Welcome back to our final segment of The Olivet Discourse. As we finish off with our examination of all that Jesus is teaching and prophesying about, let’s remember that when we applied sound, exegetical examination to the parable about the Wheat and the Tares found in Matthew 13 we recognized the following:
The Sower was Jesus … the Son of Man.
The Field was the whole world……humanity.
The Good Seed were the Disciples of Christ and the Tares were those who reject Christ (or sons of the evil one).
And the Harvest was the, “…end of the AGE.” But NOT the end of the world and that is an important distinction.
Because of all of that, we recognized that in that parable, and also in Matthew 24, Jesus isn’t talking about the end of all things or the final consummation of the ages during His second coming; He’s actually talking about the end of the Jewish age……and He’s talking about the demise and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved Temple; and the Jewish epoch of time which was going to come to an end. And He’s prophetically stating that the disciples were going to witness it.
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. 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.
Because 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.
And this wasn’t going to be a gathering of the righteous to save them from destruction or harm; this was going to be a “gathering” of the unrighteous, the stumbling blocks, the ones who commit lawlessness, to cast them into the symbolic furnace of God’s judgment where they will be judged for their rebellion and wicked rejection of the promised Messiah.
And even though in the parable in Matthew 13 Jesus describes how the TARES would be gathered up, here in Matthew 24 He is now describing how the ELECT will be gathered up simultaneously with them.
So during the coming of the Son of Man in judgment against the nation of Israel, 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.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Jesus describes the proclamation of the 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?”
Because 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 from the four corners of the globe.
The Days of Noah
Now that our review is out of the way, let’s continue on with our final session in this series and first read from Matthew 24:37-41.
Now, right from the get go we should notice that Mark and Luke do not contain this particular anecdote in their accounts so we only have Matthew’s gospel to draw from; but just like we did last week, when we apply some sound hermeneutical principles and tools we can easily come to an understanding about what Jesus is actually saying here.
So to do that, let’s stop and ask a primary question: “What were the days of Noah like? Was the earth full of righteous people, or unrighteous people?” That’s right, unrighteous people. In fact, God describes it this way in Genesis 6:5-8 saying, “…the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’ 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
So every single person on the earth had no desire or intention to follow the Lord and obey His commands … instead they were only interested in doing evil. That is except for eight people: Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, and their four wives.
And don’t miss this, because this is the situation that Jesus is describing in Matthew 24, and this is the setting that He is directing His disciples to look back upon as an example of how it is going to be (metaphorically speaking) during the coming of the Son of Man in Judgment against Israel in their generation.
So if we think back to the event and circumstances of the flood, did God cause a global flood to come upon humanity to save them, or to judge them for their sin? Correct, it was sent by Him for judgment, not blessing.
And when Jesus says, “…there will be two men in the field, one will be taken and one will be left,” is He referring to somebody being “TAKEN” for judgment, or “TAKEN” for escape and blessing in heaven?
Correct, taken for judgment; because when you got “taken” during the flood, you were taken by the rising waters and drowned, not taken in some kind of supernatural “rapture” and saved from the wrath of God. The only ones saved from God’s judgment in the days of Noah were the ones who were in the ark.
But the people in the ark weren’t the ones who were “taken;” it was the people outside of the ark who died … they were the ones who were taken.
And when Jesus says, “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left,” is He stating that the woman “taken” from her grinding is going to be saved, or is she going to be judged? Correct, she’s going to be judged because again, the people who were “taken” in the days of Noah were the ones who didn’t survive! They were the ones who perished and drowned.
So many people, for so many years and generations now, have read these two statements by Jesus and immediately tried to eisegetically force into them the idea of some kind of 21st Century rapture …… but when they do that they miss completely what Jesus is saying, and they miss completely what was actually going on in the days of Noah during God’s judgment against humanity.
And that’s why Jesus says at this point in His discourse, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and TOOK them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
So Jesus is trying to warn the Jews, and warn the High Priest, and warn the Jewish leadership that judgment is coming; but they aren’t willing to listen. Therefore, the majority of the nation is going to see the Roman armies come and surround their city, and instead of repenting and heeding Jesus’ warnings, they are going to continue on with normal life and ignorantly believe, “Ah, don’t worry about it. They’ll never be able to get through the city walls … these walls are over 35 feet tall and 8 feet thick! Besides, we’re the chosen people of God.”
