us teenagers.  We weren't into free love so we sure didn't want Jesus to return before we got to experience the joys of our wedding night. 


The reason for all the end time talk was because of the Six Day War in June of 1967 and how it might relate to Matthew 24.  Jesus told His disciples that when the branches of the fig tree get tender, summer is near.  He then said that in like fashion when you see the things He predicted being fulfilled; know that the end is near.  "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened". (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32) 


There has been much controversy and confusion over the words "this generation" in Matthew 24:34.  Some say the word "this" in "this generation" refers specifically to an Israeli generation.  Others say it refers to all ethnic generations.  Many understand "this generation" to be a generation lasting a certain length of time, anywhere from 20 to 120 years.  Then there's the debate over when "this generation" begins.  If you can figure out when this generation begins and how long it lasts, you'd have a good idea when the end will come.  


Most Prophetic Futurists understand the fig tree in this passage to be Israel.  This makes Israel becoming a nation in 1948 key to understanding the passage.  No matter whom you think "this generation" refers to, if you begin the  countdown to the end in 1948, the generation alive in 1948 will be alive at the end.  Others suggest the countdown should begin at the Six Day War in 1967, thus the reason for all the talk of the end of the world in the Summer Of Love.  All these differing opinions on how long a Biblical generation is, when it starts, and to whom it refers, is indeed confusing.


After getting serious about Jesus in 1970 my heart's desire was to know the Bible.  That's why I ended up at Elim Bible Institute, in Lima, New York, in 1975.  Prior to my Elim days my two favourite Bible teachers were Derek Prince and Malcolm Smith.  These two men were miles apart in their eschatology, especially in relation to Israel.  Smith taught that the church replaced Israel in prophetic history, making Israel of absolutely no significance when it comes to end time events.  Prince taught that Israel was the key to prophetic history right up to the end of the age, something my dad also believed.    


My dad often talked to me about Israel 's place in prophetic history.  I'd often respond by saying, "but dad, there is another way to think about these things".  My dad would have nothing to do with my "but dads".  Back then I was trapped between two prophetic scenarios, between Smith and Prince, with seemingly no way to untangle myself from this perplexing prophetic web.  I wish my father was alive today to see that I did finally fall onto his side of the fence.   Since untangling myself from the various prophetic scenarios I think I see something we might have missed.  I suggest the following for your consideration. 


The Greek word "genea" is translated as "generation" in Matthew 24:34.  "Genea" means "to become", as in "to become a human", or, "to become a race of people".  For example, Abraham became a human being and his descendents became a race of people known as Israelis.  Because "genea" can legitimately be translated a "race of people" many credible Bible translators translate Matthew 24:34 this way.  "This race of people will not pass away until all these things have happened".  Note that the NIV Bible has a footnote for Matthew 24:34 that states this translation to be an acceptable alternate rendering.


Matthew 24:34 means something quite different when you think in terms of a generation as a race of people instead of a generation lasting a certain number of years.  No longer do you have to smash your head against the wall to figure out how long a Biblical generation lasts. 


With this in mind, I refer you to Amos 9:14 – 15.  "I will bring back my exiled people Israel ; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.  They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.  I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God".  Amos prophesied around 750 to 730 B C.  In 586 B C the last vestige of national Israel came to an end with the final Babylonian attack.  It took more than 2500 years, but in 1948 Amos' prophecy began to be fulfilled when Israel once again became a nation.  They have rebuilt their cities.  They drink their wine and eat their fruit from their miraculous agricultural successes. 


The important part of Amos' prophecy for my present purpose is the prediction that once Israelis return to their land, they would never be uprooted from it again.  Despite present pressures on Israel, know for a fact that Israel will never cease to exist.  Israelis will never be uprooted again.   Here's my point.  Whether it takes 7 years or 70 years for the end to come, the distinct national race of Israelis who came into existence in 1948 will not pass away until all prophecies are fulfilled.  I propose that it's not a matter of how many years a Biblical generation is.  It's not a matter of certain individuals who were alive in 1948 or 1967.  It's a matter of a race of people.  It's a matter of the present day national race of Israelis that came into existence in 1948.  It's Israel that will be in existence when Jesus returns to secure her rightful place among the nations of the world.  This is what I believe Amos means when he predicted that Israelis would never be uprooted again.  


