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The Destruction of Jerusalem - 70 A.D.
 
PART FOUR

-INDEX-    -PART ONE-    -PART TWO-
    -PART THREE-    -PART FIVE-   -CHART-


 

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AN ANTICIPATED PROBLEM? 

id the scriptures themselves anticipate this potential problem in interpretation - that some might believe that our Lord's return was imminent in the first century?  It seems so.  Consider the words of the apostle Paul writing to the Thessalonians: 

2Th 2:1-8  Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,  (2)  That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.  (3)  Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;  (4)  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 

(5)  Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?  (6)  And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.  (7)  For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.  (8)  And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 

The traditional date for the writing Matthew’s gospel is given as 37-45 AD.  It is thought that Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was written about 54 AD.  Therefore it seems likely that Paul and the believers in Thessalonica were familiar with the prophetic material of Matthew 24.

The Thessalonian believers were obviously troubled by a belief that the day of the Lord’s return was then absolutely imminent, or perhaps even then present.  It is very interesting to note the material which Paul uses in order to combat this erroneous conclusion.  For that day would not come, says Paul: 

...except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.   

From where did Paul draw this material?  From Daniel 11! 

Dan 11:36  And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 

Remember what we noticed earlier regarding the Preterist position; that if they interpret the ‘abomination of desolation’ of Daniel11:31 as the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (an interpretation which we feel is demanded), and believing as they do that ALL prophecy, including Jesus’ return was accomplished by that time, then it becomes nearly impossible for them to account for the vast amount of prophetic information given in Daniel 11:32-40. 

We noted how a preteristic interpretation of Matthew 24 demands that Jesus would return at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. But remember what a mess this makes out of Daniel 11; a mess that can only be reconciled by either breaking the obvious link between Matthew 24:15 and Daniel 11:31, or by interpreting Daniel 11:31 as having reference to Antiochus Epiphanes and using Antiochus as a ‘type’ of the events which would occur in 70 AD. 

We believe however that the words Paul used to correct the believers in Thessalonica also show that the Preterist position is in error.  Paul tells them that the Lord’s return is not as imminent as they think, and then offers as proof that there will be some delay THE PROPHETIC MATERIAL IN DANIEL 11 WHICH HAD TO BE FULFILLED BEFORE OUR LORD’S COMING COULD TAKE PLACE. 

Paul seems to be saying that the tribulation which would precede our Lord’s return (a tribulation that those in Thessalonica perhaps felt they were in) must encapsulate certain events; namely an apostasy and the rise of the ‘man of sin’. Even though those in Thessalonica may have believed that they were actually in that ‘great tribulation’ immediately after which Jesus would return, Paul instructs them that the time of the second coming is not immediately at the door and introduces as evidence the prophetic material in Daniel 11 – specifically the rise of the ‘willful king’ - that remained to be fulfilled DURING the time of the tribulation. 

Notice then the following facts: 

1)      The return of our Lord is ‘immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days’ 

2)    Luke defines what ‘those days’ are; that the Jews would fall by sword and captivity and that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the gentiles were complete.

3)   Paul says that the day of Jesus’ return cannot come unless there is first an apostasy and the ‘man of sin’ is revealed, and makes reference to Daniel 11:36 as proof of this. 

4)   From this we can only conclude that the apostasy and the revealing of the ‘man of sin’ take place DURING the times of ‘great tribulation’. 

In this we find another fact of monumental importance – namely that Paul places the material of Daniel 11:36-40 within the ‘great tribulation’ which we believe began in 70 AD with the ‘abomination of desolation’.   This absolutely proves that Paul believed that the material in Daniel 11:35-37 was, at the time of his writing still future, and that such events must precede the second coming.

How does a Preterist answer this evidence?  The answer is quite revealing. 

To a Preterist, Paul’s 'man of sin' described in Second Thessalonians is either the Roman emperor Nero or one of many other evil characters in Jerusalem in the days immediately before 70 AD.  But it follows that if this is true, then the same character must be referred to in Daniel 11:36 – for this is the very passage to which the apostle makes reference. Notice: 

2 THESSALONIANS

 

DANIEL

2Th 2:3-4  Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;  (4)  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

 

 

Paul's Man of Sin

 

Dan 11:36-37  And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.  (37)  Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.