They’ll continue to eat, drink, and be merry just like the people did in the days of Noah, and they’ll fail to understand until it is too late that the “Flood” of God’s judgment has come to TAKE them away.
And again, this isn’t a snatching up of people to supposedly “rapture” them into heaven and preserve them from judgment …… this is actually the COMPLETE OPPOSITE; this is Roman Soldiers coming and “taking” people by the sword and either putting them to death, or sending them off to a foreign land as conquered slaves.
This is why it is so important for us to properly exegete the scriptures and take time to slowly digest what is precisely written in the text instead of trying to interpret it through somebody else’s new book, television program, or the lens of a local newspaper.
And when we do that we see that God’s flood TOOK people away in judgment, not blessing and safety. And so too will it be exactly the same, during the coming of the Son of Man, in that first century apocalyptic event known as the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish Age.
Be on the Alert!
Alright, let’s move on by reading from Matthew 24:42-44, Mark 13:33-37, and Luke 21:34-36.
Once again, one of the first things we should recognize from these statements is WHO Jesus is talking to. He says, “…for YOU do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
In other words, you guys are going to see the coming of the Son of Man; not some people two thousand years later. YOU are……so stay alert, because it’s going to happen at a time when you don’t think it will.
this is exactly how Jesus just got done describing it when He spoke about the days of Noah. Right up until Noah and his family walked into the ark, the people all around them were still saying, “Ah come on, nothing’s going to happen. You guys are a bunch of idiots. You think an ark is going to save you? You just wasted years and years of your life building that stupid thing when it’s never even rained here before…let alone rained long enough to cause any flooding!”
And even after the rains began to fall, and the waters began to rise, the people still refused to repent and believe that God was coming against them in judgment.
And Jesus is saying that is exactly how it’s going to be when the Son of Man comes against the nation of Israel, it’s going to happen at a time that they least expect it … so be ready and stay alert, because when it does start happening you need to immediately stop what you are doing and flee to the mountains.
So these statements by Jesus, when examined in conjunction with everything else He has said up to this point, are actually quite straightforward; which is why He finishes by telling them things like, “For this reason YOU also must be ready; for the son of Man is coming at an hour when YOU do not think He will.”
And why He also says, “But keep on the alert at all times, praying that YOU may have strength to escape all these things that ARE ABOUT TO TAKE PLACE!”
A Faithful Slave
Finally, let’s finish our time in this series by reading the final statements made by Jesus in Matthew 24, found in verses 45-51.
What I’ve found over the years is that people often read these verses and then immediately interpret them to mean that Jesus is talking about how we are supposed to be dutiful disciples of Christ until His second coming; otherwise if we are found to be disobedient and nonsensical slaves, then we will be cast into hell for all eternity.
And while the Bible does teach in other passages, and in other places, that we will indeed be judged for every careless word and every careless deed, this is not what Jesus is talking about here. And how do we know that? Because again, He is saying this in the same context, and in the same breath that He just got done telling them to be alert and to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
So Jesus’ use of an anecdotal story about a slave and a master here isn’t Him speaking of the end of the world, instead He’s using yet another parabolic example to try and get them to recognize that they should remain faithful and fruitful, as sensible slaves until they see the coming of the Son of Man.
In essence He’s telling them, “Look, many years are going to pass, and you might even begin to wonder, ‘Is God really ever going to come and judge the nation of Israel?’ but don’t forget what I’ve told you. Don’t fall into the trap and be deceived into thinking that your Master is not going to spiritually return in judgment like He said He would.”
So to me, there is nothing hidden or mysterious about what Jesus is saying, He is simply speaking in the same context and time frame that He has spoken to His disciples throughout this entire discourse.
And just because He uses descriptions and adjectives like, “…weeping and gnashing of teeth,” it doesn’t mean He is automatically referring to the end of the world and His promised second coming at the end of all things.
