United It StandsSeries: An Eschatological Mix
UNITED IT STANDS
Sermon By Terry Siverd / July 11, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
There are many things about eschatology that have become twisted. e.g., As noted last Sunday - - nowhere in the Scriptures are we taught that The Last Days equal The Christian Age. The Last Days always refer to the last days of Israel or Judaism. This kind of twisted reading has misled so many. In the conclusion of his exhortations about eschatological matters, the apostle Peter wrote about this very thing. In closing his second epistle, Peter alluded to eschatological things written by the apostle Paul. Peter admitted that some of Paul's words constituted things hard to understand (2Pet.3:16a). Here we have one inspired apostle suggesting that another inspired apostle might be “heavy” reading. We need to remember this text the next time we lose patience with others whom we think cannot see the truth. Yet, here Peter warns of the destructive danger of distorting truth (2Pet.3:16b).
This word DISTORT is sometimes translated with other words: TWIST, WREST or TORTURE. I keep a running list of subjects for upcoming essays that I want to write. One title on my list is, Torturing The Truth. If God should ever choose to speak to some of us beyond the sacred page, He might well ask us a simple question, “Why do you insist on bending or torturing the truth?” When it comes to eschatology, not a few are guilty of doing this very thing.
This leads us to our topic for today, United It Stands. This sermon title refers to the INDIVISIBILITY of Matthew chapter twenty-four. Perhaps it is here that we most often witness a twisting of Scripture. Many insist on dividing this chapter into two entirely different comings of Jesus. One coming takes place in AD 70 with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple, and the other coming is hundreds years removed from the first-century - - some would say still yet future to us. This is not my view, but it is the view of far too many. And, to show the seriousness of this misinterpretation, they do so to their own destruction (2Pet.3:16c). I wrote an essay years ago which I titled, Multiplied Problems From Faulty Division. When we attempt to divide Mt.24, we open ourselves to a world of problems. Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy, exhorting him with these words (2Tim.2:15) - - Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. An older translation (KJV) uses the phrase “rightly dividing” the truth. This hermeneutical imperative (to correctly interpret Scripture) certainly applies to how we handle Matthew 24. This morning I want to speak about the integrity (unity) of Matthew 24. I want to appeal to all of us to set aside any preconceived notions that we have as to a divided text. Just because we've always understood It (Mt.24) to be divided doesn't make it so. As always, context must continue to dictate how we read the text of Scripture.
Here are a three reasons why Mt.24 stands united - - undivided.
First of all, the best place to start is at the beginning. When Jesus pronounced doom on the temple in Jerusalem (not one stone will be left on another/Mt.24:2). His disciples came to Him privately seeking a fuller disclosure. According to Mt.24:3, they asked Jesus: When will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age? If Jesus' disciples were guilty of mistakenly conflating (intermingling) the fall of Jerusalem with the Lord's coming and the end of the world, would it not have been proper for Jesus to have set them straight? Should He not have stopped them right there and provided some much-needed clarification. Could it be that HE didn't, because they were not confused? Could it be that both Jesus and His apostles understood these events to be concomitant - - fully interwoven and completely indivisible? This question posed by Peter, Andrew, James & John as recorded in Mark's gospel seems to bear this out (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 wording of the question shows no hint of the disciples being confused regarding these interconnecting events.
Secondly, there is no justification for fabricating a distinction between THOSE DAYS and THAT DAY. This is a choice illustration of approaching the text with a preconceived notion and then superficially searching for some glimmer of support to bolster a premeditated division. This argument goes this way. Mark you Bible in two places - - Matthew 24 and Luke 17. Those who argue that Matthew 24 is divided read Mt.24:36 as a transition verse. In Mt.24:1-34 Jesus talks about THOSE Days. cf. Mt.24:19; 22 & 29. However, as per their contention, in Mt.24:36f He shifts gears to talk about THAT day. cf. Mt.24:36 with Lk.17:31. I am providing you with a chart that squashes this argument for a (faulty) division.
Thirdly, this twisting of the Scriptures adds an element that contends that the fall of Jerusalem came with signs, but the end of the world will come without any warning whatsover. This poorly reasoned attempt to divide Mt.24 sadly pits Mt.24 against Lk.17, but it doesn't work. Take this chart home and study it carefully. Follow the arrows! They all point to an indivisible discourse. Both portions of Scripture are anchored with a common focal point found in Mt.24:28 and Lk.17:37 - - a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Roman armies in AD 70: where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Last of all, I'll offer a postscript rather than a point #4. If Mt.24:1-34 is only talking about the fall of Jerusalem, then why does it have all the hallmarks that one normally associates with the so-called second coming of Christ. Look again at Mt.24:29-31, which occurs prior to this made-up transition verse (Mt.24:36). But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will sent forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Of all of the language that is typically employed to describe a futuristic, end-of-the-world coming of Christ, this is it: on the clouds … with power and great glory … with angels … with a great trumpet. But here in Mt.24 it is used to describe something that was clearly to occur in that first-century! In Mt.24:34, Jesus said, This generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Many serious Bible students have discovered that once they get Matthew 24 right (It Stands United), some many other eschatological texts fall into place and come to make better sense.
In his book, The Parousia, J. Stuart Russell, written in 1878, states - - “From beginning to end, these two chapters (Mt.24 & 25) form one continuous, consecutive, and homogeneous discourse.”