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Lord of the Sabbath: Chapter B5
"I believe the Rapture will be 40 years from 1967, in 2007. "
Have you ever wondered about verses like:
These three verses seem to be the initial argument used by Preterists. They believe that all prophecy has already been fulfilled, as of 70 AD. They believe that Christ returned in 70 AD. Therefore they remove the need to watch and be ready for Christ's return, saying He has already returned. And since Preterism says that all prophecy has been fulfilled, they will deny the resurrection of the physical body, just as Sadducees did in the day of Jesus. But many Christians have switched to Preterism because of the fundamental truth that all Scripture is true. And, of course, I would agree. But confusing verses like these simply mean we need to dig deeper and find what we are missing. We should not toss away literal Scripture using arguments of "allegories" because of a few hard-to-understand verses. Instead, we should strive to understand.
I would like to address the confusion of these three verses. But I shall do so in reverse order, because it's easier to understand my arguments in the reverse order. What I would like to show in these three passages is that Christ was speaking to two specific and different generations when he talked about His second coming. The first generation was the generation in which He lived. And the second generation is our generation, the baby-boom generation since World War II. Jesus was able to speak to our generation in a way that the first generation was not able to understand. This was intentional.
In Acts 1:6-7, that first generation of disciples asked Jesus if He was about to set up the kingdom of Israel. This was after the Resurrection. Jesus told them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority." Yet Matthew 24 clearly gives signs so that we will know the seasons! And many of these signs were in fact unfolding during that first generation! (We will see why below.) But Jesus is clearly stating that the disciples of His generation were not to know the season.
In referring to the abomination of desolation, Jesus said, "So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel — let the reader understand." (Matthew 24:15). Jesus said, "Let the reader understand." Jesus was not talking about the reader of Matthew. That book was written many years later. No, Jesus was talking about the reader of Daniel. In Daniel 12:4,8-10, Daniel himself is expressing the fact that he did not understand. But Daniel is told to seal the words. Daniel is told that only the wise, in the end time, would understand. And Daniel is told that the wicked would never understand, and the wise would not understand until the end times. Jesus has clearly told the disciples that they were not to know the season. Therefore, the disciples would not understand, even though they were wise. It's only after the end-time signs start to unfold that the wise begin to understand. And in Revelation 5 and 6, Jesus opens the seals of the scroll so that the wise begin to see the signs of the end times, and begin to understand. Today, with careful comparison of the seals of Revelation with the symbols given in Daniel and Zechariah, the wise can identify the first four seals of Revelation 6 as the United States, China, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations. (See chapter C3, "Daniel 7: Four Beasts and Four Horses" for more information.)
Matthew 24:30 says that when Christ does return, that all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. Now I don't believe the wise, those who know Jesus, would mourn at His coming! It's the wicked of the world who mourn. They will mourn because they will realize that they have been wrong, and that their continued sin remains to be judged. So, the second coming will be something that no one mistakes. Not even the wicked of the world will mistake or fail to see the second coming. It's seen by every tribe of the world, according to this verse! (The second coming was not in 70 AD!)
Matthew 24:34 says, "This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." The context here, of course, are the signs of the End Times. But to really understand this verse, we must go back to the original question that was asked by the disciples.
Matthew 24:3 says, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus and the disciples had been walking through the temple. And Jesus had said that the temple will be destroyed, that not one stone would remain on another. All the world will mourn at Christ's second coming, and this has not yet happened. Given these two facts, what was the real question that was being asked by the disciples? Was it a single question? Or was it two questions? "When will all this happen?" is asking about the destruction of the temple. "When will you come again?" is asking about the second coming. The disciples did not understand, because the seals of the scroll had not yet been opened! The disciples thought they were asking one question. But they were in fact asking two questions. Jesus gave the true answer to the two questions. But since the disciples were not given the authority to completely understand, we have to piece together what they wrote about Jesus' answer in a way that it makes since, given the two questions. Again, the disciples thought they were asking one question. We must re-interpret the answer given to be an answer to two questions.
The first question is when would the temple be destroyed. The second question is when would Christ come again. There are three accounts of Christ's answer to these two questions. The one in Matthew 24 is almost identical to the one in Mark 13. But the answer given in Luke 21 is significantly different. The answer given in Luke 21 fits better the with the first question. And the answer given in Matthew 24 fits better with the second question.
