End Times

Theology Matters

Harold Camping falsely predicted the Return of Christ and the Rapture of his people on May 21, 2011. Many people were duped by this false teacher into believing his message. This is one reason why our method of interpretation matters.

But Camping isn’t the only one using faulty methods of interpretation. Many Christians believe that Christ will return one generation from the time Israel became a nation in 1948. A generation can be anywhere from 1988 to 2048 on our source. But what will happen to those who follow this teaching if Christ doesn’t return by then? Like Harold Camping followers, their faith will be shattered. They will loose trust in the Bible, all because they had a faulty interpretation of the Matthew 24. In this Article I will demonstrate why this interpretation is faulty.

Matthew 24:29-35

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.

33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Dispensationalist Interpretation of Matthew 24

Christians who hold to a dispensationalist view of Matthew 24 see the verses prior to 32 as speaking of the end of the world. So when skeptics see that Jesus said “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” they wrongly call Jesus a false prophet because the people whom he was speaking to did in fact pass away. But Dispensationalists see this in a different way.

They see the fig tree in verse 32 as representing Israel and often see the leaves being “put out” as referring to 1948, when Israel became a nation. Therefore, they interpret verse 34 as the Generation that begun in 1948.

Refutation

First, I will lay my cards on the table. I hold to an (Orthodox) Preterist position. I believe that most of the events in Matthew 24, are referring to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. When we read in verse 29 that the moon and the sun will not give off their light, we understand this to be hyperbolic language. We see this same language in Isaiah concerning the (past) destruction of Babylon.

Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. Isaiah 13:9-10

Did these things literally happen in the times of the Old Testament or is this harsh language to covey the idea of extreme circumstances.

Verse 30 speaks about the Son of Man coming on the clouds. Certainly this is speaking of the second coming of Christ, right? Again, I don’t believe so. And once again Isaiah shows us this metaphor in a past event.

“An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1

The term riding on a cloud, seems to be tantamount to saying “I will come to judge.” So, although coming on the cloud could mean the second coming (because he will come in Judgment), it does not necessitate it. The Lord did, however, judge Israel for their disobedience and rejection of the Messiah. This judgment is seen through the destruction of the Temple.

Verse 31 says “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” The word angel here is the greek word “aggeloV” which can either mean messenger or angel depending on the context. This verse can take the meaning of a reaping of God’s elect from the earth or God sending His messengers to go out and preach the Gospel.

The Figtree

The Text reads:

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.

33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

It baffles me how dispensationalists can get, from this verse, that the Generation that is existent when Israel became a nation in 1948 will see the second coming. But let’s look at what is does say. Jesus is giving a parable, but he is also giving us the interpretation of the parable. Most of the parables of Jesus are left un-interpreted. Jesus points to a simple fact-when we see leaves, we know it’s going to be summer. Likewise, when the events I’ve spoken about happen, Judgment will be at hand. (judgment seen in the form of the destruction of the temple.)

A main verse to point out is that at the beginning of the chapter the disciples ask Jesus when the stones of the temple will be thrown down.

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Signs of the Close of the Age As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”Matthew 24:1-3

Jesus tells the disciples that THIS generation will not pass until the stones of the Temple are thrown down. This generation refers to the one in which he was speaking to in the first century. Jesus is not a false prophet. These things came from in 70 A.D.

Conclusion

Jesus is giving the disciples an answer on when the temple blocks will be thrown down, not giving them a generation we can look to in order to see when Christ will return. This issue will become very important as time passes and we get closer to the 1948 generation dying out. Do not fear if Christ does not come by this time. It doesn’t mean that Jesus forgot to return, or that he’s a false prophet, or that the Bible is faulty, but rather another case of fallacious interpretation of the Bible. Our foundation must be firm, the Bible is true and Christ WILL return, but his return will be unexpected (maybe as you read this) once the full number of the elect has been saved.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.  Revelation 22:20-21

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