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One of the keys to understanding prophecy – the book of Revelation, in particular – is a proper understanding of the Olivet Discourse, which is given to us in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21. Here in Part 1 of 2, we’ll cover Matthew 24-25. In Part 2 of 2, we’ll cover Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Unfortunately, preterists and premillennialists have brought much confusion to what should otherwise be very apparent. Proponents of Preterism (full) view the entire Olivet Discourse as having been completely fulfilled in AD 70. Indeed, they place so much importance and emphasis on this discourse that they view all prophecy as having been fulfilled at that time, including the book of Revelation.
Likewise, proponents of Dispensational Premillennialism (most popular position) view the entire discourse as taking place in the final years prior to the return of Christ.
One thing I learned a long time ago, the truth is normally found in the balance, not in the extremes — such as what we have with Full Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism. We must also allow the truth to lead us where it wants to leads us, without allowing positional bias to influence the way we interpret Scripture.
[Note: It’s not my purpose to discuss all the eschatological positions, but I refer to Full Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism because they are the opposite extremes, and because DP is the most popular position among Christians today.]
When we read through the Olivet Discourse, it’s immediately obvious that the events that Jesus describes can be seen throughout history from that time forward — not just in AD 70, or in the final few years of the present world leading up to the return of Christ. In other words, all the things that occured in Christ’s generation, has occurred in every other generation — except, of course, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. That realization is the key to understanding this discourse. Failure to keep that in mind as we read these chapters, results in a distorted or limited understanding. To restrict Christ’s discourse to one particular time period is a mistake, because it fails to recognize the obvious, which results in an erroneous understanding of prophecy.
Amillennialism is an eschatological position that provides a proper balance between the two extremes of Full Preterism and Dispensational Premillennialism. The interpretation of the Olivet Discourse that I present in this study is a sensible and consistent position. Just as Amillennialism views the entire book of Revelation as occurring throughout the Church age, so should the Olivet Discourse be viewed the same way. There’s a consistency there that rings true, and gives one confidence that we’re understanding it correctly.
As I already mentioned, out of all the signs and events that Jesus described in His discourse, the only thing that pertains to AD 70 that doesn’t pertain to the rest of history that follows, is the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. However, what we must understand is that that event is in the midst of this same time period where all the other events occur, which is throughout the remainder of history up to the time of Christ’s return. Furthermore, what happened to Jerusalem in AD 70, provides a type and shadow of what happens at the end of history when Jesus returns in judgment against the world. Just as God judged unbelieving Israel, so will He judge the whole unbelieving world.
With that brief introduction, we’re ready to interpret the Olivet Discourse. When understood as presented in this study, it removes all the confusion that is normally associated with it. We’ll go through Matthew 24 in its entirely, but will only deal with Mark 13 and Luke 21 (also Luke 17) where needed for clarification. We’ll also deal with Matthew 25, as that chapter is still a part of the Olivet Discourse.
[Bold within the text of Scripture is mine]
(Matthew 24:1-2) –1 Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts and walking away, his disciples came to show him the temple buildings. 2 And he said to them, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
Here Jesus is giving a prophecy about the destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70, along with the whole city of Jerusalem.
(Matthew 24:3) – 3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
This is called the Olivet Discourse because Jesus gave it on the “Mount of Olives.
“These things” refer to the destruction of the temple.
In regard to “the sign of your coming and of the end of the age,” it’s important to see that the disciples asked about more than just the timing of the destruction of the temple. They wanted to know more about the future, so they also asked about Jesus’ “coming and the end of the age.” As we’ll see later, the disciples rightly associated Christ’s coming with the end of the age.
Identifying the “end of the age” is a key to understanding this whole discourse. Therefore, we must properly understand what the “the age” is referring to:
(Mark 10:30) – 30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much – homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.
Here Jesus reveals that “this age” is life in this world, and that the “age to come” is eternity in God’s presence. As believers, we have eternal life now, but here Jesus is referring to the full possession of it in the afterlife (Heaven).
(Luke 20:34-35) – 34 So Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are regarded as worthy to share in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.
This may be the most clearly stated verse regarding the meaning of “this age” and the “age to come.” “Marrying and given in marriage” of “this age” refers to life in this world, because quite obviously, people marry before and after AD 70. Jesus confirms this with His next statement: The “age to come” (“that age”) refers to the next life after we’ve been resurrected.
(Titus 2:11-13) – 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
“Salvation for all people” extends to all people of all times, not just between the cross and AD 70. Therefore, as followers of Christ, we’re to live “godly lives,” etc, in the “present age,” which has to be life in this world throughout history — from the cross to the end of history when the Church is complete and Jesus returns (“the appearing”).
(Matthew 28:19-20) – 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
After giving His disciples the “Great Commision,” Jesus says that He would be with them “always, to the end of the age.” The charge to “make disciples” is not limited to that time leading up to AD 70. It’s to the Church of Christ that this commission is given to. We in the gospel era, the Christian age, are Christ’s representatives in the world. Therefore, Jesus was not just addressing His disciples at that time (before AD 70), He was obviously addressing His Church, we who have had the responsibility and privilege of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching His followers from the time that Jesus gave this charge. Therefore, His promise to the “end of the age,” refers to the end of history, the end of the Church age, up to the time Jesus returns in “power and great glory,” and we’re ushered into the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” of Revelation 21 & 22.
