In three previous articles, I dealt with “Confronting Eschatological Gnosticism, “Should the Bible Always be Interpreted Literally?,” and “The Bible Method: Scripture Interprets Scripture.”

In this article, I will briefly deal with what many believe is end-of-the-world language even though the Old Testament uses such language with local events.

Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Now these things happened to them [OT Israelites] as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). The first-century church was living at the end of the Old Covenant and Adamic ages (1 Cor. 15:20–23, 45–49; Rom. 5:12–21), the “last days” (Heb. 1:2) of types and shadows and their fulfillment in Jesus. Similar language is used in Hebrews 9:26: “but now once at the consummation of the ages, He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Peter describes this period of redemptive history as “these last times” (1 Peter 1:20) and “the end of all things” (4:7), an event that he maintained was “at hand” and Paul wrote “the time had been shortened” (1 Cor. 7:29). John told his first-century readers, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). How much more clear could the New Testament writers have been? The “end of the age” and the “last days” took place before their generation passed away (Matt. 24:34).

External evidence lends credence to the claim that the early church expected the judgment coming of Jesus as an imminent event:

There appears to be some evidence that the emigration of the Jerusalem Christian community to Pella was theologically motivated, in the same way as the national revolt of 66 A.D. New Testament passages such as Luke 21:5–7, 20–24 appear to indicate that the early Christians considered the destruction of 70 A.D. as predicted by their Lord and may have viewed it as an act of judgement on Israel. Such conceptions would make them quite unacceptable among the Jews of Jerusalem during the years leading up to the 66 A.D. revolt. Indeed, Christian leaders who may have repeated these predictions may have ended up in a situation more or less similar to that of Jeremiah before the destruction of the first temple (see for example, Jer. 26), with the only difference that unlike Jeremiah, they were leaders of a community that could be targets of terrorist acts. Even if one takes the predictions recorded in Luke 21:5–7, 20–24 as post eventu [after events of AD 70] sayings, it would still be necessary to grant that they represent an interpretation of the 70 A.D. catastrophe which could not be welcomed by the Jewish leadership. Such interpretations indicated and resulted in the widening of the gap between these two communities.[1]

Surely stellar language regarding the sun, moon, and stars in Matthew 24:29 refers to the end of the world? The Old Testament is loaded with sun, moon, and stars language. National Israel is pictured as the sun (Jacob), moon (Rachel), and stars (sons of Israel) in Genesis 37:9–11 and Revelation 12:1–2. Even dispensational commentators take this interpretive approach when they interpret the Old Testament. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 13:10 which describes the destruction of OT Babylon as “the stars of heaven and their constellations” not flashing “forth their light.” The sun is said to be “dark when it rises,” and “the moon will not shed its light.” Did this physically happen? All the commentators say it did. Babylon was judged by God. But you would have to say these things did not happen because “there were no supernatural signs in the heavens.”

Matthew 24 Fulfilled

Matthew 24 Fulfilled

Grasp what this book teaches, and you won't waste any more of your time on the pre-mil, pre-trib fiction put out by the so-called ‘prophecy experts.’ Matthew 24 Fulfilled examines the issues related to popular ‘end-times’ hysteria and counters with a view consistent with all of Scripture.

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Charles L. Feinberg, writing in the dispensational Liberty Bible Commentary on Revelation, concludes: “The sun, moon, and stars indicate a complete system of government and remind the reader of Genesis 37:9. God had caused royal dignity to rest in Israel in the line of David.”[2] He nowhere indicates that the real sun, moon, and stars are in view in the passage. This “complete system of government” under judgment is depicted as sun, moon, and stars falling and going dark. Jesus applies the same language to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Did it happen? Jesus said it did: “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” as understood against the biblical imagery of the sun, moon, and stars going dark and falling.

What about the “coming of the Son of Man”? Every reference to Jesus’ coming is not a reference to His second coming.

• “I am coming to you [church in Ephesus]. . . unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5).

• “Repent . . . or else I am coming to you quickly . . . to make war against them with the sword of My mouth” (Rev. 2:16).

• “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you” (Rev. 3:3).

Even non-preterist commentators agree that these passages do not refer to Jesus’ second coming even though the Revelation 3:3 passage describes this judgment coming as a “like a thief” (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 16:15).

The Ephesian Christians were also sharply warned that if they did not heed exhortation, they could expect sudden judgment and removal of the candlestick. As [Henry] Alford comments, this is “not Christ’s final coming, but His coming in special judgment is here indicated.”[3]

If these churches did not repent, Jesus would come and remove their lampstand. “The reference,” Mounce comments, “is not so much to the parousia as it is to an immediate visitation for preliminary judgment. Christ, after all, walks among his churches (Rev. 2:1).”[4]

Alan F. Johnson writes: “The words ‘I will soon come to you’ [Rev. 2:16] should be understood as a coming ‘against’ the congregation in judgment, as in v. 5, and not as a reference to Christ’s second coming.”[5]

“This coming of Christ is not the Second Coming,” Steven J. Lawson argues. “It is a special coming of visitation, in judgment and discipline.”[6]

There were many Old Testament comings of Jehovah. Were these visible/physical manifestations? Not one commentator I consulted concluded that they referred to a bodily coming of Jehovah.

• Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them (Isa. 19:1).

• For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth [land] for their iniquity; and the earth [land] will reveal her bloodshed, and will no longer cover her slain (Isa. 26:21).

• “For Behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth [land]” (Micah 1:3)

The coming of Jesus on clouds in Matthew 24:30 is a direct quotation from Daniel 7:13 where the Son of Man comes “up to the Ancient of Days.” This cannot be the Second Coming! Daniel’s description best fits the first century where we know Jesus is presently sitting at Jehovah’s right hand (Acts 2:34). Dispensationalism must divert people away from the clear teaching of Scripture to make its case. Gary Hedrick’s article is no exception.

For more information on the topics covered in these four articles, see Last Days Madness, Wars and Rumors of Wars, Prophecy Wars, and Matthew 24 Fulfilled.

Matthew 24: Future or Fulfilled?

Matthew 24: Future or Fulfilled?

Gary DeMar and Barry Horner debated when the events of Matthew 24 were or would be fulfilled. Mr. DeMar takes the position that the Olivet Discourse is a prophecy of events that were fulfilled before that first-century generation passed away - in the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

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[1]Tshitangoni Christopher Rabali, The Motif of Hastening the Lord’s Coming: 2 Peter 3:1–13 and its Alleged Parallels and Background (University of South Africa: 1992), 225–226.

[2] Charles L. Feinberg, “Revelation,” Liberty Bible Commentary, 2 vols. (Lynchburg, VA: Old-Time Gospel Hour, 1982), 2:820

[3]John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), 57. Emphasis added.

[4]Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 70. Emphasis added.

[5]Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 46. Emphasis added.

[6]Steven J. Lawson, Final Call (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 86. Emphasis added.