“The Time of the Second Coming Revealed!”
& Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 11 Aug 2013
24:32 Learn the parable from the fig tree:
When its tender branch has already grown, and it
sprouts its leaves,
ya’ll know that the
summer is near.
24:33 Thus also, when you yourselves happen to see all
keep knowing that it is
near – upon the doors!
24:34 Really, I’m telling y’all there is no possibility of this
generation passing away
until whenever all these things happen.
24:35 The sky and the earth will pass away,
but my words have no possibility of passing away.
24:36 But concerning that day and hour, no one except My Father alone
[can] perceive –
not even the angels of the heavens [not even the Son].
24:37 And just as the days of Noah were, so also the coming of the Son
of Man will be,
24:38 for [just] as, in the days before the flood,
they were munching and
drinking, getting married and marrying off –
until that day Noah
entered into the ark,
24:39 and they did not
until the flood came and
took away absolutely
thus also will be the coming of the Son of Man.
24:40 At that time, two
will be [working] in the field:
one man being taken along
and one man being forsaken.
24:41 Two will be
grinding [flour] using the mill:
one woman being taken
along and one woman being forsaken.
24:42 Therefore, stay alert, because y’all don’t know in which day your
Lord is coming.
Conflicting End-Time beliefs
From the back cover of John Noe’s book, Beyond the End Times: The Rest of The Greatest Story Ever Told:
“In this book you’ll discover: Why the perennial prophets of doom have been and
always will be dead wrong, Why the world will never-ever end, How the end for
the world came right on time, The time and nature of Christ’s past return, The
true identity of the ‘new heaven and the new earth,’ Why the future is bright
and promising, The basis for the next reformation of Christianity.”
On the other hand, we have folks like Hal Lindsey, author of the New
York Times bestseller, The Late, Great
Planet Earth, in which he stated, “The Bible foretold modern man’s
countdown to extinction…” and later in a sequel book wrote, “I wouldn’t make
any long-term earthly plans… the end times are almost here.”
Well who’s right? And what do we do about it? One thing we can count on
is that of all people, at least Jesus knows what He’s talking about when it
comes to the end times, and that’s something Jesus is talking about in Matthew
The disciples asked Jesus that evening on the Mount of Olives what the
sign would be of His coming and of the end of the age. I believe that the
disciples were asking when Jesus would come into His own, in the Messianic role
of purging evil out of the world. So I conclude that Jesus is foretelling the
downfall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, saying that this event will punish the evil
people in Jerusalem and bring an end to an age of God’s favor with the Jews and
dismantle their temple stone from stone. I also believe that Jesus is seeing
past that event and also relating signs of His second coming which will have
many similarities. But the point of this whole discourse is not to pinpoint the
time of these comings but to develop a certain attitude toward the world and
world events – a certain way of life – in His disciples based upon the sure
knowledge that God’s judgment is coming soon.
24:32 Learn the parable
[lessonNIV,ESV] from the fig tree:
When its tender branch has already grown, and it sprouts its leaves, ya’ll know
that the summer is near.
Απο δε της
την παραβολην: ‘οταν
ηδη ‘ο κλαδος
αυτης γενηται ‘απαλος και τα φυλλα
εγγυς το θερος.
- This command to
“learn” is addressed to the plurality of the disciples. In fact, the Greek
verb for “learn” shares the same root as the Greek word for “disciple.”
It’s what disciples do, they “learn” from their teacher.
- These disciples are sitting on the Mount of Olives, where they can still see the fig tree that Jesus cursed a day or so ago. Jesus’
instruction to learn the meaning of what He had done with that tree
to indicate that they hadn’t fully “gotten it” yet.
- Now, remember it is the Passover week, which
means it is spring-time, when the fig trees there were growing out tender,
new branches which sprouted leaves – along with some early fruit. The
Summer growing season followed after Passover, when the fig trees would
bear the main harvest of figs, which would be ripe toward the end of the
- In the world of nature, we can look at various
indicators to see what season of the year it is and draw conclusions about
what to do to prepare for the next season.