(Matthew 12:32) – 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Based on what’s revealed in the previous passages, we know that “this age” refers to life in this world, and the “age to come” refers to eternity in God’s presence.
(1 Corinthians 1:20) – 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish?
The “debater of this age” has to be people of this world in this life….not just those who lived between the cross and AD 70.
(1 Corinthians 2:6-8) – 6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. 7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
(1 Corinthians 3:18-19) – 18 Guard against self-deception, each of you. If someone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become foolish so that he can become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this age is foolishness with God. As it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”
By now it should be clear that “this age” refers to life in this world throughout history, to the very end of the Church age.
(Galatians 1:4) – 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father,
Jesus didn’t “give himself” just for the sins of those who lived between the cross and AD 70, to rescue only those who lived during that time. Jesus paid the price for the sins of all people of all time in order to rescue us from everything associated with this world in this life.
(Ephesians 1:21) – 21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
This age = life in this world throughout history.
Age to come = eternity with Christ.
(1 Timothy 6:17) – 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (ESV)
This instruction doesn’t apply only to the “rich” up to AD 70. That would be ridiculous. “This present age,” of course, refers to life in this world throughout history, throughout the Church age.
(2 Timothy 4:10) – 10 For Demas deserted me, since he loved the present age, and he went to Thessalonica. Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia.
To “love the present age” is to love the things of this world in this life throughout history…..not just during the period the cross and AD 70.
(Matthew 13:39-40) – 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 As the poisonous weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age.
(Matthew 13:49) – 49 It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous…
Because of the other verses we looked at, we can confidently identify “the harvest” at the “end of the age,” as occurring at the end of history, the end of the Church age, the end of the world when Jesus returns in judgment and to receive His own.
Summary of all the above verses:
This age = life in this world throughout history.
Age to come = eternity with Christ.
Based on all of these passages, we can know for sure that the “end of the age” refers to the end of the Church age, the end of history….not to AD 70. Therefore, we know for certain that the coming of Christ happens at the end of the Church age, not in AD 70. While God judged Israel at that time, and as significant as that event was, it was not the return of Christ where He judges the world and receives His own into the eternal kingdom.
To be clear, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70, and the coming of Christ, are two separate events. AD 70 marks the full transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant, from God’s dealing with the nation of Israel to God’s dealing with the Church. Under the OC, God dealt with the world through Israel. Under the NC, God deals with the world through His Church. In AD 70, God judged Israel. At the end of the Church age (end of history), God will judge the world. Two separate events, two separate judgments. One mirrors the other.
Returning to our text in Matthew:
(Matthew 24:4) – 4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you.
This is one of the most important clues in understanding the Olivet Discourse. As we’ll see, Jesus wants His disciples to know that when the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple occurs (in their lifetime), that that is not the time of His coming. So He warns them not to be misled or deceived. He warns them not to associate the two events. Reason being is that everything Jesus talks about in this discourse can be seen throughout history, from the days of the Apostles to the end of the Church age. In other words, as long as we’re seeing all the things happening in the world that Jesus talks about in this discourse, we know that the time of His return is still future. Remember, we have to keep everything in the context of the “end of the age,” which we know to be at the end of history (end of the world), still future from our time.
(Matthew 24:5-13) – 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these things are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. 10 Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, 12 and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the person who endures to the end will be saved.
Review all the things that Jesus mentions here:
- Saying, I am the Christ.
- Hearing of wars and rumors of wars
- Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom.
- Christian persecution, hated by all.
- False prophets
- Gospel preached to the whole world.
(Matt 24:14) – “Then, the end will come”(“end of the age,” end of history)
In the above verses, Jesus mentions things that have been going on throughout history. There’s always been wars and famines and earthquakes and Christian persecution and false Christs (Messiahs) and false prophets, and the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be spread throughout the world. All these things continue to this day.
After naming all of those events or signs, Jesus says, “then the end will come.” In other words, He’s essentially saying, “as long as you’re seeing all these things taking place in the world, then you know that the end of the age is still future, you know that My coming is still future.” We’re still seeing all of these things in our day. Therefore, the end of the age, the Second Coming of Christ is still future from our point in history.
Therefore, Jesus tells His disciples (and all Christians – Mark 13:37), that they’re not to be misled when they see destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. They’re not to confuse it with the time of His coming. Jesus is basically saying, “look, when you see the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, don’t be misled into thinking that that event is the time of My coming.” That won’t happen until the end of the age, which is the end of the Church age, the end of history. This understanding enables us to correctly interpret the next section of this discourse (beginning in Matt 24:15).
Sign of Signs:
(Matthew 24:14) – 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
We need to spend some time on this verse, because I regard it as the most important sign that Jesus gives regarding the time period that His discourse covers. Preterists interpret this as referring to the “whole inhabited earth” of the then known world, in the first century — using verses such as Colossians 1:5-6,23 to back it up. In other words, they believe that once the gospel message was spread to the then known world in their days, then the “end” would come — that is, the end of Jerusalem and God’s plan for the nation of Israel (AD 70). However, such cannot be the case.
