Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Ice’


Thomas IceBy Dr. Thomas Ice
Pre-Trib Research Center

And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him.” – Ezekiel 38:1-2

“This was the final message in this series of six night oracles delivered by Ezekiel,” notes Ralph Alexander. “A central concern throughout all these night messages had been the possession of the land of Israel.” “This series of night oracles was given to encourage the exiles that ultimately God would remove these invaders and restore this land to Israel.” [1] A wonderful message indeed to which those who love Israel still look forward to today!

This prophecy is divided into two major sections. In the first section Ezekiel reveals the invasion by Gog with his allies (38:1-16). The second section reveals to us God’s judgment that will befall Gog and his associates (38:17-39:16). This great prophecy begins with Ezekiel noting that it was not his idea to deal with the matter of Gog’s invasion of Israel instead it was God who imitated and communicated this prophecy through verbal revelation, “the word of the Lord came to me saying.”

Son of Man

Ezekiel is called “son of man” throughout the book. “Son of man” is used 93 times in Ezekiel to refer to the prophet, with the first use found in 2:1. Why is Ezekiel so often addressed by God as “son of man” when he is about to receive revelation from the Lord? It appears that “son of man” underscores his humanity in relation to God. In other words, God is the One who is the Revealer while Ezekiel, as a human, is the recipient of the Divine message that he is to pass on to other human beings. Thus, Ezekiel is passing on to us the infallible prophecy of these two chapters, which will surly come to pass.

Set Your Face Toward Gog

Ezekiel is told to set his face “toward” or “against” Gog. The Brown, Driver, and Briggs (BDB) Hebrew Lexicon says, the Hebrew word translated “toward” is a preposition that denotes “motion to or direction towards (whether physical or mental).” [2] BDB also tells us that when “the motion or direction implied appears from the context to be of a hostile character,” then it has a negative connotation and would be translated “against.” Ezekiel is told to turn his face in the direction of the nation Gog, because the Lord is against him. Later in the sentence the text says for Ezekiel to “prophesy against him,” that is Gog. The sense of this passage is that God is initiating the attack by Gog against Israel and the Lord is against or opposed to Gog and his allies. But just who is Gog? The identification of Gog has been a greatly debated issue.

The Hebrew proper noun “Gog” occurs 12 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. [3] All but one use occurs in Ezekiel 38 and 39 (Ezek. 8:2, 3, 14, 16, 18; 39:1 [2x], 11 [3x], 15). The only non-Ezekiel occurrence is in 1 Chronicles 5:4 and says,

“The sons of Joel were Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son.”

Other than demonstrating it was a real, proper name, the 1 Chronicles reference contributes nothing to our study of its use in Ezekiel and is not related to the Gog of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Whoever he is, Gog appears in this context to be a person, leader and ruler that God has told Ezekiel to prophesy against. Because of the frequent use of Gog in this passage, “we conclude, therefore, that Gog is the most important person or nation in this coalition,” [4] declares Mark Hitchcock.

The passage says that Gog is from the land of Magog. Some have said that Gog is a reference to the Antichrist. Charles Feinberg is right when he says, “but for this there is not a shred of biblical or nonbiblical evidence.” [5] Some have suggested that Gog is a name “arbitrarily derived from the name of the country, Magog, but this is not valid because Gog appears in 1 Chronicles 5:4.” [6] “The name Gog means ‘high, supreme, a height, or a high mountain.'” [7] The only references to the Gog of Ezekiel’s prophecy appear in the passage itself and there is virtually no information about Gog outside the Bible in history. However, when Gog leads his invasion of Israel he is said to come “from the remote parts of the north” (Ezek. 38:6). Louis Bauman tells us that “L. Sale-Harrison says in his booklet, The Coming Great Northern Confederacy: ‘It is interesting to note that the very word ‘Caucasus’ means ‘Gog’s Fort.’ ‘Gog’ and ‘Chasan’ (Fort) are two Oriental words from which it is derived.'” [8] So there does appear to be a faint reference to Gog in the general area of Russia that Gog is likely to be from.