- In this case, “you know summer is near:” The
trees are starting to leaf out, so you know it’s time to plant new things
in the garden and make sure all your gardening tools are in good shape,
maybe place an order for more canning jars – maybe even buy that
fruit-drying machine you’ve been wanting, because it looks like it’s going
to be a good year for figs.
- In the same way, when you can observe a culture
which bears absolutely no spiritual fruit, you can know that its judgment
24:33 Thus also, when you yourselves
happen to see all these things, keep knowing that it is near – upon the doors!
‘Ουτως και ‘υμεις:
- What does “near” mean?
- Since the parallel use of the word “near” in
regard to the seasons of the fig tree indicates nearness in time, I think
that nearness in time is the way to interpret it here too. This is how it is applied in the next
couple of times in the book of Matthew where this word occurs: “My time
is near, let me keep the Passover at your house” (26:18) and then,
“The hour had drawn near for the Son of Man to be betrayed…” (Matthew
subject of the final verb “is” is not explicitly given here in the Greek
text of Matthew 24:33, so it can legitimately be translated “He is
near” (NASB & ESV) or “It is near” (KJV & NIV). The parallel passage
in Luke 21:31, however, supplies the subject explicitly as to what
is near: “the kingdom of God is near.”
- This is exactly what John the Baptizer preached
in Matthew 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (using the
verb form of this adverb for “near”)
- It’s also what Jesus had preached at the
beginning of His ministry Matthew 4:17 “Repent, for the kingdom of
heaven is near.” (cf. Matthew 10:7)
- We also see the same word in the book of Revelation
at the beginning and the end of that book: “Do not seal up the words of
the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation
22:10, NASB, cf.
1:3 “…the time is near”).
- So in what sense is
the time of the kingdom of God near? There are 3 other occurrences of the
word “near” in the New Testament which make this make a lot of sense to
- Matthew 21:34 The
Parable of the vineyard: “When the harvest time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenant-farmers to receive his fruit.” (NAW)
- James 5:7-9 Therefore be patient, brethren,
until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce
of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late
rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the
Lord is near… behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. (NASB, cf. Philippians
- Hebrews 6:8 “if it yields thorns and thistles,
it is worthless and near being cursed, and it ends up being
burned” (cf. Hebrews 8:13).
- Do you see the common theme in the use of the
word “near” in those passages? It indicates the end of a season in which
God expects a certain result from His kindness to humankind, after which
Jesus will come as Judge and hold humans accountable, cursing those who
will not bear the fruit God desires and blessing those who do.
- The context of
this statement about the fig tree in Matt. 24 is the judgment coming
first upon Jerusalem in AD70 and then upon the whole world at the last
- Now notice that there have been two verses in a
row that emphasize “knowing” – there is something which can be known
about when the coming of Christ in judgment will happen.
Indicative and Imperative forms of this word for “know” are spelled
exactly the same in Greek, so the NIV and ESV render it Indicative “you
know,” whereas the KJV and NAS render it Imperative “know/recognize,” and
either way is valid grammatically.
- The Greek Present tense
of the word “know” indicates that they already know that this is
near, and thus seeing the signs will merely affirm their knowledge
of its nearness.
- The expression “at the door” (The Greek word for “door”
is actually plural here) is used throughout the Old Testament to indicate
that someone is ready to do business, whether is a prostitute at her door ready to conduct sinful business
(Prov. 9:14), or an elder at his doorway ready to judge
cases (Gen. 18:1), or a slave wanting to make a contract with his master
(Ex. 21:6), or a worshipper bringing his lamb to the door of the temple
for a sacrifice (Lev. 1:5), or a fugitive seeking entry to a city (1 Sam
21:13). Doorways were where things happened! In the New Testament, this phrase occurs in three
other notable places:
- Acts 5:9b, where the Apostle Peter says to
Sapphira, “Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at
the door, and they will carry you out as well.” (NASB) Here, the phrase “at the door” would seem to indicate the ability
to do something right away.
(cf. James 5:7-9 already mentioned above)
- In Acts 5:23, we
see prison guards standing “at the doors,” so the phrase, “at the doors”
would seem to indicate controlling
access in and out.