This sign cannot be limited to the known world of AD 70, because the gospel of Jesus Christ (also Mark 13:10) is not limited to a particular time period, but to every time period throughout history, until the last person has received Christ as Lord and Savior, until the end of humanity in this world. We have several passages that invalidate the preterist interpretation:
(John 12:32) – 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus did not draw people to Himself only in the first century, but will do so up to the full end of history when His Church is complete, prior to ushering us into eternity (Rev 21 & 22).
(Matthew 28:18-20) – 18 And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This is known as the Great Commission. All Christians accept this as Christ’s commission to His Church to make disciples of all nations. That, of course, involves the spreading of the gospel message. To limit the sign of Matthew 24:14 to AD 70, you also have to limit the Great Commision to that time period. But we know for sure that can’t be true.
(Revelation 5:9-10) – 9 They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. 10 You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
According to Preterism, the book of Revelation is about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. If that’s the case, then Jesus only shed His blood and “purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation” up to AD 70. If Revelation really is just about that time period – as preterists insist – and if the gospel message was spread only to the then known world, then to be consistent, those whom Christ “purchased” has to be limited to that time period. But we can easily see the senselessness of such an interpretation.
Jesus, knowing that He would shed His blood for all mankind of every nation and people of all times, why would He make a statement about the gospel message that limits the scope of it to the then known world of AD 70, when He knew that it continued 2000 plus years beyond that time, and involved a population of people that would one day expand the entire globe? Knowing the full scope of the gospel message, knowing the full extent of the world’s population, knowing the full number of His redeemed, knowing the full reality of these things, it’s inconceivable that Jesus would see His prophecy being fulfilled at a time when the gospel era (Christian era) was JUST GETTING STARTED! It makes far better sense that Jesus saw His prophecy being fulfilled when the gospel message had actually run its full course. The idea that Jesus had AD 70 in mind, shouldn’t even be considered.
(Revelation 7:9-17) – 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
This passage is much like the one in Revelation 5.9-10. Again, to be consistent, preterists must limit the scope of this heavenly vision only to the redeemed up to AD 70. To be consistent, the redeemed of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,” must be limited to the then known world of the first century. However, first of all, notice that this “great multitude” could not be numbered. If this was limited to the redeemed of AD 70, then that number would be fairly small, and could be numbered. The implication is, that this number is so great that the idea of counting such a great number of people is inconceivable. The number of believers up to AD 70 would have been minuscule compared to what the final count will be when Jesus comes back, when His Church is complete.
(Revelation 14:6) – 6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.
As with Revelation 5:9-10 and Revelation 7:9-10, this has to have “every nation and tribe and language and people” of all time in view. It cannot be limited to the world of AD 70. Jesus, knowing that He would shed His blood for all humanity, and “purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation,” of all times until the end of all times, why would He limit the scope of it to AD 70? Are we to believe that “persons from every tribe, language, people and nation,” refers to two different time periods? One in AD 70 and another at the end of history when Christ’s Church is complete? Of course not. We must allow the obvious and most natural reading to provide the true meaning.
Furthermore, the interpretation of this verse (Matthew 24:14) should not even be viewed within the framework of what was known (known world) at that time, but within the framework of reality. Just because their knowledge of the known world in the first century was limited – and not based on the actual extent of it – does not mean that the gospel message had actually, in fact, been “preached throughout the whole inhabited earth” by the time AD 70 came around. Just because their view of the world at that time included only a small portion of the actual extent, does not mean that the spreading of the gospel of Christ had been completed in the whole world at at time. The “then known world” interpretation must give way to what was actually true at that time.
Even if all the people of the world had actually been reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ by AD 70, that still leaves 2000 plus years of people still left to hear the gospel message. What sense would that make?
Also, why would the gospel message even have to be spread to all the world before God judged Israel in AD 70? Why would that even be necessary? Are we to believe that God couldn’t judge Israel before everyone on earth had heard the gospel message? Why not? What theological reason could there be for that? The gospel message can’t continue after that? We know that it did, and does to this day. We can confidently and rightly conclude that, as long as the gospel message is being proclaimed throughout the world, then we know that we have not come to the “end of the age.”
Note: According to the Joshua Project there’s still a large percentage of the world’s population that is still “unreached,” as it pertains to the gospel of Jesus Christ. With so many people who still need to hear the message of Christ, we still have a long way to go before Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled (Matt 24:14).
Returning to our text:
(Matthew 24:15) – 15 So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand),
NASB: (Matthew 24:15) 15 Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
“the abomination of desolation”
Matthew and Mark (Mark 13:14) use this phrase. However, Luke describes it differently and provides insight to what Matthew and Mark are referring to:
(Luke 21:20) – 20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
The “abomination of desolation” and “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” is describing two different aspects of the same event. Sam Storms, from his book “Kingdom Come,” provides an explanation of what Jesus prophesied, and what was fulfilled in AD 70:
The most likely identification is Titus and the armies of Rome. While the city of Jerusalem was still burning, the soldiers brought their legionary standards into the temple precincts and offered sacrifices there, declaring Titus to be victor. The idolatrous representations of Caesar and the Roman eagle on the standards would have constituted the worst imaginable blasphemy to the Jewish people.
