The following is a brief exchange I had with two people in the comment section who were responding to Dr. Michael Brown’s article “What does the Bible say about the end of the age?” on the Christian Post site (watch for an upcoming podcast for my comments on Dr. Brown’s article). I don’t answer every point these commenters make. If you want more specific answers, see my books Is Jesus Coming Soon?, Last Days Madness, and Wars and Rumors of Wars; also see John Bray’s Matthew 24 Fulfilled and James Jordan’s Matthew 23-25.
JW: Matthew 24: .. Mark 13: .. Luke 21 plus much in Revelation are the primary doctrines that provide us with sufficient detail so as we are not left floundering regarding the current end-time state of planet Earth. All the narratives complement each other with many warnings of impending doom. We are encompassed by all the categories and they are doing exactly what JESUS said they will do… Increasing as a woman in labour. Increasing in velocity, frequency: … Wickedness, deception, earthquakes, seismic activities, tsunamis, floods, storms, droughts, famines, fires, etc; Fulfillment of the prophecy of the FIG TREE in THIS GENERATION. Hallelujah. No one can say “THEY DIDN’T KNOW” Thank you Jesus for these essential advanced warnings.
Gary DeMar: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 refer to events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple and the judgment on Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. When Jesus said, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34), He was referring to His contemporaries (v. 33)—their generation. Luke writes, “the fig tree and ALL the trees” (Luke 21:29). John Walvoord, a dispensationalist, writes: “A better interpretation is that Christ was using a natural illustration. Because the fig tree brings forth new leaves late in the spring, the budding of the leaves is evidence that summer is near. In a similar way, when those living in the great tribulation see the signs predicted, they will know that the second coming of Christ is near. The signs in this passage, accordingly, are not the revival of Israel, but the great tribulation.” If Israel is the fig tree in Matthew 24:32, then what is the meaning of the fig tree in 21:18-22 where Jesus says there will never be fruit on it? You can’t have it both ways by claiming the fig tree always represents the blessing of Israel. The NT tree reference is the olive tree (Rom. 11:16-21). The Jews in Jerusalem and the surrounding area were warned by Jesus to flee to the mountains outside Judea. The Olivet Discourse is not describing a worldwide event; it’s describing an event that could be escaped on foot at a time when people lived in flat-roof houses and the Sabbath was operating with restrictions (24:17-20).
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JW: Jesus was responding to this question: (Matthew 24:3) Now 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 end of the age?” In His answer, Jesus described both a local event and a world wide event: (Matthew 24:14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:29–30) “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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.
Gary DeMar: Matthew 24:14 is a case in point. Just like Matthew 24:3 does not say “the end of the world” (kosmos) but “the end of the age” (aion), Matthew 24:14 does not say “in all the world” (kosmos) but the end of the oikoumenē, the only time Matthew uses the word. It’s the same Greek word used in Luke 2:1, Acts 11:27-28, and other places in the NT, and is often translated as “inhabited earth” and refers to political boundaries. For example, the Roman government could only tax its subjected nations in its control of the oikoumenē, not the whole wide world. The famine mentioned in Acts 11:28 was most likely an Empire-wide famine, not a global famine similar to what we find in Genesis 41:53-42:6. The Hebrew word eretz is translated in different ways in the context (land, earth, land of Canaan, land of Egypt, and ground) and most likely never refers to the whole wide world. Had the gospel been preached in the “whole oikoumenē,” that is, throughout the Roman Empire before that generation passed away? According to the Bible, it had been. Evidence? (Rom. 1:8; 10:18; 16:26; Col. 1:6, 23; 1 Tim. 3:16). Notice the universal language used in some of these passages: “throughout the whole world”; ‘every creature under heaven”; “to all the nations”; “among the nations.” The language of Matthew 24:29-30 is borrowed from the OT. The sun and moon going dark and stars falling refer to judgments on nations (see Isa. 13:10; 34:4; Ezek. 32:7-8). Israel is described as sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 37:9-10; Rev. 12:1). This language was applied to Israel of that generation by Jesus. It’s not as if the sun and moon changed in color or that literal stars fell to the earth. Similar language is used in Rev. 6:12-13. If one star got close to the earth, the earth would be destroyed, and yet in Rev. 12:4, the dragon, with his tail, sweeps the heavens and throws down a third of the stars to the earth. And yet the earth is still intact in chapter 13. A better translation than “tribes of the earth” is “tribes of the land” of Israel in that generation.
Then someone named Phoebe entered the discussion.