Luke's account says to watch for the armies to surround Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). Matthew's account says to watch for the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15). If we, like the disciples, interpret this answer as one question, then we would tend to equate the surrounding of Jerusalem by the armies, with the abomination of desolation. But if we see that it's really two questions, then we can see these are two entirely different signs for which to watch. And we must interpret the abomination of desolation exactly the way Jesus told us to do. He told us to watch for the abomination of desolation that Daniel wrote about.
Daniel has thee references to the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11). And none of them say anything about the destruction of Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, the abomination of desolation in Daniel 11:31 had already been fulfilled in the time of Jesus. It was fulfilled in 168 BC. (See chapter C6, "Daniel 10-11: Fulfilled Prophecy.") The disciples were very aware of what the abomination of desolation is all about. The disciples were Jews. They celebrated Hanukkah (John 10:22). Much of the history about Hanukkah is given in the book of Maccabees. The disciples would have been familiar with the book of Maccabees because they were Jews who would have celebrated Hanukkah! This Jewish festival was established by the book of Maccabees! The book of Maccabees tells us about the "abomination," as Maccabees calls it, that was set up on the temple mount in 168 BC. (See chapter B6, "Abomination of Desolation" for more information.)
Daniel 11 is an extremely detailed prophecy that was fulfilled from Alexander the Great, all the way up to 168 BC with the "abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand" (Matthew 24:15). From other sources, we know that the abomination of desolation, in 168 BC, was a statue of Zeus that was set up on the temple mount. Nothing like this happened in 70 AD. If we are to really be true to what Jesus told us to do, which is to watch for the abomination of desolation that was spoken of by Daniel, then we must look for the abomination as a statue that's set up on the temple mount. And in Revelation 13, we read about a statue that is set up for all the world to worship. This is unfulfilled prophecy, and Jesus told us to watch for it.
So, let's piece the answer Jesus gave together in a way that makes since with the understanding that the question was really two questions. First we have Luke's account of the armies which surround Jerusalem. Jesus tells the disciples "this generation will not pass away until all this has happened." The generation of Jesus' day had their apocalyptic event in 70 AD, exactly 40 years after Jesus spoke these words. Luke's account was about the armies that would surround Jerusalem, and that was exactly 40 years later. Luke's account says there would be a great distress (Luke 21:23), but he did not say it was the greatest distress of all time. On the other hand, Matthew's account does say it's the greatest distress of all time. If you equate every aspect Luke's account with Matthew's account, then 70 AD has to be the greatest distress of all time. But we see that it's two different questions; two different answers, two different times of tribulation, and two different generations.
Luke's account goes on to say that they would fall by the sword and would be led away into all nations (Luke 21:24). Matthew's account, on the other hand, says that unless those days were shortened, that no flesh would survive. But for the sake of the elect, those days would be shortened. In other words, in Matthew's account, there is the greatest distress of all time, but it's stopped for the elect. In 70 AD, it was not stopped for the elect. Matthew's account does not say they would fall by the sword and be led away into all nations. Luke's account ends in disaster. Matthew's account ends in final victory.
Luke's account says: (NKJV Luke 21:24) "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled." Jerusalem was controlled (trampled on) by Gentiles from 70 AD until 1967. The Preterist viewpoint would say that all is fulfilled. But this verse clearly indicates an age, after 70 AD, during which the Gentiles control Jerusalem. At the end of that age, we have the end-time generation that "will not pass away until all these things have taken place." It's two different generations. The first generation, the disciple's generation, would not be allowed to fully understand. But our generation can understand because Jesus has begun to open the seals of the scroll. It was the adult generation that was not allowed to go into the promised land because of sin. They had to wait 40 years. It was the adult generation of Jesus who saw the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, exactly 40 years after Jesus spoke these words, because of sin. The baby-boom generation, born right after World War II, saw the rebirth of Israel. That same baby-boom generation saw Jerusalem no longer being trampled on by the Gentiles when that generation became adult. So, it's the adult generation who will see the return of Christ, 40 years after Jerusalem was no longer being trampled on by the Gentiles. It's this adult generation that will be able to enter the Promised Land, after 40 years, if they overcome sin. Remember, in Acts, Jesus said it was not for them to know the season of His return. But our generation can know the season by watching the signs. And the big sign that Jesus tells us to watch for is a statue on the temple mount, for all the world to worship.
Some Will Not Taste Death
The second verse that Preterists initially quote is Matthew 16:27-28. I would like to extend the number of verses quoted to be from verses 16:27 to 17:3. Remember that the original Greek did not have chapter and verse numbers. So we should not necessarily use them to separate topics.