Identifying Titus and his armies with the Abomination of Desolation is most popular because it seems to parallel the action of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. It is important to note that in Luke 21:20 the surrounding of Jerusalem by armies was the signal that her desolation (Gk, eremosis, the same word used in Matthew 24:15) had drawn near. We read in Josephus: “the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy.” Thus, although the Abomination of Desolation “involves the destruction of Jerusalem (beginning with its several encirclings by Cestius, Vespasian, Simon, and Titus), it culminates in this final abominable act within the temple itself.” I find this view the most likely one.
The invasion of the Roman armies against Jerusalem is a matter of historical record, which happened in AD 70. We have to keep in mind that this whole discussion began with Jesus informing His disciples that “not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down (vs. 2)” in regard to the temple. The disciples wanted to know when “these things” would happen. Thus, Jesus here, is giving them the primary sign to look for when that time had come, which actually began in AD 66 with the Jewish rebellion (The Zealots).
(I encourage you to do more reading on your own about the destruction of Jerusalem)
(Matthew 24:16-20) – 16 “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, 18 and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.
Here Jesus gives His followers the way of escape when they see this situation developing as He described and we discussed in verse 15.
(Matthew 24:21-22) – 21 For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
ESV/NASB – (Matthew 24:21) – “For then there will be great tribulation….”
To understand whom and what time period Jesus is talking about, we must go to Luke 21:22-24, which reveals that these verses are still referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (please see commentary on this Luke passage). In regard to the “suffering” or “tribulation” of those days (AD 70) being “unlike anything” before or after, this may refer to the large number of people who suffered and died in those days. According to Josephus, 1.1 million people were killed in that seige. That is a staggering number of people, especially for that time in history when the world’s population was so much smaller.
In regard to “the elect,” I believe Jesus was referring to the elect remnant Jews of that time period (Ro 9:27; 11:5). If those days had not been “cut short,” it’s possible that Rome would have advanced upon the whole nation of Israel, and then proceeded to exterminate Jews worldwide — just as was attempted in the days of Queen Esther and Mordecai (book of Esther). If that had happened, it would have included believing Jews, as well.
“therefore” (Matt 24:15 – NASB)
With the context already discussed (Matt 24:15-22), it’s important to consider the significance of this word “therefore” in Matthew 24:15 (NASB). This greatly adds to our understanding of what Jesus was conveying to His disciples. After revealing that all these signs cover all of history from that point forward, He then says “therefore when you see the abomination of desolation and when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.” I believe He was telling them:
“Don’t stick around, get out of the city, because this is not the sign of my coming and the end of the age (Jesus reveals the sign of His coming in verse 30).
Jesus didn’t want their own ideas about His coming to be equated with the events of AD 70. He didn’t want them to be confused about those two events. Jesus confirms this in verses 23-26:
(Matthew 24:23-26) – 13 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 Remember, I have told you ahead of time. 26 So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him.
The indication here is that Jesus anticipated that when the time came for Jerusalem to come under siege by the Roman armies, the disciples would get the idea that this was the time of His coming. And so He tells them, “don’t be looking for Me at that time, regardless of what people are saying about Me. Do not believe them!”
Jesus knew that when Jerusalem and its temple was being destroyed, there would be people claiming that this was the time of His coming or “appearing” (1 Tim 6:14; 2 Tim 4:1; Tit 2:13). But what does He say to them? He says “don’t believe them!” Jesus talks about the false Christs and false prophets before (vss. 5, 11) and after He talks about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple that was to happen in their lifetime. And both times He told them not be deceived or misled by what they were seeing and hearing. This is one of the most important points to recognize in this whole discourse, for it puts everything in proper perspective.
It’s also important to understand that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies is included among the “wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom,” of which Jesus said “the end is still to come” or “the end is not yet” (ESV). He wanted His disciples to correctly recognize the signs for what they were, and not be misled about what they were seeing and hearing in their day.
The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was not the sign of Christ’s coming. I believe that is the very point Jesus was conveying to His disciples. He will not return until the “end of the age,” which we’ve already identified as the end of history, the end of the Church age, the end of the present world.
Yet, in spite this, many Christians today are still being misled by what occurred in AD 70. Namely, preterists view the destruction of Jerusalem as the “end of the age,” as the time of “Christs coming” — the very thing that Jesus told His disciples “not to believe!” Preterism completely misses the fact that as long as there’s wars between nations (along with all the other signs Jesus gives), the end of the age and the return of Christ is still future.
Jesus then tells His disciples what His coming will actually look like when it actually happens:
(Matthew 24:27-28) – 27 For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Here Jesus tells His disciples that when He comes back, it won’t look like it will when Jerusalem and its temple is destroyed (AD 70). He’s telling them not to be misled or be deceived into thinking that this is the time of His return. No, rather, when He actually does come, everyone in the world will know it! When Jesus returns, it will be like a flash of lightning: His glory will light up the sky of the whole world (“from the east to the west”), and it will be quick (NASB: Rev 3:11; 22:7,12,20). Furthermore, when Jesus returns, it will be in judgment of the world, which is what He’s referring to when He mentions the “corpses and vultures.” Although we can see corpses and vultures in the siege of Jerusalem, what happened then was local, but when He returns it will be worldwide, and that is what He reveals both here and in verses 29-31:
(Matthew 24:29) – 29 Immediately after the suffering 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 heaven will be shaken.