Because don’t forget, this is the same language Jesus had already used in His parables in Matthew 13 AND in Matthew 22 that we looked at in previous weeks; and those parables were CLEARLY speaking of a 1st Century event that brought about a harvest of judgment against the nation of Israel during the end of the Jewish Age even though He used phrasing and verbiage like: “…weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Well believe it or not that concludes our examination and review of Matthew 24, or what is otherwise commonly referred to as the Olivet Discourse.
I know I stated this all the way back in part one of this series, but I want to say it again. When it comes to the topic of the “End Times,” for the majority of my Christian walk I pretty much adhered to the eschatological teachings that would be described as Pre-Tribulational Dispensationalism with a heavy dose of Pre-Millennialism thrown in for good measure.
It was what I was taught, it was in all of the books I had ever read, and it was in all of the sermons I had ever listened to; and it has also largely been the dominate teaching in the Western Church for well over 100 years now.
But the problem for me with that kind of teaching and interpretation came to a head when I decided to sagaciously study the Bible FOR MYSELF and attempt to come up with a cogent understanding of what it was I did in fact believe about the second coming of Christ and all other eschatological passages that potentially teach or say something about the end times.
And most importantly of all, I decided to study the Bible for myself and do so with nothing more than the Bible as my guide and as my proverbial Master Teacher; while at the same time attempting to seclude and separate myself from all other outside influences.
And when I was done doing that (over the course of many, many months), there was just absolutely NO WAY I could continue to support, buttress, or ever try and substantiate any part or portion of the Pre-Tribulational, Dispensationalist viewpoint.
However, surprisingly enough, what I DID FIND was a greater understanding and comprehension of what the Bible WAS teaching and I now have far more understanding and comprehension of what we typically call “The End Times” than I ever have before…and for the first time in my Christian walk, I feel like I am no longer puzzled and left wanting for more substantial answers and clarity about things that previously had continually left me in a state of spiritual bewilderment. I hope and pray this is also now the case for you as well!
The second point I’d like to reiterate all over again is that there is a difference between the ESSENTIALS of the historic Christian faith, and the NON-ESSENTIALS; and we as Christians should never divide over non-essentials.
In other words, as you’ve sat and participated in this entire series for nine weeks, or as you’ve listened to it online, there is a good chance that you are NOT going to agree with me, nor with some of the things I have presented to you … and that’s okay!
As I’ve said many times before, when it comes to biblical teachings that fall into the “non-essential” category, it is perfectly fine for Christians to have passionate debates concerning these kinds of things, but they should never ultimately divide over them.
And I don’t know why, but nothing seems to boil the blood of a lot of Christians faster than discussions about the “End Times,” especially if you don’t agree with them.
But I don’t want that to happen … instead we should be willing to come to each other openly and lovingly so that we can have an adult, mature, discussion about our differences and let iron sharpen iron as it were and improve our ability to read and decipher all that the scriptures contain.
Soooo many Christians attach very deep and strong emotions and passion to their particular beliefs about the end times … and while in and of itself that is okay, and it is good to know what you believe and WHY you believe it, I think it is also important to remember that somebody … somewhere … IS probably going to disagree with you and yet they too are still a genuine Christian and follower of Jesus Christ.
So let’s be careful to be willing to extend civility, respect, and common decency with one another when we have these kinds of discussions and heated debates. Because don’t forget this, Jesus isn’t going to be impressed with your acerbic, vitriolic, mean-spirited exegetical acumen – even if it is biblically and doctrinally correct!
Instead, He’s going to be far more impressed with your willingness to be civil, respectful, patient, tender hearted, and gentle towards your neighbor even if you don’t obtain 100% agreement together across all areas of theological and doctrinal positions.
So please … don’t forget the oft repeated and common mantra that we use around here time and time again: In essentials – unity, in non-essentials – liberty, and in ALL things – charity (LOVE)!
And lastly, if you find yourself to be in absolute disagreement with me about everything I’ve presented in this entire series, don’t let that cause a wall of division to be erected between me and you, or you and anyone else within the body of Christ. Remind yourself that it is going to be okay if two Christians have different viewpoints on eschatological matters.
And if you still don’t know how to find some common ground with your brothers and sisters in Christ in regards to these kinds of Eschatological teachings then start right here:
“In regards to the return of Christ and His second coming, we may not all be on the same planning committee, but we most certainly CAN BE on the same welcoming committee … amen?”