- And in Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, “Behold, I
stand at the door and
knock…,” indicating an interest in
is usual in the prophetical style to speak of things great and certain as
near and just at hand, only to express the greatness and certainty of
them… (e.g. Jude 14)… The tribulation of these days
includes not only the destruction of Jerusalem but all the other
tribulations which the church must pass through.” ~Matthew Henry
24:34 Really, I’m telling y’all there
is no possibility of this generation passing away until whenever all these
Αμην λεγω ‘υμιν
ου μη παρελθῃ ‘η
γενεα ‘αυτη ‘εως
αν παντα ταυτα
- This is a very strong statement with a
particularly-emphatic double-negative in Greek.
So “this generation” (whatever that is) is definitely not going to
pass away before “all these things” (whatever they are) happen. That much we can agree on.
- Where Christians start disagreeing is who
“this generation” is and what “all these things” are.
again, I want to seek to define these terms by the way that Jesus and
Matthew and the rest of the New Testament authors used them, also taking
into account the Greek translations of the Old Testament available to
them. This helps us strip away the biases and assumptions
of modern commentators.
the same time, I also want to be careful not to be too dogmatic here. I
want to respect other Godly scholars who have arrived at different
conclusions, but, at the same time, I believe I am
responsible to reach conclusions about what I think these words mean and
how they apply to us, so that’s what I’m trying to do.
- Let me start with the phrase “all these things:”
- The context starts back in Mat. 23:36 and is repeated
about 6 times “…upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood
shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah…
Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this
- Matthew 24:1-2 “…His
disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said
to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not
one stone here will be left upon another…’” (NASB)
- So the disciples
ask Jesus in v.3 “when will all these things” happen? (cf. Mk.
13:4, which includes “all”)
- In Jesus’ reply throughout
the rest of chapter 24, He uses the phrase “all these things” three times:
- once in v.8 “all
these things are the beginning of the birth pangs”
- once in v.33 “when
you see all of these things, know that it is near”
- and v.34 “this
generation will not pass away until all these things
- It shows up another time in the parallel passage in
Luke 21:36 “But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have
strength to escape all these things that are about to take place,
and to stand before the Son of Man.” (NASB)
- Looking at the flow
of how the phrase “all these things” is used in this context, I believe
it is sound exegesis to understand Jesus as speaking of the coming of
divine judgment upon the Jews, including the dismantling of the temple and
a time of great distress.
- So next, what is “this generation” that will not
pass away until “all these things” happen?
- The phrase “this generation” is interpreted by
some Bible scholars to mean the people alive at the time of Christ (JFB,
others, it’s interpreted as the people alive later on at the time of the
second coming, and by still others either as the Jewish race (Hendriksen)
or all believers throughout time (Chrysostom)
or even the whole human race. Which is it?
- The first time we encounter this word
“generation” is at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, “all the generations
from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the
deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the
deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.” (Matthew
– clearly speaking of individual human
- Then at the opening
of the Gospel of Luke, Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit
has rejoiced in God my Savior… For behold, from this time on all generations
will count me blessed… HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION
TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.” (Luke 1:46-50, NASB) – upon race after race of those who fear Him? No! This is speaking
of generations of family offspring.
did Jesus use the phrase any differently? Let’s look at all His
quotes in Matthew with the phrase “this generation”:
- “But to what shall
I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the
market places, who call out to the other children,
and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a
dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking,
and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax
collectors and sinners!’…” (Matthew 11:16-19, NASB) – The word “they” refers back to “this generation,” so “this
generation” heard John preach and saw Jesus too. The same is true
of the next time “this generation” appears – it is the individuals who asked
Jesus to perform a miracle and for whom Jesus demonstrated the sign of
Jonah by being dead for three days and then coming back to life:
- “Then some of the
scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from
You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous
generation craves for a sign; and yet
no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet … The men
of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will
condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold,
something greater than Jonah is here. The
Queen of the South will
rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because
she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and
behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:38-42, NASB) – “this generation” saw Jesus “here” and
yet failed to acknowledge Him as a greater prophet than Jonah or a
greater king than Solomon.
- Matt. 17:17
“Unbelieving and twisted generation, how long shall I put up with
you?” – Who is the generation here?