Who then is Gog? Bauman says, “Without doubt, Russia will furnish the man – not the Antichrist – who will head up that which is known to most Bible students as ‘the great northeastern confederacy’ of nations and lead it to its doom upon the hills of Israel’s land.” [9] Hitchcock believes “the reason Gog is singled out eleven times by God in these two chapters is because God is the general over this coalition of nations in its great military campaign against Israel.” [10] Hal Lindsey tells us, “Gog is the symbolic name of the nation’s leader and Magog is his land. He is also the prince of the ancient people who were called Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” [11] Arnold Fruchtenbaum informs us: “Who Gog will be can only be determined at the time of the invasion, for ‘Gog’ is not a proper name but a title for the rule of Magog, just as the terms ‘pharaoh,’ ‘kaiser,’ and ‘czar’ were titles for rulers and not proper names.” [12]

The Land of Magog

Gog the leader of the invasion of the land of Israel is said to be “of the land of Magog.” The proper noun Magog is used four times in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. [13] Magog is used twice in the passage we are investigating (38:2; 39:6) and twice in genealogies (Gen. 10:2; 1 Chron. 1:5). Genesis 10:2 says,

“The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras.”

1 Chronicles 1:5 is basically a repeat of the genealogical information from Genesis 10:2. The fact that Magog is used in the table of nations (Genesis 10) [14] provides a basis for tracing the movement of one of the earliest post-flood descendants of Noah.

It appears that Ezekiel is using the names of peoples, primarily from the table of nations, and where they lived at the time of the giving of this prophecy in the sixth century b.c. Therefore, if we are able to find out where these people and places were in the sixth century b.c. then we will be able to figure out who would be their modern antecedents today. I believe we will be able to accomplish this task and be able to know who will be involved in this battle if it were to come to pass in our own day.

It is probably fair to say that most scholars and experts would trace Magog’s descendants to the ancient people that we know as the Scythians. Chuck Missler notes that a wide collection of ancient historians “identified Magog with the Scythians and southern Russia in the 7th century b.c.” [15] These ancients include: Hesiod, Josephus, Philo, and Herodotus. [16] Josephus lived in the first century a.d. and said, “Magog founded the Magogians, thus named after him but who by the Greeks are called Scythians.” [17] Bauman tells us that Magog and his descendants must have immigrated north after the Flood and that “the Magogites were divided into two distinct races, one Japhetic, or European, and the other Turanian, or Asiatic.” [18]

Who are the Scythians? Edwin Yamauchi tells us that the Scythians were divided into two groups, a narrow and broad grouping. “In the narrow sense, the Scythians were the tribes who lived in the area which Herodotus designated as Scythia (i.e., the territory north of the Black Sea),” notes Yamauchi. “In the broad sense the word Scythian can designate some of the many other tribes in the vast steppes of Russia, stretching from the Ukraine in the west to the region of Siberia in the east.” [19]

Endnotes


[1] Ralph Alexander, Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), p. 118.
[2] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (London: Oxford, 1907), electronic edition.
[3] Based upon a search conducted by the computer program Accordance, version 6.4.
[4] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: Bible Prophecy in Light of the Fall of the Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p. 16.
[5] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 220.
[6] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 220.
[7] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 17
[8] Louis S. Bauman, Russian Events in the Light of Bible Prophecy (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1942), p. 23.
[9] Bauman, Russian Events, p. 26.
[10] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 17
[11] Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 63.
[12] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, [1982] 2003), p. 106.
[13] Based upon a search conducted by the computer program Accordance, version 6.4.
[14] The table of nations is a term used for the records of the descendants Noah and his three sons: Ham, Shem and Japheth. Every human being on planet earth is a descendant of Noah and his three sons. If we could trace our genealogies far enough back we would find that we all descend from Noah through either Ham, Shem or Japheth.
[15] Chuck Missler, The Magog Invasion (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1995), p. 29.
[16] Missler, Magog Invasion, pp. 29-31.
[17] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, vol. 1, vi, i as cited in Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 19.
[18] Bauman, Russian Events, p. 23.
[19] Edwin M. Yamauchi, Foes from the Northern Frontier (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), p. 62.