Phoebe: Gary, the reason why you have two thumbs down so soon is because you are wrong. Please also read the BIBLICAL account from Michael W below. You do have a few half-truths Gary but they lead to confusion and deception. Firstly, the two questions from the 4 disciples were:- “What will be the sign of your coming …. and the end of the world” (or age). Can you please answer the following two simple questions. (1). Has the end of the world (or age) taken place yet? AND (2).. Has Jesus come back yet? Unless you’re a Jehovis Witness, you should know the correct two answers to these two questions. Notice that both questions are FUTURISTIC - NOT PRESENT OR PAST TENSE. When we read the list of events JESUS answered them with in Matthew 24 we know that very few of those events had not occurred at that time. Regarding the “FIG TREE” prophecy, this was not fulfilled until long after the 4 disciples were dead and rotted away. The “FIG TREE” is indeed Israel who were given their independence in one day, and that day was May 14th 1948. I was alive when that happened, and am still alive.. BELIEVE. Jeremiah foretold in prophecy that this is so. Jeremiah 24: 4 (read the entire chapter), and in Isaiah 66:7-8 he also prophesied accurately with:- “Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment”… “No sooner is ZION in labour, she gives birth to her children” The narrative of Matthew 24 plus goes way beyond the destruction of the temple Gary.
Gary DeMar: I’ve read Dr. Brown’s article and have debated with him on this issue and others. The end of the age (aion) has taken place (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:11). Jesus returned in judgment as He promised He would to that (their) generation (Mt. 24:34). The LORD came in judgment several times under the OT (e.g., Isa. 19:1; Mic. 1:3-5). You will find similar language in Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:3. Notice what James writes: “Therefore be patient, brothers and sisters, until the COMING of the Lord. YOU too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is NEAR” (5:8-9; cp. with Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10). These threatening comings in Revelation were not about the Second Coming. Of course, the questions were about the future, The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was in THEIR future but now in our past. Even dispensational writers do not promote the belief that the fig tree refers to Israel becoming a nation again in 1948. It’s never stated in the text, that Jesus’ use of “the fig tree” and “all the trees” refer to Israel becoming a nation again in 1948 still in unbelief. The claim that the fig tree and all the trees refer to Israel becoming a nation again must be read into the text. Israel became a nation 74 years ago. More than a full generation has passed away since then. There is no mention anywhere in the NT about Israel returning to their land as the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Mark Hitchcock, like John Walvoord and also a dispensationalist, takes issue with the argument that the fig tree in Matthew 24:32 describes the reinstitution of the nation of Israel, a point he makes in his book The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy. Also, Larry Pettegrew, professor of theology at The Master’s Seminary, agrees: “The fig tree, however, does not illustrate Israel becoming a nation in 1948. The fig tree is simply an illustration from nature.”
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JW then reentered the discussion:
JW: Hi Gary, according to your comment and dialogue with Mr Brown the end of the age (aiōn) has taken place. This means that you both believe Jesus has actually come back and the end of the world (aiōn) has taken place. If that were so Gary. The 7 year Great tribulation is finished and all the saints have been raptured. How come you and Mr Brown Esquire are still here then? If you believe that Gary, there’s something radically wrong with your theology because I can assure you, the rapture has NOT taken place just yet and no-one has gone through the 7 year period of the great tribulation. If that were so, Jesus would have returned to the Mount of Olives which would have split two ways East to West ….. but sorry to disappoint you …. it has not happened. Neither has the mega earthquake taken place that brings down EVERY CITY... AND, there have been no hailstones weighing 100 lbs been recorded… Gary. Use a little common sense and read what the BIBLE says. Read and STUDY it DILIGENTLY. Honestly Gary, I cannot believe anyone could accept that load of utter rubbish. Never before in my Christian walk with Jesus or being a Bible student for 40 years have I heard anything so ridiculous. YOU HAVE BEEN DECEIVED BIG TIME.
Gary DeMar: Where in the NT does it say anything about a 7-year tribulation period? Revelation never uses the phrase “seven years,” and yet it’s supposed to be about seven years. I know where you think it comes from, but there is no mention of a gap between the 69th and 70 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. By the way, if you haven’t heard the view I espouse, then you have not done much study on this subject. The view you claim is biblical had its origin in the 19th century. I could give you a list of biblical commentators through the centuries who taught a similar view as what I have only briefly presented. Since the amount I could write was limited on the Christian Post site, I could not answer every objection raised. I found this comment by you interesting: “there have been no hailstones weighing 100 lbs … recorded.” First, just because something has not been recorded does not mean that it didn’t happen. Second, if futurists claim that 100-pound hailstones are going to take place in their version of the future Great Tribulation, then should we expect a giant woman out in space to appear, dragons, a third of the stars falling to earth in Revelation 12, and yet the earth is still intact for the rest of the book of Revelation? The temple is standing in Revelation 11, and Rev. 1:1 says the events in Revelation were to take place “soon” because the “time is near” (1:3), which was near to those who first read the prophecy.
As you can see, the above arguments are typical of those who futurize these and other passages. Most likely they have never heard an alternative view. I’m just “wrong.”