If someone burps in the Middle East, the end-time speculators come out of the woodwork and claim that this time it’s the end. People said the end was near more than 100 years ago when Europe went to war, and 51 years ago when Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, and 20 years ago when the Sabbath Millennium was said to start.
The rapture and the antichrist have once again taken center stage. What is past is said to be in our near future. Just wait, this time it’s going to happen just like Jesus said it would.
After I repeatedly pointed out on a few Facebook pages that no verse says the church will be taken to heaven in something called “the rapture” (see my book The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation) before, during, or after seven years and that the specifically defined antichrists (1 John 2:22; 4:3; John 2:7) were alive in John’s day as evidence of a prophetic event soon to occur (1 John 2:18), I was called a false teacher and a heretic.
Someone named Curtis attempted to answer my claims. By what he wrote, it seems that he has not read outside his prophetic paradigm.
After calling me “buddy," he wrote that I’m “a little confused.” Let’s put his charge to the test by looking at what the Bible says. For many of you, this will be repetitious, but it only goes to show that there are many Christians who are trapped in a badly constructed exegetical time warp.
Referencing Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32, Curtis stated that “the things that Jesus had been speaking of—the rise of the Antichrist, the desolation of the Holy Place, and the darkening of the sun—did not happen during the lifespan of people alive in Jesus’ day.”
Jesus does not mention anything about “the Antichrist” in the Olivet Discourse. He does mention false prophets (who were alive in John’s day: 1 John 4:1) false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1–2), and false Messiahs, but nothing is said about “the Antichrist.” What Curtis means by “the Antichrist” is an end-time religio-political figure who will rule the world, slaughter two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel (Zech 13:7–9), and lead us inevitably toward Armageddon. As we’ve seen above, this is not how the Bible defines an antichrist or the timing of them: “Children, it is the last hour [John’s day]; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now [then] many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2:18). Curtis and others like him have to do some fancy exegetical footwork to make John say something very different from what is clearly stated to make their system work.
Curtis goes on to write:
Show me historically documented evidence that the above happened in 70 AD. You can’t. No such thing happened. Obviously, Jesus meant something different when He spoke of “this generation.”
I and many others have given “documented evidence.” I’ve documented the evidence in my books Is Jesus Coming Soon?, Last Days Madness, Wars and Rumors of Wars, and in hundreds of articles and debates in 40 years. Anyone who is not aware of the documentation should not be writing on the topic.
Yes, Jesus was “speaking directly to His Disciples.” This is an important point. Jesus uses the second person plural throughout the Olivet Discourse. They would be the ones who would be hearing of wars and rumors and wars; they would be the ones delivered up to tribulation that included death, hatred, and betrayal (24:9–10); those of their generation would see the abomination “standing in the holy place” (24:15) and “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20). “You” means them, not a distant future generation. Notice that the judgment was local that could be escaped on foot by fleeing to the mountains outside of Judea (24:16). The people lived during a time when “[r]oofs were flat so that individuals could work, socialize, and even sleep there” and cloaks were an important piece of clothing (24:18; Ex. 22:26; Deut. 24:12), and Sabbath restrictions were operating (Matt. 24:20; Acts 1:12).
Let’s not forget earthquakes (Acts 16:26) and famines (11:27–28). What about the gospel being preached to the “whole oikoumenē” to “all the nations” (Matt. 24:14)? Jesus uses oikoumenē, the same word found in Luke 2:1 to describe the extent of the Roman tax and Acts 11:28 and the limited geography of the earthquake. The gospel had been “proclaimed throughout the whole world [kosmos]” (Rom. 1:8), “in all the world [kosmos]” (Col. 1:6), “in all creation under heaven” (1:26); “to all the nations” (Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 3:16d). If these examples don’t serve as “documented evidence,” then I’m at a loss as to what does. If you can’t trust the Bible’s evidence, then no evidence can be trusted.
Curtis then attempts to reinterpret the meaning of “this generation”:
Since Jesus was actually speaking directly to His Disciples, it would have been more grammatically appropriate if He said “YOUR generation will not pass.”
If Jesus was referring to a distant generation, it would have been grammatically appropriate if He had said “THEIR generation will not pass away.” We know how to interpret “this generation” since Jesus uses it numerous times as recorded in Matthew’s gospel. No one doubts that the use of “this generation” in Matthew 23:36 refers to those of that generation otherwise why would Jesus condemn them in many specific ways throughout the chapter beginning with verse 3 and continuing through verse 35 and then say, “Truly I say to YOU, all these things shall come upon THIS generation” and mean a distant future generation? Craig Blomberg writes the following in The Biblical Theology Study Bible edited by D.A. Carson:
23:36 generation. Often viewed as about 40 years. In AD 70, 40 years after the death of Jesus (probably in AD 30, though possibly 33), the Romans destroyed the temple and much of Jerusalem. See also v. 38. During this time all these various kinds of deaths likewise occurred at the hands of key Jewish leaders.
Even dispensationalists interpret the use of “this generation” by Jesus in Matthew 23:36 as a judgment that “would fall on their generation (verse 36), and their house [temple] would be left to them desolate.”[i] Why would its meaning change a few movements later, especially when Jesus said the following in Matthew 24:33?: “so YOU too, when YOU see all these things, recognize that it is near, at the door.” Curtis quotes 24:33 but does not mention its specific audience. The “you” does not refer to a future generation otherwise Jesus would have said, “so … when THEY see all these things.”
Earlier in Matthew’s gospel “this generation” is used several times and refers to those to whom Jesus was speaking (11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45). The “sign” is the resurrection, an event that took place during that generation. Jesus in their presence is “greater than Jonah” (12:41) and “greater than Solomon” (12:42). There is no justifiable way to skip the generation of Jesus’ day, a generation He condemns (11:20–24), and claim that “this generation” refers to another unrelated generation that did not witness the resurrection or the works Jesus did.
What about the stellar phenomena of Matthew 24:29? Charles L. Feinberg, writing in the dispensational Liberty Bible Commentary, writes: “The sun, moon, and stars indicate a complete system of government and remind the reader of Genesis 37:9”[ii] and not the physical sun and moon going dark and stars falling to earth (see Rev. 6:12–14).
John A. Martin, writing in the dispensational-oriented Bible Knowledge Commentary, argues that “the statements in [Isaiah] 13:10 about the heavenly bodies (stars … sun … moon) no longer functioning may figuratively describe the total turnaround of the political structure of the Near East. The same would be true of the heavens trembling and the earth shaking (v. 13), figures of speech suggesting all-encompassing destruction.”[iii] Jesus used this language from Isaiah 13:10 to “figuratively describe the total turnaround of the political structure of” Israel that took place with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 in the same way the Bible uses similar language in Isaiah 24:3, Ezekiel 32:7, Amos 5:20, and other places. Such language is used for local judgments in the past (Zeph. 1:1–15).
For an extensive verse-by-verse commentary on Matthew 24, see my books Is Jesus Coming Soon?, Last Days Madness, and Wars and Rumors of Wars. In Wars and Rumors of Wars, I devote ten pages to commentators who make the case that “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 refers to the generation of Jesus’ day.
[i]Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, gen. eds., The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), 357.
[ii]Charles L. Feinberg, “Revelation,” Liberty Bible Commentary: New Testament, eds. Jerry Falwell and Edward E. Hindson (Lynchburg, VA: Old-Time Gospel Hour, 1982), 820.
[iii]John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 1059.