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Thomas IceBy Dr. Thomas Ice
Pre-Trib Research Center

As I continue to deal with the questions of the disciples in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21), I want to look more closely at the first question. After observing the Temple, Christ said to the disciples, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matt. 24:2). The disciples ask Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be, . . .” (Matt. 24:3). Thus, the first question relates to the destruction of the Temple in a.d. 70.

Preterist Literalism

Preterist Dr. Kenneth Gentry says, “The context of Luke demands a literal Jerusalem (Luke 21:20) besieged by literal armies (Luke 21:20) in literal Judea (Luke 21:21) – which as a matter of indisputable historical record occurred in the events leading up to a.d. 70.”1 This demonstrates that preterists take Scripture literally, unless it contradicts their presupposed system of theology, at which time they usually come up with a more pliable, deeply spiritual meaning of the text. But since both preterist and futurists, like myself, believe that Luke 21:20-24 literally refers to Jerusalem in a.d. 70, then this can be used as a template as to how Scripture speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century.

Christ’s Prophecy of A.D. 70

Before we look at Luke 21:20-24, I will examine the prophecies that Jesus gave specifically referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple that were indeed fulfilled in the first century. Note the following prophecies by Christ:

“Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” (Matt. 23:36-38; see Luke 13:34-35 for parallel passage).

And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).

Christ speaks clearly about the coming Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in this prediction. Jesus clearly describes a siege in verses 43 and 44 because the nation of Israel “did not recognize the time of your visitation.” They rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Notice that not once does Jesus describe this as a “judgment coming” as do preterists.2 In fact, coming is not used in any of these prophecies relating to a.d. 70, as it is used of Christ’ s future return.

Luke 21:20-24 and A.D. 70

When we look at the words of Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple, He uses words and phrases that clearly denote what the Romans did in a.d. 70.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled. Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people, and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:20-24).

Note how the following words and phrases support the notion of judgment upon Israel in the first century:

  1. Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand
  2. flee to the mountains (The admonition to flee would indicate that Jerusalem will be destroyed. If the Jews were to defeat the Romans, then the safe place to be would be inside the walled city.)
  3. these are days of vengeance
  4. there will be great distress upon the land
  5. wrath to this people (Israel)
  6. they (Israel) will fall by the edge of the sword
  7. (Israel) will be led captive into all the nations
  8. Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles

There is not a single phrase in the above passage that suggests a future understanding because the a.d. 70 destruction of Jerusalem was clearly a judgment upon the Jewish people for their national rejection of Jesus as their Messiah (Luke 19:44; Matt. 23:38). This passage is our Lord’s undisputed answer to the disciples’ first question about when there will not be one stone of the Temple left upon another. Yet when compared with other sections of the Olivet Discourse, this kind of language referenced above is totally missing (see Matt. 24:4-31; Mark 13:5-27; Luke 21:25-28). Instead, in general, the language of the Olivet Discourse, except for Luke 21:20-24, does not speak of Israel under God’s judgment, but of Israel under threat from the Gentile nations and God’s intervention that rescues the Jewish people. This overall thrust of the passage is even clearer when one looks at the parallel passage of Zechariah 12-14.

Until

Luke 21:24 ends by saying that Jerusalem will be under Gentile domination “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” The little word “until” clearly denotes that there will be a time when the current domination of Jerusalem by the Gentiles will come to an end. The current “times of the Gentiles” in which we currently live will indeed come to an end in the future. Thus, the end of verse 24 serves as a transitional period between the prophecy that refers to the past a.d. 70 event (Luke 21:20-24) and the prophecy that looks to a future fulfillment at Christ’s second coming (Luke 21:25-28). We now live in the “times of the Gentiles.”