Perhaps the disciples did not equate these two events. They were not to understand. But the Holy Spirit clearly lead them into equating the two events by telling us the Transfiguration was six days after Jesus made this statement. "Some who are standing here" who would not taste death until they see Jesus in his kingdom, were Peter, James, and John. They saw Jesus in his glorified body state just six days after He made this promise. Today, "the wise" can see the significance of the six days. If Christ comes in the timeframe as indicated by "this generation shall not pass away," in our generation, then the millennial reign of Christ is the seventh millennium. It's the millennium where Christ is "Lord of the Sabbath" millennium. So, after six millennial days, there will be those among our generation who will not taste death before we also see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Again, Jesus was speaking to two different generations. And you have to interpret what He said about His second coming from that perspective.
Will Not Go Through the Cities of Israel
The first verse that Preterists quote is Matthew 10:23, which says, "You will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." Notice the parallels between Matthew 10:21-23 and Matthew 24:9-14:
Verse 10:21 says, "Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." In chapter 24, verse 10 says, "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. And Luke's account, in Luke 21:16 says, "You will be betrayed by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death."
Verse 10:22 says, "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." In chapter 24, verse 9 says, "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation by all nations for My name's sake." Verse 13 says, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
Verse 10:23 says, "You will not have gone though the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." In chapter 24, verse 14 says, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Jesus has a different message about His second coming for two different generations. To the generation of Jesus' day, He was saying you should preach the gospel with urgency to all the cities of Judah. To the end-time generation, Jesus is saying that the gospel should be preached with urgency to all the nations of the world.
Notice that Jesus did not say, "the cities of Judah." He said, "the cities of Israel." Is there a difference? In the time of Jesus, only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin had been re-gathered. There were also some Levi. Judah and Benjamin were the tribes of the southern kingdom. The southern kingdom was scattered to Babylon starting in about 600 BC. And then starting in 537 BC, God re-gathered them back to Jerusalem. But the northern kingdom, the northern ten tribes, were scattered to Assyria in 700 BC. They were never re-gathered.
Consider how James started his letter to the Christian Gentiles: "James a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." (NKJV James 1:1). James knew that only Judah, the two southern tribes, were in the land of Israel. But James addressed his letter to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he was writing to Jews and Gentiles. He was writing to Christians all over the world.
The book of Isaiah was written before the southern kingdom was scattered. Yet read these words of prophecy that Israel would be re-gathered:
Again, this was written before the southern kingdom was scattered to Babylon. After Israel split into the two kingdoms, the southern kingdom was referred to as Judah and the northern kingdom was still referred to as Israel. (The northern kingdom is also called Ephraim.) The first re-gathering was the re-gathering of Judah from Babylon. All the Jews at the time of Jesus were from this re-gathering from Babylon. We get the word "Jew" from Judah. All the Jews at the time of Jesus, and all the Jews of today are only from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with some Levi. The northern ten tribes have never been re-gathered.
Notice that the verse says this is the second re-gathering. And in 70 AD, we had the second scattering, not a re-gathering. So, the second re-gathering must be a re-gathering of all twelve tribes, of both Judah and Israel as the verse says. (Remember Judah is the southern kingdom and Israel is the northern kingdom. This is consistent throughout Old Testament Scripture.) Also, this verse says the re-gathering is from Assyria, which is where the northern kingdom was original scattered to in 700 BC. And the verse says the re-gathering is from the four quarters of the earth. So, the re-gathering will be from every nation of the world. This verse in Isaiah is unfulfilled prophecy.
There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. All the true Church is Israel. This second re-gathering has not yet happened. It's unfulfilled prophecy. Israel, which is the Church, is still scattered to the four quarters of the earth.
To sum it up, there are big parallels between Matthew 10:21-23 and Matthew 24:9-14. It's Jesus message to both generations. And Jesus said, "You will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." Since Israel is scattered to the four quarters of the earth, all the cities of Israel would be all the cities of the world! So to our generation, Jesus is saying that the gospel should be preached with urgency to all the nations of the world. To His generation, He was saying to preach with urgency to the cities of Judah. And I suspect that they didn't finish going through all the cities of Judah before 70 AD, when it became too late. After 70 AD, they could no longer go through the cities of Judah. So, they would not have gone though all the cities of Judah before the Son of Man comes. But that's simply the precise truth of the statement. It's not a twisting of the words. Remember that the disciples did not have the authority to fully understand the season of the second coming. The scroll was still sealed. The basic meaning of Matthew 10:21-23 is the since of urgency for both generations to preach the gospel before Christ returns.
