Welcome back. In part seven we saw how Jesus’ statements to His disciples during His conversation with them back in the 1st Century, proves to us unequivocally that the “Coming of the Son of Man” was going to be a first century event that the Jewish people would see, the High Priest would see, and Jesus’ own disciples would see in THEIR lifetimes. Which is precisely why the Apostle John records in Revelation 1:7, “7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.”
So let’s now move on by first reading from Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27.
Now, I just want to say right from the get go, that I will freely admit that this particular sentence in Jesus’ discourse can potentially be difficult to understand and interpret correctly. So I am open to the possibility that I am wrong in my scriptural assessment and that there are some other options out there which could be just as correct as my own.
But just like any other difficult passage of scripture that we may encounter anywhere in the Bible, we simply need to slow down and utilize sound, exegetical hermeneutical tools and principles to gain a proper understanding of what is being delineated to us.
For starters we should begin with our age old axiom, “Context is King!” And that means this one sentence spoken here by Jesus isn’t spoken in isolation; it is encapsulated within, and commensurate to, everything else He has already spoken leading up to this statement, and it is also contextually bookended and time stamped by Jesus’ statement in verse 34.
So no matter what we may see on TV, read in a book, or hear in a sermon, verse 31 has to fit within the first century context that Jesus has already CLEARLY established because this is spoken in conjunction with the ongoing conversation and discourse that He has been involved in with His disciples up to this point.
Additionally, it also has to be completed in the lifetime of the disciples who are listening to Him because He emphatically says just three verses later, “Truly I say to YOU, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
Here’s something else to consider: one of the questions a good, exegetical disciple of Christ should ask themselves when they are interpreting scripture is, “Can my interpretation be buttressed by other scripture?”
In other words, does my interpretation create conflict, and become contradictory to other scripture, or does my interpretation support and become complimentary to other scripture?
And in conjunction with that, as I’ve said previously, we should be viewing scripture through the lens and literary window of OTHER SCRIPTURE allowing IT to explain itself.
So if we apply these two principles synergistically with each other towards verse 31, thankfully we can actually turn to another passage in Matthew’s gospel account where Jesus uses this exact same language and metaphor……Matthew 13:41. Go now and read the parable Jesus teaches as written in Matthew 13:24-30 and verses 36-43.
The Wheat and the Tares
Unfortunately this parable is often misinterpreted, but if we slow down and properly digest what Jesus is saying, we will understand the correct interpretation of this parable. And the primary reason we can do so is because thankfully, the disciples were confused by it as well, and therefore they asked Jesus Himself to provide them with the correct interpretation, which of course means we get to see the correct interpretation with them.
So starting in verse 37 Jesus makes it clear that the Sower in the parable was Him … the Son of Man. Secondly, the Field in the parable is the whole world……in other words: humanity. Thirdly, the Good Seed in the parable are Disciples of Christ and the Tares are those who reject Christ (sons of the evil one). And then Jesus gives perhaps the most important detail and explanation of all: He says the Harvest is the, “…end of the AGE.”
And what is really important here is the phrasing, “…end of the AGE,” not end of the world or the end of all things. The Greek word used here in Matthew’s account is the word: aion. And the proper translation for it would be, “a period of time, an age;” rather than the Greek word: kosmos which would be more properly translated as “the world.”
Strong’s concordance properly defines this word aion as: an age, a cycle of time. So Jesus isn’t talking about the end of all things, or the end of the world in this parable; He’s telling them that He is actually talking about the end of the Jewish age……and the demise of that City, that temple, and that Jewish epoch of time which was going to come to an end; and the disciples were going to witness it.
A Harvest of Judgment
So the harvest in the parable isn’t a “harvest of souls” at the end of the world; it’s a different kind of harvest …… it’s A HARVEST OF JUDGMENT. And don’t miss that very, very important distinction.
And how do we know this? Well for starters the angels are the reapers in this particular harvest (vs. 39) and all throughout the Old Testament we know that angels are used and spoken of as being participants with God during His repeated acts of judgment against not just the nation of Israel but other nations of the earth.
Here’s just one small example of this in a passage out of Psalm 22:2-3, 7-11 which David describes as deliverance from the hand of Saul and the rest of his enemies, when God moves on his behalf. He says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer … (but God isn’t an actual rock)
3My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my savior, You save me from violence.
7In my distress I called upon the Lord, yes, I cried to my God; and from His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears. 8Then the earth shook and quaked, the foundations of heaven were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry. (but the earth didn’t really quake and heaven doesn’t even have a literal foundation that can actually tremble or shake) 9Smoke went up out of His nostrils, fire from His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it. (but God isn’t really a fire breathing dragon)
10He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. 11And He rode on a cherub and flew and He appeared on the wings of the wind.” (but God doesn’t really ride angels (cherubs) and the wind doesn’t have actual wings).
And Jesus continues this kind of symbolic imagery when He says in verse 40, “So just as the tares (in real life) are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the AGE. 41The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Now pause for a moment and ask yourself, “When a farmer gathers up tares out of his field, are the tares the GOOD plants or the bad ones?” That’s right, he’s gathering up BAD plants … the WEEDS. In other words, this kind of gathering, spiritually speaking, that is going to take place isn’t a gathering or snatching up of righteous people … it’s a gathering up of the UNRIGHTEOUS people …… or as Jesus said in His explanation, it’s a gathering up of the bad seed, the sons of the evil one.
In other words, when the Son of Man comes in righteous, spiritual judgment against the nation of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and against even the Temple itself, Jesus’ angels are going to metaphorically be sent out to gather up all of the Tares, and the Bad Seed, and the Sons of the Evil One.