It’s the same as the “you” here – the unbelieving people Jesus is talking
to at the time.
just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky,
shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His
day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this
generation.” (Luke 17:24-25, NASB) – Who “rejected” Jesus and caused Him to “suffer”? It was the Jews
and Gentiles living in 30 AD.
- So, when He says, “all these things will happen
to this generation” (23:36) and “This generation will not
pass away until all these things take place,” (24:33) the context demands
that we interperet “this generation” as the people alive in His day, and
that is why all the standard English translations translate this word
“generation” instead of “race” (which would be a different Greek word).
24:35 The sky and the earth will pass
away, but my words have no possibility of passing away.
και ‘η γη
‘οι δε λογοι μου
- What does it mean
for the heavens and the earth to pass away?
- Normally, this
Greek word parerxomai means
“to walk past,” such as it is used in Luke 18:37 when the blind men in Jericho heard that Jesus was “walking by.”
- But, since
generations and planets don’t walk around, we must be looking at a
figurative meaning which means “to reach the end of a lifespan, cease to
be present and be replaced.”
- Matthew 5:18 “For
truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest
letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is
- 2 Peter 3:10 “But
the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass
away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense
heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (NASB).
- This fits closely
with other scriptures which use synonymous words:
- Psalm 102:25-26 In
the beginning thou, O Lord, didst lay the foundation of the earth; and
the heavens are the works of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou
remainest: and they all shall wax old [παλαιωθησονται]
as a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them, and they shall be
- Isaiah 51:6 Lift up
your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was
darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and the
inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my righteousness shall not
- Rev. 21:1 Then I
saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first
earth passed away [aperxomai],
and there is no longer any
- Why would Jesus make such a big
deal of this? Again remember that the disciples and the
Jews were oriented around their temple, and it was unthinkable that it
would all go away. Jesus is assuring them that now matter how impregnable
that building looks, no matter how powerful the rulers are that
secure it, and no matter how established the religious leadership,
it’s all coming down, even though it looks like it could
- Likewise, it is a reminder to us to put our
priorities in the right place. Instead of concentrating our attention on
things in this world that will pass away, let us instead concentrate our
attention on the word of Christ which will never pass away.
- The Apostle Peter turned around later and said
the same sort of thing in his second letter to his disciples: “…remember
the… commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken
by your apostles… in the last days mockers will come… saying, ‘Where is
the promise of His coming? For ever
since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the
beginning of creation.’ … it escapes their notice that… long ago... the
world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His
word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for
the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men... The Lord is not slow
about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not
wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance …” (2 Pet.
- Every time people say that the earth is governed
by nothing more than blind chance; resist that lie with the truth that
the sovereign God who loves us governs the entire world in righteousness.
- Every time someone cheats and laughs about
getting away with it, resist the lie that sin is a mere social construct,
and know that the sovereign God who provided forgiveness of sin through
Jesus’ death on the cross will return to hold every person accountable
with uncompromising justice.
- And every time it seems like it’s taking too
long for justice to be done, remember that it’s because God is patiently
seeking to save people; it’s not because He forgot or is powerless to
bring about justice.
- Jesus’ words in the Bible will prove true,
though every man be a liar!
24:36 But concerning that day and
hour, no one except My Father alone [can] perceive – not even the angels of the
heavens [not even the Son].
οιδεν ουδε ‘οι
ουρανων [ουδε ‘ο Υιος]
ει μη ‘ο πατηρ [μου]
- The earliest-known Gospel manuscripts have the phrase
“not even the Son,” but, for some reason the phrase is not found in the
majority of the Greek manuscripts copied later on. That’s why it’s not in
- The United Bible
Societies published a statement that there is a “considerable degree of
doubt” about including the phrase, but it included the phrase anyway in
its edition of the Greek New Testament which most modern English
translations are based on.
- I do not believe, however, that this adds or
subtracts to the meaning of our text, because the phrase that comes next
in all the manuscripts is “but the/my Father alone,” thus it could already
be inferred that the Son in some way does not know.
- Besides, all the
Greek manuscripts of the parallel passage in Mark 13:32 have the phrase,
“nor the Son,” so Jesus did say it; the only question is whether or not Matthew
recounted it when he wrote his gospel.