It is obvious to most commentators that Paul’s description of this ‘man of sin’ is drawn from the language of Daniel 11:36-37.  In fact, most if not all reference Bibles will contain a cross-reference between these two verses 

However, when we look at the Preterist writings on Daniel 11 we find that they believe the king in Daniel 11:36-37 to be Herod, the Romans in general, or the general Titus who led the siege against Jerusalem.  In other words, there is a complete disconnect between Paul’s ‘man of sin’ in second Thessalonians, and the very passage to which Paul makes reference!   

Preterist author Donald Hochner writing for Preteristarchive.com writes: 

Now we are going to find out who was "THE king." Who was "THE king" that caused the Hasmoneans to end their dynasty? The proof which I have discovered to identify "THE king" of Daniel 11:36-39, 44-45 with Herod the Great (the king of Judea ruled in 37 BC to 4 BC). This seems to be a direct reference to Herod the Great exclusively, but could also include his line of descendants who reigned over the Jews during this time of the end. 

On the contrary, I would suggest that the identity of the KING in Daniel 11:36 can only be established by carefully comparing scripture with scripture, instead of relying upon an interpretation which can only be maintained by ignoring or denying the obvious cross references which were given to shed light on this subject. Donald Hochner's interpretation of Daniel 11:36-37 is impossible.  Herod was dead long before Paul wrote Second Thessalonians.  Paul explicitly wrote then that the 'man of sin' had not yet been revealed.

One can only interpret the King of Daniel 11:36 as Herod by first ignoring the cross reference between Matthew 24:15 and Daniel 11:31, and then ignoring the cross reference between 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 and Daniel 11:36-17!  But both these cross references serve to save us from the very error the Preterists make – the error of thinking that Jesus would return in the first century.

Notice that Paul places the 'man of sin' clearly in the future - that is, the 'man of sin' would arise sometime beyond 54 AD. when Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers.  Paul writes that something was then holding back this 'man of sin' from being revealed.

Because 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 is such an obvious reference to Daniel 11:36-37, notice then how impossible the Preterist position becomes.  Since the same character is obviously in view in both Daniel 11 and 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul's 'man of sin' can certainly not be Herod the Great who died long before Paul penned these words.  This explains why Preterist authors cannot and do not interpret both Daniel 11:36-37 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 as both having reference to Herod the Great.

But neither does it avail the Preterist position to apply the information about the 'man of sin' to the Roman emperor Nero because clearly the same personage is in view in both 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 and Daniel 11:36-37.  If one refers to the emperor Nero then so must the other.  While many Preterist authors press the point that 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 is in their view an obvious reference to Nero, NONE apply the parallel passage in Daniel 11 in the same way.  Thus their exposition utterly fails.

In 'The Parousia' by James Stewart Russell - considered by many to be THE definitive work on Preterism - a large section is devoted to the description of Paul's 'man of sin' in Second Thessalonians.  While Russell lays out his evidence and expresses his conviction that the Apostle's words apply to Nero, not once does he make mention of the parallel passage in Daniel 11:36-37 to which Paul is obviously referring, nor does he allude to the fact that such a parallel in scripture even exists.  How much confidence can be placed in any exposition which fails to consider such weighty evidence as this obvious parallel.  Brothers and Sisters, such treatment of Paul's words is not exposition at all, it is obfuscation. Once again, all of this should serve to illustrate the insuperable difficulties and inconsistencies in the Preterist position. 

The evidence is clear: Paul's instruction to the believers at Thessalonica that Jesus' return was not then imminent can only be understood by considering the material in Daniel 11 to which Paul makes reference.  This evidence proves that Jesus' return was not imminent in 54 AD when he wrote, nor would it be imminent upon the destruction of Jerusalem and temple in 70 AD as described in Daniel 11:31.  Paul points out that an interval of time must elapse between the two events and uses as proof of this the intervening material in Daniel 11:36-37; that an apostasy must come first, and the 'man of sin' would be revealed.  Only after such events would the Lord return and destroy the 'man of sin' at his coming. 

SIGNS AND LYING WONDERS

Mat 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

These words from our Lord's mouth should be of the greatest concern to all Christians  Here Jesus speaks of a potential threat to his followers, and one so serious that he says it would deceive the very elect of God if such  thing was possible.  These words seem incredible, and they should command our most careful scrutiny to make sure that we have properly understood them lest we ourselves prove to be deceived.