NASB/ESV – “Immediately after the tribulation of those days”
This word “immediately” leaves no wiggle room. What happens after the “tribulation of those days,” happens right away. There is no gap. As we’ve been talking about throughout this study, we know that Jesus is referring to the tribulation that occurs throughout the Church age, from the cross to to the end of history. Jesus talks about tribulation before and after the events of AD 70. The tribulation that Jerusalem experienced at that time was merely part of the whole picture. Thus, the tribulation “after those days” refers to the end of history, the end of the world.
We have to keep in mind that throughout this discourse Jesus is talking about signs that we would see throughout the age, which we’ve identified as the period between the cross and the return of Christ at the end of history. Throughout this discourse Jesus talks about the tribulation we would experience in the world (Matt 24:4-14; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-18). Jesus makes a plain statement about that in the following verse:
(John 16:33) – 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (ESV)
Therefore, the tribulation of AD 70 is only one event (one sign) in this whole prophecy, as significant as that was. While the whole context is enough to identify the tribulation period as life in this world throughout the Church age (throughout history) – and not just the tribulation that the Jews experienced in AD 70 – Revelation 7:9-17 confirms it. In that passage we’re given a vision of the redeemed “from from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev 7:9),” who is said to “have come out of the great tribulation (Rev 7:14).” This is obviously a vision of all believers, which includes both Jews and Gentiles. Together we make up the Church. Therefore, “the great tribulation” is not the events of AD 70 regarding Jerusalem, but the tribulation of the whole world throughout history up to the time of Christ’s return, when He leads us into the Eternal Kingdom.
As for the description that Jesus gives surrounding His coming: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken,” many believe that because of how momentous this event will be, this is just hyperbole, since the Old Testament does the same thing. However, this is not just a momentous event. This will be unlike anything the world has ever seen before. After the crucifixion of Christ, it will be the most important event in all of history. It will be the most spectacular event in all of history. It will be a time of worldwide judgment. It will be so universe-shaking, that everyone in the world will know about it. I believe His return to this earth in judgment will be accompanied by such earth-shaking signs that everyone worldwide will see and feel His presence. This is confirmed by what Jesus describes in Revelation 1:7:
(Revelation 1:7) – 7 (Look! He is returning with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him. This will certainly come to pass! Amen.)
I believe that when Jesus comes back to judge the world, all will “see him” in more ways than one. Besides His direct judgment upon the world, I believe they will see Him via great disturbances in the universe. We see a parallel passage in Revelation 6:12-17:
(Revelation 6:12-17) – 12 Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; 13 and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?”
When Jesus comes back to judge the world, everyone will know it, and they will know who’s judging them. I believe this will be an awareness that God will give. Therefore, because of the incomparable nature of the return of Christ, I believe we need to take Jesus’ description in this verse (Matt 24:29) literally.
(Matthew 24:30) – 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was not the “sign” of Christ’s coming. Again, this is the point that Jesus makes throughout this discourse. So here He says to His disciples: “After the tribulation of those days (life in the world throughout history), then you’ll see the sign of My coming.” And “all the tribes of the earth will mourn.”
His coming will be quick, and it will light up the sky of the whole world, and everyone in the world will “mourn.” AD 70 was local. The actual coming of Christ will be worldwide. At that time, “they will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. I believe the “clouds of heaven” refer to angels (Matt 25:31), but the most important point to understand is that the whole world will see it, for it will be “with power and great glory.” Such a description of His coming would be seen by all, and I believe that is the point Jesus is making.
(Matthew 24:31) – 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
At the time of Christ’s coming, He “will gather his elect.” This is referring to the resurrection, as Jesus reveals in Matthew 25:31-33, which is still a part of the Olivet Discourse:
(Matthew 25:31-33) 31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (ESV)
We must not make the mistake of viewing these two events as different from the other. The overall context and the description that Jesus gives in Matthew 24:27-31, makes it clear that He is talking about the same event in Matthew 25:31-46 — which is the resurrection and the judgement of the saved and unsaved. We also see this in Matthew 13:36-43; 13:47-49; Rev 20:11-15. Indeed, Matthew 24:45-51 and the parables in Matthew 25:1-30 also confirm that these are the same two events. As these scriptures reveal, upon the return of Christ, both the resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment take place (Rev 20:11-15), whereupon everyone is ushered into their eternal state: the unsaved into the lake of fire, and the saved into the Eternal Kingdom (Rev 21 & 22).
The fact that Jesus doesn’t mention the unsaved (“the goats”) in Matthew 24:31, doesn’t mean Jesus is talking about two different events. It just means that He’s focused on the resurrection of His followers at this point. The unsaved are implied, because when He returns, it will be in judgment of the world, as we’ve already seen.
Note 1: Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that these verses (Matt 24:29-31) are about the return of Christ after “seven years of tribulation” (or 3.5 years), where believing Jews are primarily in view. Proponents of DP believe that at the time of Christ’s return, they will then be ushered into the “millennial kingdom.” Thus, they make the same sort of mistake that Preterists do, and that’s limit this time of tribulation to a specific and short period of time — either AD 70, or the final 7 years (or 3.5 years) “after the Church as been raptured.” Both eschatological positions fail to see that the signs Jesus gives throughout this discourse, is a description of life in the world, which extends throughout history.