A clear connection is established between Luke 21:24 which speaks of the current era of “the times of the Gentiles” being fulfilled and coming to an end and Romans 11:25 which speaks of “the fullness of the Gentiles” having “come in.” Both passages speak of Israel’s redemption (Luke 21:28; Romans 11:26-27). When we consider that the Old Testament pattern which says that Israel will pass through the tribulation, repent toward the end when they recognize Jesus as the Messiah, experience conversion, and then the second coming will occur to rescue them from their enemies, it follows that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) in connection with the tribulation. This is exactly the pattern of Luke 21:25-28. Preterist Ken Gentry believes Romans teaches a future conversion of Israel, yet he does not associate it with the tribulation as Scripture repeatedly does. Dr. Gentry declares, “The future conversion of the Jews will conclude the fulfillment (Rom. 11:12-25).”3 Yet only a futurist interpretation does justice to a harmonization of these passages that are clearly connected.

Luke 21:25-28 and the Future

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28).

J. C. Ryle says of this passage the following:

The subject of this portion of our Lord’s great prophecy is His own second coming to judge the world. The strong expressions of the passage appear inapplicable to any event less important than this. To confine the words before us, to the taking of Jerusalem by the Romans, is an unnatural straining of Scripture language.4

The focus of Luke 21:25-28 reveals a distinct shift from the first century description of 21:20-24. The differences include the local focus of Jerusalem in the first century judgment verses the global perspective of the future tribulation. The tribulation will involve heavenly and global events that did not literally occur in a.d. 70. If preterists like Dr. Gentry would interpret verses 25-28 in the same way they did verses 20-24 then the events of 25-28 would be understood to be clearly global and if global then they did not occur in the first century. Since they did not occur in the first century then they must take place in the future. These are future tribulation events that are prophesied by our Lord in this section of the passage.

The basic thrust of Luke 21:25-28 is the opposite of God’s judgment upon Israel as stated in Luke 21:20-24. Instead verse 28 tells Israel that, “your redemption is drawing near.” This is all the difference of night (judgment) in verses 20-24 and day (salvation and deliverance) in verses 25-28. William Kelly describes some aspects of the differences in the following:

Hence, to, the reader may notice that, in spite of a considerable measure of analogy (for there will be a future siege, and even a twofold attack, one of which will be partially successful, the other to the ruin of their enemies, as we learn from Isaiah xxviii, xxix, and Zechariah xiv.), there are the strangest contrasts in the issue; for the future siege will be closed by Jehovah’s deliverance and reign, as the past was in capture and destruction of the people dispersed ever since till the times of the Gentiles are full. Accordingly we hear nothing in this Gospel of the abomination of desolation, nor of the time of tribulation beyond all that was or shall be; we hear of both in Matthew and Mark, where the Spirit contemplates the last days.5

Conclusion

When one examines the entire Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, there is no reference to wrath or judgment upon the nation of Israel. Instead, Israel is delivered from its invader as noted in Matthew 24:31, “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (see also Mark 13:27). The question arises, “When was Israel rescued in a.d. 70?” They were not! The events of Matthew 24 and Mark 13 (also Luke 21:25-28) will all be fulfilled in the tribulation, which will take place in the future.

So the first question of the disciples to Christ in the Olivet Discourse relates to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. The record of its fulfillment is recorded only in Luke 21. Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13 deal only with the last question, which are a prophecy of events that are still future to our day. Maranatha!

Endnotes


1) Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), p. 176.
2) Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), p. 72.
3) Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), p. 206.
4) J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke, 2 vols. (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., [1858] n. d.), vol. II, p. 374.
5) William Kelly, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Oak Park, IL: Bible Truth Publishers, 1971), pp. 332- 333.

Thomas IceBy Dr. Thomas Ice
Pre-Trib Research Center

The Olivet Discourse, delivered shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion, is the most important single passage of prophecy in all the Bible. It is significant because it came from Jesus Himself immediately after He was rejected by His own people and because it provides the master outline of end-time events. – Dr. Tim LaHaye1

The OlivetDiscourse is an important passage for the development of anyone’s view of Bible prophecy. The Olivet Discourse is made up of our Lord’s teaching on Bible prophecy that is found in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Since one’s interpretation of the Olivet Discourse greatly impacts whether they are a premillennialist or anti-millennialist, futurist or preterist, or pretribulationist or posttribulationist, I will be attempting an extensive interpretation of Matthew 24-25.