The importance of ascertaining the truth about what is here being spoken of cannot be overstated.  As we have seen, there is a growing movement in our time which would have us understand that everything in Matthew 24, including these words under consideration, have already been fulfilled, and in fact that all prophetic fulfillment was finished by 70 AD.  If this is true, then the warnings from our Lord currently under consideration have no application to our time.  If however this view which holds that everything in Matthew 24 was accomplished by 70 AD is incorrect, then considering our Lord's words that a deception would arise with the potential to deceive the very elect of God, nothing could be more dangerous than a belief that these words have no application to our time.

In considering this passage the first thing I would like to call to mind is the very grave nature of this warning.  In Matthew 24:5 Jesus warned that 'many shall come in my name saying 'I am Christ, and deceive many'.  However, in Matthew 24:8 he tells his disciples that the rise of those particular deceivers was a only a part of the 'beginning of sorrows'.  But notice the contrast of that warning with the one in verse 24 which we are now considering.  Clearly the warning of verse 24 is much more grave and serious - for here the deceiver comes with all manner of lying signs and wonders, and with the capability (if possible as Jesus says) to deceive the very elect.  So although many deceivers would come even before the time of great tribulation, Jesus seems to be addressing something much more specific and grave in verse 24.

Notice secondly the timing of the warning of verse 24, which is quite different from the warning of verse five.  We may summarize the series of events in Matthew 24 thusly:

  • Verses 5-8 - Things which Jesus calls 'the beginning of sorrows' including deceivers in general.
     

  • Verse 9-14 - General warnings and signs of the times.
     

  • Verse 15 - A very specific warning about the 'abomination of desolation' which we have already considered in detail.
     

  • Verses 16-22 - A description of the time which began by with the placing of the 'abomination of desolation'.  Jesus designates this period as a time of 'great tribulation'.  The corresponding verse in Luke's gospel tells us that this is the period in which the Jewish people would fall by flame and sword and be led away captive into the nations.
     

  • In verse 23 we come to this warning that there would arise false Christs and false prophets who would show great signs and wonders deceiving if possible the very elect.
     

  • Then in verse 29 we find the words 'immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, etc'.
     

  • Verses 30-31 - A description of Jesus' coming in power and glory.

Now the structure and the sequence of events as given in Matthew 24 is very clear and straightforward.  Jesus places the warning concerning 'great signs and wonders' which could potentially deceive the very elect AFTER the placing of the 'abomination of desolation', DURING the time which he designates as 'great tribulation' but BEFORE his coming as described in verses 30-31.  In this we see that whatever this deception is, it is a feature of the time which our Lord designates as the time of 'great tribulation'.

Consider then how a Preterist who believes that all prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD might understand what is here meant.  They tell us that in the siege of Jerusalem  (from roughly 66 AD when the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem until 70 AD when the city was destroyed) that there did indeed exist many false prophets and others who claimed to be the messiah, and that these did in fact deceive many with pretensions to magical or miraculous powers.  We are told that all of this is described by the Jewish historian Josephus, and that these facts fit the prophecy so perfectly that they have obviously been fulfilled exactly as our Lord predicted.

This 'evidence' may in fact seem impressive to some, but the real issue is not whether or not we may find something in the days leading up to 70 AD which seems to be a fulfillment of Jesus' words in Matthew 24:24.  Indeed friends, one might say that this prophecy is being aptly fulfilled even in our day, but again that is not the issue.  The issue is, and always must be whether or not any supposed fulfillment of these words takes into account all the Biblical evidence, and whether such a fulfillment is in fact what Jesus had in mind when he spoke these words.  It is not enough to say that there arose in the first century many false prophets whose claims to magical powers deceived some apostate Jews. No, one must show that such an interpretation fits all the Biblical evidence and that such was what Jesus had in mind when he spoke these words.

As is our method elsewhere, we believe that a proper understanding of Jesus words will not be determined by comparing them with those of an ancient Jewish historian, but by comparing them with other scripture.  A second scriptural witness is of infinitely greater value than one thousand secular history books.

Consider then the following words from the apostle Paul which carry with them the greatest weight:

2Th 2:3-10 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (4) Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (5) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (6) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. (7) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. (8) And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (9) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, (10) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.