Let's go back and examine the issue of Two Generations more closely.
In 1988, there was a book published that gave 88 reasons why the rapture would be on September 8, 1988. Of course, it was wrong. One big point was that 1988 was 40 years after the birth of Israel in 1948. And Jesus said, "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). People would read this statement and immediately ask, "Well, how long is a generation?" Forty years seemed to be a good Bible answer. So, they added 40 to 1948 and came up with 1988.
I think a lot of people miss an important point about Jesus' statement. I think a "generation" does not have to mean a specific number of years. It means a group of people at a given age. We speak of the "baby-boom generation." The "baby-boom" generation is not a measurement of time. It's a group of people that were born right after World War II. So, "This generation will not pass away" means a group of people, all at about the same age, will not die until all the signs given have been fulfilled. As the expected life-times have increased in modern times, so has the amount of time allowed by a literal interpretation of Jesus' statement. From this perspective, 40 years is not the time limit. 50, 70, or perhaps even 90 years would be OK.
But at the same time, there is Scriptural evidence which equates a generation with 40 years. I will come back to that issue below. But first, we need to get a better understanding of why "this generation" actually refers to two different generations.
When people read Matthew 24:34, the natural question that arises is, "When are the people born that define 'this generation?'" I agree with the earlier thinking (in 1988) that the generation being referred to is the generation born with the rebirth of Israel in 1948. But to establish this, the argument must be based on Scripture.
The key to the problem is found in the original question that was asked by the disciples. All of Matthew 24 and 25 was in answer to this question. The disciples were wandering through the temple, looking at the buildings. Jesus had just left the temple. The disciples caught up with him and called his attention to the buildings. Jesus said, "Do you see all these things?" He asked, "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down" (verse 2, NIV).
The disciples were in culture shock. The temple was the greatest and most important thing they had ever known. It's construction had started before they were born and was still under way. The construction of this temple was not finished until 64 AD, just six years before it was destroyed. From the disciples point of view, it's destruction must be the End Times. They were speechless as the group went up the Mount of Olives, which is just outside the eastern gate leading from the temple mount. It probably took about fifteen minutes to walk.
"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will all this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (verse 3, NIV). "All this happening" was the destruction of the temple. "Not one stone here will be left on another." This is one question. Another question is, "what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" There are two fulfillment's to the prophecy. One is when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. The other is when Jesus returns. The prophecy is true about both times. I don't believe the disciples actually understood that they were asking more than one question. But prophecy is prophecy. God's word is God's word. You ask the question, you get the answer to the question(s) you ask.
When we read Luke's account, we notice some differences. Matthew's account reads, "So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel..." (Matthew 24:15 NIV) Luke's account instead reads, "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies you will know that its desolation is near" (Luke 21:20 NIV).
Luke's account is primarily in answer to the first question. Matthew's account is primarily in answer to the second question.
Matthew's account reads, "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:21-22 NIV). Luke's account instead reads, "There will be a great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:23-24 NIV).
Matthew's account end in victory. Luke's account end's in defeat, but jumps in time to the point of victory.
The greatest distress of all time is at the End Times. It's a greater distress than in 70 AD. Christ will return and save Jerusalem and his people. This is Matthew's account. A great distress, but not the greatest of all time, was in 70 AD when Jerusalem was conquered by the Gentiles (Rome) and the Jews were taken as prisoners to all the nations. This is Luke's account. Gentiles have trampled on Jerusalem from 70 AD until 1967, when Israel regained Jerusalem.
Let's look at Luke's account a little more closely. Verses prior to verse 20 are about the percussion of Christians. These verses can be applied to both generations. Then verse 20 takes a dramatic change from the corresponding verse in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. Instead of looking for the abomination of desolation, the verse says to look for Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. Many people incorrectly conclude these are the same things. The abomination of desolation is not Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, or the destruction of the temple. The abomination of desolation is probably a statue of the anti-christ on the temple mount.
When Rome first surrounded Jerusalem, Rome did not attack. They left and then came back later and attacked. The Christians in Jerusalem knew this prophecy and left Jerusalem before it was attacked. God gave the early Christians an early warning.