- So here is a balance point to verses 32-33. There
are some things we can know about the time and some things
we can’t. You can know the season (v.32) and you can know
that the kingdom of God and the coming of Christ are near (v.33),
yet no one except God the Father can actually know (or “perceive”)
the day or the hour of this event, according to v. 36.
- If not even Jesus had knowledge of the exact
timing of God’s judgment, then it’s pointless to even try to nail down
the details. As Chrysostom wrote, “‘neither the Son’ forbids them not
only to learn, but even to inquire.”
Yet they did inquire later in the first chapter of Acts and got put off
similarly: “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying,
‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has
fixed by His own authority’” (Acts 1:6-7, NASB).
- I frankly find the
latter sections of Daniel and Revelation to be unclear as to the meaning
of their details. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand
as much as we can, but there is a limit to the clarity with which
we can see through those details to discern the exact time of
Christ’s coming. So if you read the apocalyptic sections of the Bible for
your devotional times and the details are not coming clear to you, that’s
- “Christ preached
this prophetical sermon in the close of his ministry, as the Apocalypse
is the last book of the New Testament, and the prophetical books of the
Old Testament are placed last, to intimate to us, that we must be well
grounded in plain truths and duties, and those must first be well
digested, before we dive into those things that are dark and difficult;
many run themselves into confusion by beginning their Bible at the wrong
end.” ~Matthew Henry
- Start with the big-picture things in the Bible
which are clear, such as the overwhelming sense that God is in
complete control of all the crazy events going on, that God is orchestrating
them and moving them to consummation when His justice will prevail. That
much should be quite clear even in Daniel and Revelation.
in the application of passages about the end times, nowhere does God tell
believers to figure out the exact time of Jesus’ return and then quit
their jobs and leave their families and sell all their belongings and
stand on a mountain in white robes waiting for the big ending. Instead,
God just tells us that we don’t know when it will be, but it will
be soon, so just keep being faithful in what you’re called
to do. We’ll hit more on this idea when we look at the end
of chapter 24 and chapter 25.
24:37 And just as the days of Noah
were, so also the coming of the Son of Man will be,
‘αι ‘ημεραι του Νωε
παρουσια του ‘υιου
- On the basis of this
statement I heard one false prophet prognosticate that since God gave Noah
a one-week warning before the flood started, there would therefore be a
one-week warning before the second coming, but that is against the spirit
of what Jesus has been saying. He defines what He means in the next
verses: In what way will Christ’s coming be like the days of Noah?
24:38 for [just] as, in the days
before the flood, they were munching and drinking, getting married and marrying
off – until that day Noah entered into the ark,
γαρ ησαν εν
ταις προ του
γαμουντες και [εκ]γαμιζοντες
αχρι ἧς ‘ημερας
εισηλθεν Νωε εις
24:39 and they did not understand
until the flood came and took away absolutely
all men, thus also will be the coming of the Son of Man.
και ηρεν ‘απαντας
παρουσια του ‘υιου
- Is there anything wrong with eating and drinking?
No! Is there anything wrong with getting married and having children and
marrying them off? No! The scriptures tell us that we can eat and drink to
the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), and it can be “good” to get married and
give away children in marriage (1 Cor 7).
- The problem is that they did not knowKJV,
NIV or understandNASB the larger context. “The kingdom of God is not just about eating and drinking,” as it says in Romans 14:17, but it’s
about “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Without a
proper relationship to God, everything you do is a sin – even eating
lunch can be a sin! But with a right relationship to God everything –
even eating lunch – can be an act of worship to God.
- Now, the English Standard Version translates it
that the people of Noah’s day were “unaware,” but in both of the Apostle
Peter’s letters in the Bible, he says that Noah preached to the
people while he built the ark, so I
don’t think it was a mere matter of unawareness but rather a
matter of spiritual deadness and rebellion, that they could
not understand and would not repent of their sin and respond in
faith to God’s salvation by getting onto that ark.
- So, one way that the days of Noah and the second coming
of Christ are the same is that, when people are given over to sin, God
will bring judgment upon them, and that means people are going to die,
because the wages of sin is death.
has happened time and again throughout history, (note use
of the phrase “that day” in prophecy to denote God’s coming in judgment
either in historical events or on the last day: Deut. 31:16-18, 1 Sam.