Paul expressly warns of a coming apostasy, deception and a 'man of sin' who would be accompanied by such lying signs and wonders.  We might ask, where is Paul getting this information from?  Does Paul's description of a great deception accompanied by lying signs and wonders stand alone in scripture?  Did he receive this information in a vacuum? No! On the contrary, isn't it obvious that Paul is here simply commenting upon on our Lord's words in Matthew 24:24?

Notice how the timing of the deception as described by Paul is exactly the same as that in Matthew 24:24:  Jesus says that AFTER the placing of the abomination of desolation (which we have shown to be the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem), but BEFORE his coming, that there would be this deception which would be accompanied by lying signs and wonders.  Isn't this precisely what Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica - that BEFORE Jesus returns, there would first come a deception accompanied by all manner of lying signs and wonders?  In this can anyone reasonably deny that Paul is simply commenting and expanding upon the words of Jesus?

The importance of this point cannot be overstated.  There is much more to this singular point than first meets the eye, and so I plead with the reader for patience as I attempt to show how this connection between Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Matthew 24:24 is crucial to a proper understanding of prophecy.

We noted in the previous section how we believe that Paul may have anticipated the error that some might make in believing that Jesus was to return immediately then in the first century.  He introduces material which must take place before Jesus returns. We noted that Paul quotes material from Daniel 11:36-37 as the specific series of events which must come to pass before Jesus returns.

But beyond this, read carefully again 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 shown above and notice what Paul has done.  He has not only described Daniel 11:36-37 with its information about a 'willful king' as something which must take place AFTER he penned these words, but BEFORE Jesus must return, but even more importantly, he has tied Jesus' words of Matthew 24:24 and the reference to 'lying signs and wonders' to the words of Daniel 11:36-37.

Put another way:

Paul warned the believers in Thessalonica that the 'Day of the Lord' - the day in which Jesus would return was not then at hand.  Paul points to a coming apostasy, man of sin, and lying sign and wonders which must precede the Day of the Lord.  But Paul is simply commenting on the sequence of events given in the Matthew 24 which also places the rise of 'false Christs' 'false prophets' and 'signs and lying wonders' before our Lord's second coming.

Paul takes the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 - that false Christs with 'lying signs and wonders' would arise during the tribulation and before his coming - AND APPLIES THEM TO THE MATERIAL IN DANIEL 11:36-37.

What does this tell us?  That Paul understood that Jesus' warnings of 'false christs and false prophets' who would work 'signs and lying wonders' capable of deceiving the very elect had a specific and direct application to the character described in Daniel 11:36-37 - the 'willful king'.

Notice in the figure below how Paul draws information from both Daniel 11 and Matthew 24 to describe the 'man of sin':

MATTHEW 24

DANIEL 11

Mat 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.  


 

 

Dan 11:36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

 
(2Th 2:3-9)
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God… whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders 
 

Paul then understands that Jesus' words about these false Christs and false prophets who would cause a great deception by lying signs and wonders applied directly and specifically to the 'king' described in Daniel 11:36-37.

But with this specific application from the inspired pen of Paul the entire preterist interpretation of Matthew 24:24 comes crashing down.  As noted, Preterists believe that Matthew 24:24 refers to any number of false Messiahs who pretended to miracles and deceived many apostate Jews in the first century.  But Paul understands that the deception of Matthew 24:24 applies directly and specifically to the 'king' mentioned in Daniel 11:36-37.  Who are we to believe, Paul, or the Preterists?

According to Preterists, Paul's 'man of sin' was the Roman emperor Nero.  However could Nero be described as a 'false Christ and false prophet'? No, no preterist applies those words in Matthew 24:24 to Nero. Additionally, can the material in Daniel 11:36-37 be applied to Nero?  No, and no preterist attempts to do so.

Notice then the blatant inconsistency of the Preterist position:

Question:  Who does the deception of Matthew 24:24, with its mention of 'lying signs and wonders refer to?

Preterist: The many false messiahs in the first century who by pretension to miraculous powers deceived many apostate Jews.

Question: Who is Paul's 'man of sin' who comes with all manner of 'lying signs and wonder' who must appear before Jesus returns?