Dispensational Premillennialists they take the liberty of assuming not only a 7 or 3.5 year tribulation period, but they also insert a thousand year kingdom after Jesus comes back, where they say He will reign as King on this present earth. Thus, their position requires them to make assumptions in order to maintain their view of end time prophecy.
Note 2: To be clear, Amillennialism does not see a millennial kingdom taught in Scripture, but rather, it sees that upon the return of Christ and the resurrection, we’re ushered into the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1). This viewpoint is consistent with what’s taught in this Olivet Discourse. We don’t have to make assumptions about anything. We don’t have to insert our position into the text, but simply accept it as Jesus gives it to us.
(Matthew 24:32-33) – 32 Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near, right at the door.
“All these things” occur though the Church age. These signs and events must be viewed as “birth pains” (Matt 24; Mark 13:8). Meaning, the closer we get to the return of Christ, the greater the intensity. Therefore, when the time of His coming is “near,” things in the world (tribulation) will be at its most severe.
(Matthew 24:34-35) – 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
In context, “this generation” should be understood as “this age,” for everyone throughout history experiences “these things” and sees these “signs” that Jesus talks about. Every generation witnesses “these things.” Accordingly, I believe Jesus expands upon that word (“generation”) and uses it to refer to that whole time period until the end of history. Notice what happens in that same context of “this generation” passing away. Heaven and earth also “passes away.” This confirms that “this generation” is referring to life in this present world, which will be destroyed upon the return of Christ — whereupon God will create a “new heaven and new earth” (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1).
(Matthew 24:36-39)- 36 But as for that day and hour no one knows it – not even the angels in heaven – except the Father alone. 37 For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 39 And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.
Compare with Luke 17:26-30:
(Luke 17:26-30) – 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage – right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; 29 but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
What Jesus describes here is normal, everyday life: “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting, building.” Ordinary life, as described here, is not limited to AD 70, but is common life in the world as it’s always been. As long as we’re seeing all such “signs,” we know that the “coming of the Son of Man” is still future. That being the case, I don’t know how this Olivet Discourse prophecy can be limited to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Throughout this discussion, Jesus has sought to prevent us from making that mistake. Yet, in spite of that, there are still many Christians who see AD 70 as the fulfillment of this prophecy.
(Matthew 24:39) “knew nothing until the flood came”
What Jesus means by this is made more clear in the Luke 17 passage, where He describes the days of both Noah and Lot. In regard to Lot, He says that “fire and sulfur rained down from heaven.” The rain of fire upon Sodom fell suddenly. They didn’t “know anything” until it hit them. In other words, it came so quickly that they didn’t see it coming. That’s exactly the point Jesus is making here. The siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 was not sudden. The conflict between the Jews and Rome really began in AD 66 with the Jewish rebellion (The Zealots). The actual siege of the city began on August 30 and ended on September 8 (Wikipedia). When Jesus returns, judgment will come upon the world suddenly. They won’t see it coming, no time to prepare. This sudden appearance of Christ and associated judgment, is also given to us in Revelation 20:9:
(Revelation 20:9) – 9 They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely.
This type of sudden destruction did not occur in AD 70. As Jesus has been saying all along, when He does come, everyone will know it, and it will be worldwide — not local as with the city of Jerusalem in AD 70. The “camp of the saints and the beloved city” is figurative language to describe the Church. In those days, there will apparently be an assault against Christians worldwide. We see the world today becoming more and more anti-Christian, even in America.
Again, that the coming of Christ will be sudden, is exactly is what He described in Matthew 24:27: “just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.” This sudden or “quick” appearance is seen in Revelation 3:11; 22:7,12,20. (NASB)
(Matthew 24:40-41) – 40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left.
“one will be taken and one left”
As with verse 31 (Matt 24:31), I believe this refers to the resurrection, which occurs at the time of Christ’s return — except in verse 31 only believers are in view, while here both believers and unbelievers are in view. The resurrection of both occur virtually at the same time. However, I believe the resurrection of believers happens right before the resurrection of unbelievers. Right before Christ comes back, there will be a worldwide assault against Christians, with the intention of annihilating them (Rev 20:7-10). So what we’re seeing here in verses 40-41 is that final event. Before the world of Christ-rejectors destroy His followers, God will resurrect His people first, at which time He will reign down fire upon the unbelievers. This is God’s judgment of the world.
Note: when believers are resurrected, there will be Christians still alive at that time, which is what we see in these two verses. Those who are still alive will be caught up (raptured) with their fellow believers who are dead (see 1 Thes 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:50-56). As this passage reveals (and many others), there is no 7 year or 3.5 year gap between the rapture and the return of Christ — as Dispensational Premillennialism teaches. The rapture is part of the resurrection, and the resurrection occurs at the time of Christ’s return.