3:12, Isa 2:1 +44 more!, Jer. 39:16, Ezek. 38:18, Hosea 1:5, Amos 8:3ff,
Micah 2:4, Zephaniah 1:15, Matthew 7:22 - Judgment Day, cf. 2Thess. 1:10,
2Tim. 1:12, 1:18; 4:8.)
- and fourty years after Jesus made this
statement, a million Jews would be slaughtered in Jerusalem by the Roman
army in a visitation of God’s judgment.
- I believe that the war between the Union and the
Confederacy 150 years ago was another visitation of God’s judgment on America – the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” says so explicitly. God’s judgment fell upon
both sides in that war, leaving a quarter of the fighting men in our
- There is also yet to come a day when Jesus will
judge the whole earth and destroy it by fire, rather than by water, as it
was in Noah’s day.
- Another parallel between the flood and the
parousia which flows from this text, comes from the word “until,” found in
both v.38 and v.39. These “until’s” emphasize that God intervened in
history at a certain point that brought normal life to a screeching halt
and captured everyone’s attention.
- When the judgment of God falls, life will not go
on as usual. People suddenly have to think about larger issues than the
functions of everyday life in this world, like eating and drinking and getting married.
- Suddenly things like, “do you want ketchup with
that?” or “do you want room for cream?” or “What colors are you using for
your wedding?” are forgotten in light of things like, “Am I going to die?”
and “What does God think of me?”
- The next verses highlight
another parallel between God’s judgment during the time of Noah and the
coming judgments of which Jesus speaks, namely that the Day of the Lord
24:40 At that time, two will be [working]
in the field: one man being taken along and one man being forsaken.
εσονται εν τω
αγρω ‘ο ‘εις
και ‘ο ‘εις
24:41 Two will be grinding [flour] using
the mill: one woman being taken along and one woman being forsaken.
- In each case of God’s judgment there has been –
and will be – people saved from judgment.
- In Noah’s case, God had prearranged a boat in
which to survive the flood,
- in the case of the Apostles in first-century Jerusalem, they had Jesus’ warning to get out of the city before the army surrounded it,
- during the Civil War there were great revivals,
- and in the last day, all who trust in Jesus to
save them will be delivered from death because He pre-arranged to die on
the cross to pay for their sins.
- The picture here is
parallel to v.38 where everybody was eating and drinking and getting
married and suddenly everything was interrupted by God’s judgment.
two guys are doing farmwork and two women grinding
wheat to make bread for dinner, just going about their daily business,
when judgment day comes, and the invisible differences in their spiritual
relationship to God are suddenly revealed: one is rejected,
dismissed from the presence of God, and the other is accepted into the presence of God and taken
- What does
it mean that one is “taken” and one is “left”?
- In the Greek Old
Testament, the word paralambanw
generally means to “take along” but there is an interesting use of the
word in the prophecy of Daniel 7:18b “…the saints of the Most High shall take
the kingdom, and possess it for ever and ever.” (Brenton) (cf. Heb. 12:28
“you have received a kingdom,” Colossians 2:6 “you have received Christ”)
- In the Greek New
Testament, we see this word used for when Jesus “took” Peter, James, and
John up to the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus “took aside” the 12
disciples afterwards on the road to tell them He would be killed in
Jerusalem, and then in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus “took” Peter,
James, and John closer to where He was praying. That, of course was all
during His earthly ministry,
- But there is a parallel use of Jesus
“taking” His people in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come again and [take] receive you to Myself,
that where I am, there you
may be also.” (NASB)
- Now, let’s look at the other Greek word aphiemi, translated “left.” As I
surveyed its use throughout the Greek Bible, I discovered that it always
means cutting something or someone loose who was either in your presence
or under your authority. In Greek, you can’t “leave” something that
wasn’t near you to begin with.
- So, this Greek word has a more limited range of
meaning than our English word “leave” has; it doesn’t include the neutral
connotation our English word has of “remaining” or being “left behind,” it
always has a negative meaning of active rejection or separation.
other words, this is not just about selecting the good people and leaving
the bad people, but also about judging the bad people. This
is not a picture of a shopper at a grocery store picking one apple and
leaving the rest but more like the grocery store owner putting the good
apples on display and throwing away the bad apples.