This isn’t a gathering of the righteous to save them from destruction or harm; and it’s definitely not a gathering of the righteous for some kind of supposed rapture event as so many espouse. This is a “gathering” of the unrighteous, the stumbling blocks, the ones who commit lawlessness, the ones who will be cast into the symbolic furnace of God’s judgment and they will be judged for their rebellion and wicked rejection of the promised Messiah.
It’s important for us to understand that Jesus is using symbolic imagery and metaphorical, agricultural anecdotes and isn’t intending for His usage of those literary forms to be taken woodenly literal …… that’s why it’s called a PARABLE and not a REAL STORY.
- So the Sower isn’t real … it’s a symbol for Jesus.
- And the Field isn’t real … it’s a symbol for humanity.
- And the Good Seed isn’t real … it’s a symbol for the sons and daughters of God.
- And the Bad Seed (the Tares) aren’t real … they’re a symbol for the unrighteous who reject God.
- And the Harvest isn’t real … it’s a symbol for the end of the Jewish age.
- And the reapers aren’t real … they’re symbolic for the angels who will execute God’s judgment on the nation of Israel.
- And the furnace isn’t real … it’s a symbol of God’s judgment as the All Consuming Fire who righteously judges the hearts of men.
So once we have a clear understanding of this parable, and the usage of language like, “the Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,” then we can turn back to Matthew 24, verse 31 and truly understand what Jesus is saying, and because Jesus already established the meaning of these words back in chapter 13 when we read them here in Matthew 24 they should make perfect sense.
In this discourse, up until this point, Jesus has been describing all along that the City of Jerusalem was going to be surrounded by a Roman horde, the Temple was going to be utterly destroyed, and the Jewish nation was going to come to an end.
And in the parable in chapter 13 He describes how the TARES would be gathered up, but here in Matthew 24 He is now describing how the ELECT will be gathered up. This means if the TARES were gathered up for judgment in chapter 13’s parable; I have to believe that the ELECT are now being gathered up during the same event but for a different reason and purpose.
In other words, it seems to me that the TARES are gathered up for spiritual judgment and destruction … but at the same time the ELECT are gathered up for blessing and the continued growth of the kingdom of God.
Jesus described this Good Seed back in chapter 13 as being the sons of the kingdom and He said that after the judgment of God was executed upon the Bad Seed (the Tares) then these sons of God would, “…shine forth as the Sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Which is precisely what the Apostles ended up doing, they grew and blossomed and exceedingly bloomed in the garden of humanity and the Gospel of the Kingdom spread through the entire Roman Empire like wildfire.
And when Jesus says here in Matt 24:31 that His elect would be gathered, “…from one end of the sky to the other,” I think one could easily say that that did indeed come to pass, because regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, or color, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the message of salvation reached every people group of the known world and changed the course of human history!
Which is precisely why Peter says in Acts 10:34, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”
And why Paul said in Romans 2:11, “…there is no partiality with God.”
Therefore, is it any wonder than that Jesus describes the proclamation of His gospel (i.e. His death, burial, and glorious resurrection!) as an event that is preceded and announced by the sounding of a metaphorical “Great Trumpet?”
This is a clarion call to the nations and a bid for them to come and, “…taste and see that the Lord is good,” and to drink from the river of life that flows from the throne of God, and to partake of the Bread of Life so that they will no longer thirst and no longer be hungry. And the proclamation of that message, the message of Jesus Christ being the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is tantamount to God gathering together His elect.
Let’s continue on by taking a quick moment to read from Matthew 24:32-35 and its parallel passages.
So Jesus tells His disciples, “…when YOU see all these things.” Well what things? ALL the things He just got done telling them:
- In verses 4, 5, 11, and 23-26 He told them that false Christs would be coming but He didn’t want them to be deceived by their false claims, teachings, and supernatural abilities.
- In verse 6 He told them that they would hear of, “…wars and rumors of wars.”
- In seven He said they’d experience earthquakes and famines.
- Back in chapter 23 and her in verse nine He said they’d face tribulation, be persecuted, imprisoned, and even put to death.
- In verse 14 He said they’d be instrumental in extending the gospel to the known world as His witnesses.
- He warned them in verses 15-21 He warns them that they will witness the Abomination of Desolation, and when they do they need to immediately flee to avoid being killed in the siege of Jerusalem.
- And lastly, in verses 27-30 Jesus uses the symbolic and apocalyptic language of the Old Testament prophets to describe the coming of the Son of Man in spiritual judgment against the nation of Israel.
So again, when Jesus says here in verse 33, “…when YOU see all these things,” He is referring directly back to everything He just told them! And He is telling them, “…when you see all these things, [then] recognize that He is near, right at the door.” And this of course is nothing different than some of the things the Apostles end up telling the early church later on in their own writings:
- It’s why the writer of Hebrews told his audience that they were living in the last days.
- It’s why Paul told Timothy in his personal letter to him that HE was living in the last days.
- It’s why James told his first century audience that THEY were living in the last days and they should, “…be patient; [and] strengthen [their] hearts, for the coming of the Lord is NEAR.”
- It’s why Paul told the Christians in Corinth that the ends of the ages had come upon them.
- It’s why Peter told his audience that they were living in the last times and that the, “…end of all things is near.”
- And it’s why the Apostle John told his audience that they were living in the last hour and he was a fellow partaker in the tribulation with them!
These were all REAL warnings and REAL instructions of encouragement for the early church; because they were going to REALLY experience everything that Jesus said they would. And of course, as we’ve been saying repeatedly all throughout this series, Jesus ends His statements in these verses by letting them know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that He is speaking directly TO THEM when He says, “Truly I say to YOU, this generation will not pass away until ALL these things take place.”
And certainly ALL means ALL … so ALL these things will take place before their generation was dead and gone. ALL of them.
See you in part nine!