(Matthew 24:42-44) – 42 Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Why must Christians “be alert?” Why do we need to “be ready” for the coming of our Lord? Because whether we die before that time, or whether we are still alive at that time, we always need to “be ready.” We always must be living with eternity in view, knowing that we will one day stand before Jesus to give an accounting of our lives. We must, therefore, live our lives in faithfulness to the One we profess to believe in. We don’t want to stand before Christ with tears of shame and regret, and to lose rewards that will last forever. Furthermore, if we’re not living the Christian life, we prove ourselves to be false believers with a false faith.
Life is uncertain. We may die before the day is over. Or we may be alive at the time Jesus returns. Either way, we don’t know when that’s going to be. We must live as though today is our last day on earth.
(Matthew 24:45-51) – 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, 50 then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, 51 and will cut him in two,and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“when he comes” (vs. 46)
“will come” (vs. 50)
“weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vs. 51)
To restrict this passage (vss. 46-51) to Christ’s servants (“slaves”) of AD 70, leaves out over 2000 years of Christ-followers who are serving Him in a much bigger world today than what it was in the first century. It makes better sense that Jesus is talking about that time when the days of our service (as His corporate people) in this world are finally over, as verse 51 confirms…..which is also confirmed by all of chapter 25, which is still a part of the Olivet Discourse.
If we live unfaithfully and unwise to the One we profess to believe in, then we prove ourselves to be false believers. In that case, there will be more than a lack of rewards, but will prove ourselves to be “hypocrites” and will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15) where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Therefore, we must “be alert,” we must “be ready.” We must be sure of our salvation and to be living faithfully for Christ with the knowledge that we are accountable to Him.
Matthew 24 continues into this chapter without interruption. That fact is all-important to realize. That understanding enables us to correctly identify the events of this chapter.
I will not be discussing all the details of this chapter, but only as it suits our purpose — which is to show that the discussion of the coming of Christ (and judgment) in chapter 24 continues in this chapter, throughout this chapter. Meaning, that the coming of Christ occurs at the end of the Church age, at the end of history, at the end of the present world — and not in AD 70 — whereupon, Christ immediately leads us into the Eternal Kingdom of Revelation 21 and 22.
The coming of Christ mentioned in Matthew 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 42, 44, 46, 50 (Matt 24:27-51) continues in Matthew 25:6, 10, 13, 19, 27. Namely, that the Parable of the Ten Virgins (vss. 1-13) and The Parable of the Talents (vss. 14-30) and The Judgment (vss. 1-46) are all talking about the very same event that Jesus talks about in the closing verses of Matthew 24 (Mt 24:27-51), which is His coming at the end of the age, at the end of history when we’re ushered into our eternal state — not a so-called millennial kingdom of this present world.
(All bold print in the text of Scripture is mine)
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
(Matthew 25:1-13) – 1 At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
“kingdom of heaven”
The Kingdom of God consists of:
— The spiritual kingdom of God. This is the kingdom that we enter upon conversion. When we receive Christ, we become spiritual children of God, we become members of God’s spiritual family.
— The Kingdom of Christ. While this kingdom spiritual (Col 1:13), it refers specifically to His Church, where we’re all baptized into His Body, of whom He is Head (Eph 1:22-23; Eph 2:16; Eph 3:6; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18,24; Eph 4:4-5; 1 Cor 12:13). The Church is the Kingdom of Christ. In comparing the spiritual kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ, it’s a distinction without a difference.
— The “Kingdom of Heaven.” This is the abode of God and His angels. “Heaven” is the key word. It means what it says. This is where we will spend eternity — in the presence of God. Upon the return of Christ, God will create a “new heaven and earth,” and Heaven will continue on this “new earth” (Rev 21:1-3). This is our eternal state.
Therefore, Heaven is what’s in view here. Verse one follows the passage that ends in chapter 24. Chapter 24 continues into chapter 25 without interruption. Therefore, what’s revealed here is that upon the return of Christ (Matt 24:29-51), we believers are ushered immediately into the Eternal Kingdom (Matt 25:34,46; Rev 21:1-3), while unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire (Matt 24:51; Matt 25:41,46; Rev 20:15).
There’s absolutely no indication that we go into a so-called millennial kingdom upon the return of Christ. That idea has to be assumed. That idea must be forced into Matthew 24 and 25. That’s what Premillennialism does, it forces an earthly kingdom into the text, because a natural reading of these chapters indicate that we go directly into our eternal state of the Eternal Kingdom.
The very fact that Jesus refers to the Kingdom of “Heaven,” let’s us know that He’s not talking about some earthly kingdom of this world. We shouldn’t make the mistake of reversing the obvious. In other words, we shouldn’t assume that Jesus is talking about an earthly kingdom when He plainly says “Heaven!” But this is exactly what Premillennialism does, it redefines the meaning of Heaven to mean earth.
(Matthew 25:2-13) – 2 Five of the virgins were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish ones took their lamps, they did not take extra olive oil with them. 4 But the wise ones took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed a long time, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9 ‘No,’ they replied. ‘There won’t be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they had gone to buy it, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready went inside with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut. 11 Later, the other virgins came too, saying, ‘Lord, lord! Let us in!’ 12 But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you!’ 13 Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.
“the bridegroom is here!” (vs. 6)
“the bridegroom arrived” (vs. 10)
“you do not know the day or the hour” (vs. 13)
This is a direct reference to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, 42, 44. He repeats here what He said there, that the day or hour of His coming is unknown. Accordingly, we see the continuation of the same subject from chapter 24 into chapter 25.
