Rightly Dividing The Word
RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD
Our fellowship has long stressed the importance of a principle taught in 2Tim.2:15, “handling accurately the word of truth.” (KJV renders, rightly dividing). We believe this Scripture can also help us greatly in our comprehension of the Olivet Discourse. Most divide Matthew 24, saying, vss. 1-34 deal with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, while vss.36ff concern a yet-future day of judgment. A quick survey would most likely reveal that the majority feel compelled to divide the chapter (if not at vs.34, then elsewhere), but we wonder - - would it be rightly divided?
Handling accurately the word obligates one to study Mt.24 and related passages side by side (see Mk.13 and Lk.21 and a comparative analysis of Mt.24:36f with Lk.17:26-37). When a study of this kind transpires, it becomes clearly evident that chapter 24 of Matthew is one, indivisible text. Our Lord's answer to the disciples' question(s) does not at all reflect a change in subject matter. He addresses concomitant events: the destruction of the temple, His coming, and the end of the age/world - - without any hint of a lapse of hundreds upon hundreds of years (note again, vs.34). This “shifting of gears” and the injection of centuries of time is the result of students encountering the text with preconceived notions. With His declaration, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place, Jesus unites numerous key eschatological events: everything specified in vss. 4-13; the preaching of the gospel to all the world (vs.14); the abomination of desolation (vs.15f); the great tribulation (vs.21); the sounding of the trumpet and the sending forth of angels (vss. 30-31).
Could Jesus have spoken more directly than He did in saying, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (vs.34)? Of course, if we are aptly handling the text, we will readily recognize that “this generation” was that generation (i.e., the first-century believers). The primary recipients of Jesus Olivet prophecy were those who lived near the time when Jesus delivered it. Mt.24 is but an extension of Mt.23, where Jesus stated: Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon THIS GENERATION. And just in case we need a little more convincing as to which generation was being addressed, there is Mt.16:28 - - Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
The indivisibility of Mt.24 is a serious matter that must be acknowledged by those who hold to a yet-future coming. The integrity of the text (Mt.24) will not allow an arbitrary division - - Jesus spoke of synchronous happenings! If we are to rightly divide the word, we must not wrongly divide this important chapter. In fact, we must not divide this discourse at all - - it is one thoroughly united prophetic utterance.
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