The Contextual Setting for Christ’s Discourse

The setting for the Olivet Discourse, at least for Matthew’s account, is found in the preceding events leading up to Matthew 24. Christ had presented Himself to the nation as their Messiah, but they rejected Him. Not only did the people reject Him, but their rulers did as well. Thus, Jesus rebukes and exposes their hypocrisy and unbelief in Matthew 22 and 23. Jesus notes that this present generation of Jewish leaders is like those from previous generations who killed the prophets (23:29-36). Christ then tells the Jewish leaders, “Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation” (23:36). What things? It will be the curse of judgment, which will come upon the Jewish people through the Roman army in a.d. 70. “All hope for a turning of Israel to God in repentance has gone,” notes Dr. Stanley Toussaint. “The King therefore has no alternative but to reject that nation for the time being with regard to its kingdom program. The clear announcement of this decision is seen in these verses of Matthew’s Gospel.”2

In spite of the fact that the Jewish people deserved the approaching judgment, like a caring parent about to administer a just punishment, Christ cries out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (23:37). Jesus wants to gather His people (as He will in 24:31), instead, He will scatter them via the a.d. 70 judgment (Luke21:24).

Jesus then declares in verse 38, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” To what does the house refer? In the context of this passage it must be a reference to the Jewish Temple. Matthew 24:1-2 brings up a discussion by Jesus with His disciples about the Temple. It is at that time that Jesus startles them by telling them “‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down'” (24:2). What Jesus says will be desolate, the Temple, in 23:38, is more precisely described in 24:2: both referring to the same thing – the Temple.

Next, Christ says, “For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (24:39). Not only does this verse hold out the certainty of soon judgment, but also the eventual promise of yet to come hope and blessing upon the Jewish nation. Alfred Edersheim, a son of the present remnant of Israel, said of this passage:

Looking around on those Temple-buildings – that House, it shall be left to them desolate! And He quitted its courts with these words, that they of Israel should not see Him again till, the night of their unbelief past, they would welcome His return with a better Hosanna than that which had greeted His Royal Entry three days before. And this was the ‘Farewell’ and the parting of Israel’s Messiah from Israel and its Temple. Yet a Farewell which promised a coming again; and a parting which implied a welcome in the future from a believing people to a gracious, pardoning King.3

So this verse not only speaks of the judgment that surely came in a.d. 70, but looked to a future time of redemption for Israel because the passage contains the forward looking word “until.” Luke 21:24 records another use of “until” by our Lord when He says, “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Hebrew Christian Bible teacher, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, says Israel must call for the Lord to rescue them as a condition for the second coming, based upon Matthew 23:39.4 Dr. Fruchtenbaum explains:

But then He declares that they will not see Him again until they say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. This is a messianic greeting. It will mean their acceptance of the Messiahship of Jesus.

So Jesus will not come back to the earth until the Jews and the Jewish leaders ask Him to come back. For just as the Jewish leaders lead the nation to the rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus, they must some day lead the nation to the acceptance of the Messiahship of Jesus.5

Dr.David Cooper echoes Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s understanding when he says, “Since Jesus came in the name of the Lord, and since He will not return until Israel says, ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,’ it is clear that the people of Israel will see and recognize that Jesus was and is their true Messiah.”6 The last few verses of Matthew 23 means that judgment was coming in the near future, but, beyond judgment, deliverance and redemption awaits the Jewish nation. Judgment did come in a.d. 70 and Matthew 24 speaks of the still future redemption of Israel.

