A Critical InquirySeries: An Eschatological Mix
A CRITICAL INQUIRY
Sermon By Terry Siverd / June 06, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
We have attempted to lay a firm foundation for the proper interpretation of Matthew chapter twenty-four. Correctly recognizing the historical and textual context is vital to achieving this goal. In titling today's sermon, A Critical Inquiry, I am using the word “critical” with a type of “double entendre”. First, it is critical (essential) that we ascertain the meaning of this important text. Mt.24 is a the mother of all chapters when it comes to eschatology. Here in this chapter we have the essence of what Jesus taught about the end of the age/world. This chapter forms the basis for everything else eschatological that we encounter. Matthew 24 is the fountain-head from which all other texts flow. In speaking of Matthew 24, we are also including the parallel chapters in Mark 13 and Luke 17 & 21. Each of these references provide us with invaluable insights. And together - - the sum of their parts is even more valuable. As week seek to comprehend the Olivet Discourse, we'd do well to study all three synoptics (i.e., Matthew, Mark & Luke).
In a future lesson, sometime later this summer, we will also examine John's rendition of the Olivet discourse. We find John's contribution in what we call the book of Revelation. For the time being let me offer the following summary of the book of Revelation. The focus of The Apocalypse (the book of Revelation) is the fall of “the great city”. The great city is none other than JERUSALEM. If we fail to grasp this (as many have), we will never see Revelation as we ought to. On the other hand, to grasp this point is to have “lights go on” to help guide our interpretation.
Secondly, as to my sermon title, I'm using the word “critical” to describe an often overlooked approach to Bible study. This critical approach begins by asking the “w” questions: Who? … What? … When? … Where? … Why? … and To Whom?. We can add to this list of six, a seventh “w” - - Words?: what kind of words are used to teach such truths.
Before we move ahead with today's critical inquiry, I would like to make a request. In this series on eschatology, for the most part, one lesson builds upon another. So if you should miss a segment, please try to re-cover what you missed by accessing online. Today's lesson could be long and drawn out - - critical inquiries usually are. However, my goal is to make this a somewhat simple critical inquiry. I will attempt to offer you a “KISS” - - keep it simple Siverd.
Normally when we study a particular NT book, we ask Who wrote it? In this instance, we rephrase the question a bit to ask, “Who spoke it?”. In reading Mt.24, it is almost all red-letter, meaning these are the spoken words of Jesus. Read Mt.24:1-4. From vs.5f, it is all Jesus. These words are recorded for us in the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. As such, we will notice slight (minor) differences, but not contradictions. Their writings are reliable. Read from Jn.14:25-26 and Jn.16:13 - - These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you...When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth...He will disclose to you things to come.
The Olivet discourse is Jesus' answer to the disciples questions regarding Jesus' declaration (Mt.24:2) - - Do you see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down. As Mt.24:1 makes clear, He was speaking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This astounding declaration triggered follow up questions from the disciples/apostles. Mark's gospel tells us the names of the four who questioned Jesus: Peter and James and John and Andrew (Mk.13:3). Mt.24:3 records their question - - Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age/world? Some read this question as three separate questions, the first about the destruction of the temple and the second two about events they believe to be yet future: the coming of the Lord and the end of the world. Yet notice Mark's recording of their question (Mk.13:4) - - Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled? This different wording, by itself, has caused a number of people to re-think the full focus of the Olivet Discourse.
The Olivet discourse was spoken before Jesus' crucifixion, 40 years prior to the destruction of the temple & city (AD 70). The Olivet discourse is an added description of what Jesus meant in Mt.23:38 - - Behold, your house is being left to you desolate. i.e., you temple will be abandoned by God!
The Olivet discourse was spoken by Jesus while sitting on the mount of Olives in Jerusalem - - just a short distance opposite the temple (Mk.13:3).
The Olivet discourse was given in answer to their question of “when?”. From vs.4ff, Jesus speaks prophetically about what was going to happen in the days to come. This prophecy was a disclosure of “things to come”, given to forewarn and offer guidance to His disciples.
Just as Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders in Mt.23, now He speaks to His first-century disciples. One key verse that helps us isolate his intended audience is found in Mt.24:34 - - Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. In Mt.24:42, Jesus tells His audience - - be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. The precise day is not specified, but they are told that it would be in that generation. Listen to some eschatological words spoken by Jesus a bit prior to the Olivet discourse (Mt.16:27-28) - - For the Son of an is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. As the fall of Jerusalem drew closer, Paul would write (1Thess.5:2 & 4-5) - - You yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night...but you, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness.
A significant part of the problem many have in comprehending the Olivet discourse is due to a weakness in understanding the language employed by Jesus and His apostles in describing these events. Generally speaking we are somewhat weak in our understanding of the Old Testament. We are not real strong at grasp "prophetic lingo", which employs language that is often replete with symbolism and colorful imagery. cf. Mt.24:35, as an example. Jeannie asked me if she could read a book I referenced a few weeks ago, The Old Testament In The Book of Revelation (a short volume written by one of our brethren, Ferrell Jenkins). The morning after she read some from it, she told me she was really irritated. She wondered out loud, how could she have been raised in the church and not have studied this in the first twenty-years of her life? We will speak more about this in the weeks to come.