Back in the Summer Of Love my dad's generation thought they might be the last generation because they understood "this generation" to be a 20 to 40 year period of time.  Well, most of that generation has since departed.  If I had have known back then what I think I know now, maybe I could have suggested another way to think, but why would they have listened to a kid blasting out "Judy In The Sky With Diamonds" by the Beatles on his 6 transistor radio. 


I now return to my commentary. 


Jesus, in verse 35 says that heaven and earth will pass away but His words will never pass away.  We need to understand this statement to mean that our present heaven and earth will pass away and will be replaced by a new heaven and earth as seen in the book of Revelation. It is on this new earth that the redeem will live throughout eternity.


The Day And The Hour Unknown (ch. 24:36 - 51)


One thing is certain about the last day of this age and Jesus states this certainty in verse 36.  He says that no one knows when that day will come.  The angels don’t know and He even doesn’t know. Only God the Father knows when that day will come.  Some people have often used this verse to dissuade others from thinking of end time prophecy, but this should not be.  No one knows the exact day, but we can know the general time period.  We can watch for the signs of the times and know that the end is near.


In verses 37 to 39 Jesus speaks about the flood and the days of Noah.  He says that the general population had no idea the flood would be coming.  They ate, drank, got married and simply lived their lives as if there would be no disaster.  That had no clue to what would happen.  Jesus says that this is how it will be in the days leading up to the end.  The world will not even think that the end of the age is near.  People will be living as they’ve always lived, and the end will come as a complete surprise to them.  In many places of the New Testament we are told that this should not be the case with Christians.  We should be watching and praying about the end.  We should have our eyes open to the signs of the end so that day will not come on us unexpectedly. 


In verses 40 and 41 Jesus says that there will be two men in a field.  One man would be taken away while the other would be left in the field.  He also says that two women will be grinding in a mill.  One would be taken away and the other will be left.  Those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture say these words speak of this pre-tribulation rapture.  But that is mere interpretation.  Jesus does not say when this will happen.  The only thing we learn about  “when this will happen factor” from the context is that it is at or near the end.  This could well be at the very end when Jesus returns to the earth with His angels to gather those who are His and throw the rest into the Lake of Fire.


Verse 42 is clear.  Jesus tells us all “to keep watch” because we don’t know when our Lord will return.  Keep watch means that we should keep our eyes open for signs of the end.  It doesn’t mean that we should avoid thinking about these things as some suggest.  Jesus wants us to think about end time events.


We see a little analogy in verse 43 to explain what Jesus is saying.  He says that if a owner of a house new when a thief was going to sneak in and rob him, he would have had kept watch and waited for him to prevent the robbery.  In like manner we should be alert and have our eyes open for the signs of the end.


Verse 44 says that “the Son of man will come at an our when you least expect Him”.   Jesus’ return will be a surprise, and that is easily understood in our anti-Christian culture.  No one expects Jesus to return except Christians.  The world thinks we’re crazy to have such a thought.


Jesus tells another story to close this chapter.   He begins by asking, “who then is the faithful and wise servant”?   To answer this question he relates two kinds of servants that a master puts in charge of his possessions.  Both servants don’t know when the master will return and visit.  One servant does his best in looking after the things that he’s responsible for.  The other servant thinks that the master won’t be back for a long time and goes out and gets drunk in much partying and neglects his responsibility. 


At some point the master returns.  The first servant is ready for his return and everything is in order.  The second servant is out partying and his responsibilities are in shambles.  The master kicks this second servant out into outer darkness with all the hypocrites.  There is much distress in this place of torment. 


The analogy is clear.  Jesus gives us all our responsibility in His Kingdom.  We should take our jobs seriously and do what we need to do in light of Jesus’ return.  Yes, we are to watch out for the signs of His return, but in the mean time, we don’t neglect the work Jesus has given us to do. 


Yet within church circles there are those who have left the faith and partied all night, so to speak. Whole groups and denominations  have neglected their responsibility and have gone off doing their own thing.  Judgment waits these people and these groups. They will be thrown into the Lake of Fire with the rest of the hypocrites, and in this case, hypocrites most likely refer to the Jewish leadership since this is how Jesus has been viewing them in recent days.

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