The Historical Setting for Christ’s Discourse

Matthew 24:1-3 provides us with the setting for which Christ delivers His prophetic sermon. We see that Jesus is making His way from the Temple (24:1) to the Mount of Olives (24:3), which would mean that He most likely would travel down the Kidron Valley and on up to Olivet. As He was going from the Temple “His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him” (24:1). This statement leads us to believe that they were talking to Jesus about how beautiful the Temple complex was that Herod was still in the process of remodeling and refurbishing. Such an emphasis is borne out in the parallel references in Mark 13:1-2 and Luke 21:5-6 as the disciples speak of the beauty of the Temple buildings. The Lord must have startled His disciples by His response to their gloating over the beauty of the Temple complex when He said, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (24:2).

As 24:2 is completed, with Christ’s statement, there is a break in the narrative. The narrative picks back up in 24:3 when it says, “the disciples came to Him privately.” Mark 13:3 tells us that the disciples who came to Him privately were Peter, James, John and Andrew, and that they were sitting on the Mount of Olives looking at the Temple. This would be the same vista that many have seen today when a visitor goes to the viewing point in modern Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives that overlooks the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock perched upon it.

That the disciples came to Jesus privately fits the pattern that Jesus practices and Matthew records of teaching only His believing disciples once the nation rejected Him as their prophesied Messiah in Matthew 12. From Matthew 13 on, Jesus speaks publicly to the rejecting nation only in parables (Matt. 13:10-17). “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt. 13:13). However, many times He would later explain a public parable privately to His disciples (for example, Matt.13:10-23). In the Olivet Discourse, we see Christ following this pattern. This private explanation, which is the Olivet Discourse, means that Christ will provide His explanation of future history for the benefit of believers.

The Disciples Questions

While sitting on the Mount of Olives these four disciples ask Jesus the following questions: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age” (24:3)? Immediately debate rises over whether these are two questions or three. If one takes the first option, then there is no doubt that the second question contains two parts to it. I believe that there are two basic questions because of the grammar of the passage as explained by Dr. Craig Blomberg as follows:

“The sign of your coming and of the end of the age” in Greek reads, more literally, the sign of your coming and end of the age. By not repeating the definite article(“the”) before “end of the age,” Matthew’s rendering of Jesus’ words is most likely linking the coming of Christ and the end of the age together as one event (Granville Sharp’s rule).7

This means that the two phrases are closely related to one another in the mind of the disciples, who formulated the question. They believed that they were linked closely together.

Clearly the first question relates to the destruction of the Temple, which was fulfilled in the Roman invasion and destruction of a.d. 70. It is equally clear that the two aspects of the second question have yet to occur in history, even though some want to see in this passage Christ’s second coming (more on the errors of preterism as I progress through the passage).

It appears likely to me that the disciples believed that all three aspects of their two questions would occur around the same event – the coming of Messiah. Why would they have thought this way? Dr. Toussaint is correct to note that the disciples were influenced by the prophet Zechariah.

In their minds they had developed a chronology of events in the following sequence: (1) the departure of the King, (2) after a period of time the destruction of Jerusalem, and (3) immediately after Jerusalem’s devastation the presence of the Messiah. They had good scriptural ground for this since Zechariah 14:1-2 describes the razing of Jerusalem. The same passage goes on to describe the coming of the Lord to destroy the nations which warred against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:3-8). Following this the millennial kingdom is established (Zechariah 14:9-11).8

In other words, the disciples thought that all three events were related to a single event – the return of the Messiah as taught in Zechariah 14:4. As we shall see, they were right to think of Zechariah 12-14 and his teaching about Messiah’s coming. However, they were wrong to relate the impending judgment of Jerusalem and the Temple with the return of Messiah, as I hope to show in future installments of this series. Maranatha!

Endnotes


1) Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times: A Visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy(Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001),p. 35.
2) Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King: A Study of Matthew (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1980), pp. 264-65.
3) Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974 [1883]), Vol. II, p. 414.
4) Arnold Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (SanAntonio: Ariel Press, 1982), pp.212-15.
5) Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps, p. 215.
6) David L. Cooper, Messiah: His Final Call to Israel (Los Angeles: Biblical Research Society, 1962), p. 47.
7) Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, Vol. 22 of The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), p. 353, f.n. 37.
8) Toussaint, Behold The King, p. 269.