Preterist: The Roman emperor Nero

Question:  Who is the 'willful king' of Daniel 11:36-37 who Paul explicitly ties to these 'signs and wonders'?

Preterist:  Well we don't all agree, but it may be Herod, it may be Titus, or it may be the Romans in general. (!!)

Although it is obvious that Paul understands that all three passages refer to the same apostasy with its 'lying signs and wonders' Preterism collapses into a jumbled mess.  The reason for this is obvious:  All of this shows that the material from Daniel 11:32-45 takes place within the great tribulation. This however is something a preterist simply cannot accept.  To them all of the information in Daniel 11:32-45 takes place BEFORE the great tribulation.  I would rather believe the scriptures rather than the theories of men.

Some may however point out that Daniel 12:1 with its reference to a 'great time of trouble since never there was a nation' seems to indicate that the great tribulation did not in fact begin until after the events of Daniel 11:32-45.  This is a question we will consider in the next section.  We must note however that the evidence is absolutely clear that both Jesus and Paul place the material of Daniel 11:32-40 within the bounds of the great tribulation.

In closing this section I would like to point out the consistency of the historicist-continuist position on this point:

Question:  Who does the deception of Matthew 24:24, with its mention of 'lying signs and wonders refer to?

Historicist: The Papacy

Question: Who is Paul's 'man of sin' who comes with all manner of 'lying signs and wonder' who must appear before Jesus returns?

Historicist: The Papacy

Question:  Who is the 'willful king' of Daniel 11:36-37 who Paul explicitly ties to these 'signs and wonders'?

Historicist: The Papacy

The Papal deception has indeed succeeded on a grand scale.  Its pretensions to miraculous powers and lying signs and wonders have been well documented and cannot be denied.  This is a power which has sat in the 'temple of God' (the Christian Church) and proclaimed openly to be God on earth.  The description of the 'willful king' of Daniel 11:36-37 fits the Papacy perfectly.  The Papacy arose AFTER the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, DURING the great tribulation (the times of the desolation of the Jewish people), and BEFORE the second coming.  In all this there is the greatest harmony of the scriptures and history.

A TIME OF TROUBLE 

Mat 24:21  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 

Dan 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

The two passages above tell us in no uncertain terms that the 'great tribulation' will be a time of great distress.  Ironically, these same words have also been a source of distress to many commentators as well as casual readers of the Bible who have sought to understand them.

Before attempting to ascertain the exact application of these words, I would like to call attention to the fact that their usage in Jesus' Olivet discourse of Matthew 24 once again serves to prove that Matthew 24 is primarily an exposition of the discourse given in Daniel 11 and 12.  The series of events is the same in both: the placing of the abomination of desolation, a time of great tribulation, the suffering of the Jewish people by sword and captivity, and finally the consummation of the age in which Jesus will return.  These facts are indisputable.  The comparison of Matthew 24:15, Luke 21:20-24, and Daniel 11:31-40 proves that the 'great tribulation would BEGIN with the desolating abomination of Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD, but that such tribulation would be of considerable length and would encapsulate the events described in Daniel 11:32-40.

Unless this series of events is properly understood, the two passages shown above - Matthew 24:21 and Daniel 12:1 - seem to create many difficulties in interpretation.  How so?

Consider the Preterist position that everything in Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the first century destruction of Jerusalem. They believe that those events were the 'great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, OR EVER SHALL BE'.  But this is incredibly difficult to imagine.  Although the tribulation which befell the Jewish nation in 70 AD was horrific beyond description, was that atrocity the GREATEST tribulation to befall the Jewish nation since that time?  Many have pointed out that an estimated SEVEN MILLION Jews perished in the holocaust of World War 2, while roughly 1.1 million Jews perished in the 70 AD siege of Jerusalem.  How then can it be said that the siege of Jerusalem in 70AD was the greatest time of trouble ever to befall the Jewish people? It seems that the only answer to this dilemma is for the Preterists to assert that the events of 70 AD were the greatest ever tribulation upon the Jewish nation because their interpretation demands it; even though this seems contrary to sense and reason, not to mention history itself.

The Futurist position runs into difficulty as well.  Many futurist authors cannot reasonably deny that Jesus' words in Matthew 24 at least had some application to the events of 70 AD.  When pressed, many are forced to admit that the words admit of a 'dual fulfillment' - that they were fulfilled in some sense upon the Jewish nation of the first century, but that they would have a final and greater fulfillment at the end of this age.