- When these two
Greek words are paired together, the contrast is between acceptance and
rejection, welcome and dismissal, fellowship and repulsion.
- This matches what goes on at the judgment day
Jesus describes in the next chapter: “Then the King will say to those on
His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom
prepared for you from the foundation of the world…’ Then He will also
say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal
fire…’” (Matthew 25:34&41, NASB)
- In recent years,
many Christians have connected
these verses with the verses about Jesus coming in the clouds and
gathering up His people (ten verses back in this chapter). They say
that this is describing a temporary removal of Christians from earth
before the second coming, after which many non-Christians will turn in
faith to Jesus, but those ideas don’t come from this text. I believe that
this passage should be kept in the context of judgment day because it
flows from the parallel to Noah’s flood. The focus of this passage is not
that Christians will be removed from hardship or that non-Christians will
get a second chance but that when God comes in judgment, some will be
saved and some will be condemned; I think that’s all you can logically get
out of these verses.
- This kind
of thing happened physically in 70AD, as Matthew Henry wrote, “When
ruin came upon Jerusalem, a distinction was made by Divine Providence… Christians among them were saved from perishing in that calamity by the
special care of Heaven. If two were at work in the field together and one
of them was a Christian, he was taken into a place of shelter… while the
other was left to the sword of the enemy…” but it also happened spiritually,
as the preaching of the gospel divided families: some by the grace of God,
“were taken to Christ; others believed not and were left to perish in
their unbelief,” and all this prefigures typologically what will
happen at “the second coming of Jesus Christ and the separation which will
be made in that day.”
- The point is that
the day of the Lord is not only judgment day but also salvation
day, the day when those who “love Christ’s appearing” will see their
salvation confirmed and completed. This is not a day to fear,
but rather a day for Christians to look forward to!
24:42 Therefore, stay alert, because
y’all don’t know in which day [hour] your Lord is coming.
ουν ‘οτι ουκ
- Our passage started with two verses saying we do
know and concludes with two verses which say we don’t know!
- Since we can
anticipate that God will bring judgments upon the earth but we
don’t know quite when they will come, Jesus commands us to “stay alertNAS/keep watchKJV,NIV/stay
- The next few illustrations at the end of chapter
24 and the beginning of 25 develop this idea of alertness/watchfulness more,
so I’ll try to do that in time to come.
- I believe that Jesus
has in view the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as well as His final
judgment day as He makes the prophecy in Matthew 24, both of which are future
to that point in time. Therefore there is a limited coming in judgment
which would be “soon” for the disciples, and it would typify the final day
of judgment which is still future to us.
- Just as the Apostles
could see that they were in a nation which was ripe for judgment, so we
too can look around us and see a nation that seems ripe for judgment. How
long will God hold back His judgment upon a nation which allocates something
like half a billion dollars of tax money every year on Planned
Parenthood’s murderous industry? 300,000 children’s lives aborted just
last year through them. How many millions of aborted children will it take
before God says, “No more!”? If we realize that, we are not going to live
life as usual; we will be seeking civil reform, spiritual revival, and
Christ’s intervention to bring justice.
- Likewise, if we live with the realization
that Jesus could return at any time and separate those He loves from those
who hate Him, and destroy the whole world, it will make a difference in
how we live everyday life. Matthew Henry wrote: “Universal
neglect of religion is a more dangerous symptom to any people than
particular instances here and there of daring irreligion… The reason why people are so
eager in the pursuit – and so entangled in the pleasures – of this world
is because they do not know and believe and consider the eternity which
they are upon the brink of. Did we know aright that all these things must
shortly be dissolved and we must certainly survive them, we should not set
our eyes and hearts so much upon them as we do… Security and
sensuality are likely to be the epidemical diseases of the latter days.”
- Also, if we believe
that Jesus is going to judge the world, it frees us from holding on to
revenge and bitterness. If people do wrong to us, we can rest assured in
what God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, declares the Lord” (Rom.
12:19), and we can be released from hate and from getting even with those
who have hurt us, and instead live out love for even our enemies.