What we see in this passage is that Jesus, as the “Bridegroom,” is gathering His Bride (the Church) throughout the Christian era (“delayed a long time”). At the end of the Christian era (Church age), Jesus returns to gather His complete Bride, whereupon we’re led into the Eternal Kingdom (Matt 25:10,21,23,34,46; Rev 19:6-9; Rev 21:2,9).
Premillennialists believe that this passage has the “rapture” of the Church in view, which happens before “the tribulation period” (either 7 yrs or 3.5 yrs), and sees Christ returning after the tribulation period with His Church to set up His millennial kingdom. But again, that is a lot of assuming! It requires them to force these things into the text in order to fit it into their eschatological position. But again, a natural reading reveals no such thing. For sure, it has the return of Christ in view, but not to set up an earthly kingdom, but to lead us (His Church) into the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1-2). In other words, Jesus returns at the end of the Church age to lead us into our eternal state, not into a kingdom of this present earth and this present world. Premillennialism inserts a kingdom that’s not there. This is a great example of how one’s doctrinal position can blind us to the obvious if we’re not really careful.
The Parable of the Talents
(Matthew 25:14-30) – 14 “For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them.
“It” refers to the “kingdom of heaven” that Jesus mentioned in verse one. In other words, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man going on a journey…..” So again, Heaven is the subject, not an earthly millennial kingdom.
(Matthew 25:15-30) – 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. 18 But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. 19 After a longtime, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir,you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of you rmaster.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? 27 Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! 28 Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. 29 For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“the master of those slaves came” (vs. 19)
“on my return” (vs. 27)
The same coming or “return” of Christ as talked about in chapter 24 and the parable above (vss. 1-13), continues in this parable. We’ve learned that when Jesus comes back, it will be the time of The Judgment, when Christ judges the world, where everyone stands before Christ, as the last verse of this parable reveals:
(Matthew 25:30) – 30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This same “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” is seen in Matthew 8:11-12; 13:37-43; 13:47-50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28. In each case, it refers to the eternal punishment of the unsaved — which leads us right into the last section of this chapter (vss. 31-46), because the coming of Christ and the judgment spoken of in Matthew 24 continues all the way to the end of this chapter.
(Matthew 25:31-33) – 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
This is the same judgment as the one described in Matthew 24:29-31. When Jesus returns in “power and great glory” (Matt 24:30), He will judge the unbelieving world (“the nations”) — those who are alive at that time. We see this in Revelation 20:7-10 (also Rev 19:11-21; 6:9-17; 11:15-18; 14:6-20; 16:12-21). However, as verses 31-33 reveal, this judgment is the judgment of individuals (“sheep” and “goats”), who are citizens of the “nations.” In other words, this is the judgment of the dead — which is the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15, where we all stand before Christ. After Jesus judges the living unbelievers of the world, the judgment of the dead immediately follows. This includes both saved and unsaved (“sheep” and “goats”).
Note: While the resurrection of the saved and unsaved is virtually the same event (Jn 5:28-29), I believe God resurrects the saints (raptures those still alive) right before He judges the world, which at that point only unbelievers are left in the world to experience the wrath of God. Upon their death, they’ll immediately be resurrected to stand before Christ as their Judge, where their degree of punishment will be determined. As believers, we will stand before Christ as our Savior, Lord, and King — where our lives will be judged (evaluated) for the purpose of rewards, according to our faithfulness.
(Matthew 25:34) – 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
The “kingdom” here is not the “millennial” kingdom of Premillennialism, but the “Eternal Kingdom” of the “new heaven and new earth” of Revelation 21 and 22. Immediately upon our resurrection, we will stand before Christ. From there we go directly into our eternal state. As I have pointed out over and over in my series on the Kingdom of Christ (“Kingdom of Christ Now”), the Bible does not teach a thousand year kingdom of this world. The New Testament does not even make room for it. That idea has to be forced into the text of the NT, based on an OT understanding. The major failure of Premillennialism is that it interprets the NT according to an OT understanding. But that is backwards since it’s the NT that fulfills the OT. Accordingly, we must allow the NT to shed its light upon the OT. The reverse practice leads to mass confusion and faulty interpretation of what the NT actually teaches.
The one place in the NT that does refer to a thousand year kingdom (Rev 20:4-6) is in a book that’s filled with symbolic numbers, and the number 1000 is no exception. That number is to be understood as a long period of time. The rest of the NT supports that idea. What it does not support is a literal 1000 year kingdom on earth where Jesus reigns before we go into our eternal state. What the NT Scriptures actually teach is that the Kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom where Jesus reigns over His people now. That kingdom is the Church. Again, I go into great detail about this in my series on the Kingdom of Christ (“Kingdom of Christ Now”).
Read verses 35-40 (Matthew 25:35-40)
(Matthew 25:41) – 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!
The unsaved will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).
Read verses 42-45 (Matt 25:42-45)
(Matthew 25:46) – 46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The unsaved “goats” will “depart into eternal punishment” (lake of fire, Rev 20:15), while the “sheep” (“righteous”) will depart into the Eternal Kingdom (Rev 21 & 22).
End of Part 1 of 2