In 70 AD, Rome attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Not one stone was left on another. (Matthew 24:2 - the statement of Jesus that prompted the disciples' question.) The wailing wall that we hear about today was not a wall of the temple. It is what was left of the western wall around the temple courtyard. Jesus' prophecy was fulfilled exactly the way he said. Jesus goes on to say the Gentiles will trample on Jerusalem until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Gentiles controlled Jerusalem from 70 AD until 1967. So, the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. The very next verse is about the signs in the heavens that mark Christ's return.
The statement "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" is our clue that the prophecy skips over time. It skips over the times of the Gentiles. From Luke's perspective, everything before this statement is about the generation of Jesus, and everything after this statement is about the End Times generation.
The statement, "this generation shall not pass away," is given to the adult generation, both to the adult generation of Jesus, and to our adult generation today. The baby boom generation that was born right after World War II had just reached adult age when Israel regained Jerusalem in 1967. Israel became a nation again right after World War II.
Basically, what we have here is a timeline as follows:
The statement, "This generation shall certainly not pass away until all these things have happened," is applied to both generations! And the time in between both generations is the time of the Gentiles. If you were born after World War II, the baby boom generation, you should live long enough to see the return of Christ Jesus.
I have established that a literal interpretation of Jesus' words does not require that a generation be 40 years. So, "This generation will not pass away" means a group of people, all at about the same age, will not die until all the signs given have been fulfilled. But there is symbolism in the Bible that equates a generation with 40 years. So that original idea from 1988 needs to be re-explored.
A Generation as Sinful, and a Generation as 40 Years
With most (but not all) of the uses of the word 'generation' in Matthew is Jesus taking about how the sinfulness of His generation.
But a generation is still a group of people at a given age. And that generation might or might not be evil. (At least different degrees of evil for different generations.) For example:
So, a generation might or might not be evil. But generally one specific generation is evil. It depends on the teaching from one generation to the next, as indicated in these verses above. The word 'generation' is also applied to the wandering in the wilderness:
So there is an association of a specific generation with whether or not it's evil. In Psalm 95:10-11, God was specifically referring to the generation that wandered in the wilderness. But Psalm 95:10-11 also gives us specific association of the evil generation being 40 years. It was the adult generation that sinned, and for that reason God made them wander in the desert. Forty seems to be symbolic of sin, or of the cleansing from sin. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights in the Flood. That was a cleansing because of sin. But just because we find symbolism in a number, doesn't mean that the number is not also quite literal. They literally wandered in the desert 40 years. It literally rained 40 days and 40 nights.
After Christ returns, at the start of Christ's Millennial Reign, there will be a cleansing of sin, at Armageddon. One way of looking at "entering God's Rest" (Hebrews 3-4) is entering the millennial reign. The millennial reign is like the Promised Land. They wandered in the wilderness forty years before they could enter the Promised Land. Yet, God said that generation would never enter His Rest. They entered the Promised Land, but there was still sin. When we enter the Promised Land of the millennial reign, we will enter a time when the Earth's curse because of sin is removed. So, it seems very appropriate that we enter the Promised Land after forty years. God's numbers are both symbolic and literal.
The problem with the early "1988" interpretation of "this generation" was that the author miss-identified the starting of the 40-year period. Nowhere in Matthew 24 or Luke 21 does it indicate a starting point is at the rebirth of Israel. But it does indicate the starting point as being when Jerusalem is no longer trampled on by the Gentiles:
Jerusalem continued to be trampled on by the Gentiles until 1967, not 1948. The 40 years are not yet done. And it was also precisely 40 years from when Jesus first made the statement (in 30 AD) until when Jerusalem was first trampled on by the Gentiles, in 70 AD. The key given in Luke 21:24 is the control of Jerusalem, not in land outside of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem is really the Promised Land. Jerusalem means "Foundation of Peace." That Peace is God's Rest.
God said in his anger, "They shall never enter my rest." I think individuals have risen above their "generations" (or the evil of their generations) and have entered God's Rest, but a whole generation has never entered God's Rest. We are still wandering in the desert. When we overcome sin, (as in have victory over sin) as a whole generation, then we will enter God's Rest as a nation of Christians (Israel). It's God's Rest from the struggle with sin. I think all the generations have been wandering in that desert ever since the fall of Adam. But I think God also has a final 40-years of wandering designed into His Redemptive Plan. It's 40 years that is symbolic, yet also quite literal.
Some Christians have entered God's Rest. But the Church as a whole, Israel, has not yet entered God's Rest. At the rapture, the Church as a whole will enter God's Rest. I believe the Rapture will be 40 years from 1967, in 2007.
Overcome sin, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
What do YOU think ?
Date: 15 Sep
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