But this raises a serious question; can there be TWO periods of time of which both could be called 'great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, OR EVER SHALL BE'?  Although some attempt to get around this question by suggesting that the phrase is 'hyperbolic' or 'parabolic' and that the language should not be pressed too far, such a solution is, in my view, highly suspicious.

I suggest however that there is no difficulty once one understands the relationship between Matthew 24 and the material in Daniel 11-12, as well as the sequence of events described above.  Notice:

Mat 24:15-21 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (16) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: (17) Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: (18) Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. (19) And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! (20) But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: (21) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

This passage shows us that the 'great tribulation' would begin with the placing of the 'abomination of desolation'.  As we have pointed out numerous times, this is an obvious reference to Daniel 11:31.  Jesus describes this tribulation as the greatest time of trouble which has ever befallen the Jewish nation (or any nation), and that there will never again be a tribulation of such magnitude.

There appears to be some confusion when we consider the parallel in Daniel 11 and 12 because while the 'abomination of desolation is mentioned in Daniel 11:31, the 'time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation' is not mentioned until some fifteen verses later in Daniel 12:1.  In other words, it seems as though Matthew 24 places the greatest 'time of trouble since ever there was a nation' at the beginning of the 'great tribulation' whereas Daniel places this 'time of trouble' near the end immediately before the second coming.

Jesus' words in Matthew 24 - 'for THEN (after the placing of the abomination of desolation) there shall be great tribulation' - indicate the time of trouble began with the first century destruction of Jerusalem.  However Daniel 12 suggests that the 'time of trouble' arises as a result of the final military campaigns of the 'kings of the north and south' described in verses 11:40-45.

But this difficulty arises only from a misunderstanding of what the 'great tribulation' is.  As we have seen, this 'tribulation' is not some brief period of time either in the first century or at the end of the age, but encapsulates all the woes upon the Jewish nation which would transpire between the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and our Lord's return.  And in fact no NATION has been more persecuted or has suffered such troubles as has the Jewish nation during that period. There is no trouble at all once we realize that Jesus’ words about a ‘great tribulation ever since there was a nation nor ever shall' be encapsulates all of Daniel 11:32-12:1 right up until the consummation of the age.  There are not two 'great times of trouble since ever was there a nation nor ever shall be' - that would be impossible.  There is only one great time of trouble; however it is 'great' not only in the severity of its judgments, but also in its duration. Since Jesus' words in Matthew 24 concerning 'great tribulation' encapsulate all of Daniel 11:30-45 which are in fact only a more detailed description of this 'tribulation', and since, as we have seen, Luke 21 describes this tribulation as the days in which the Jewish people would fall by 'sword and captivity' UNTIL the times of the gentiles were completed, there is no difficulty or contradiction.

The fact that these descriptions of 'great tribulation' seem to 'bookend' the period as a whole may however suggest that an event of the magnitude of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD may in fact lie in the future just before Jesus returns.  But we must stress our conviction that these would not constitute two 'great times of trouble' but are in fact only two parts of the tribulation which began in the first century but may perhaps conclude with some great catastrophe which is yet to befall the Jewish nation. We will consider this point in more detail later in the section entitled 'The Last Mention'.

‘THIS GENERATION’ 

(Mat 24:34)  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 

Some verses in the Bible seem to give rise to more questions than answers.  One such verse is Matthew 24:34.  After answering the disciples' question about the temple and the desolation of Jerusalem, and after describing in vivid language his coming with power and glory, Jesus tells them that 'This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.'  What did Jesus mean when he spoke this - that 'this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled'?  Concerning these words the Preterist author James Stuart Russell wrote:

"Words have no meaning if this language, uttered on so solemn an occasion, and so precise and express in its import, does not affirm the near approach of the great event which occupies the whole discourse of our Lord."

Of course, by this Stuart means that the words of Jesus that 'this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled' meant that Jesus would absolutely return within the lifetime of some of those to whom he spoke.  If such is not the meaning of these words, then to James Stuart Russell the words have no meaning at all.
 
I find it curious however that a Preterist such as James Stuart Russell, or any who attempt to apply the Preterist hermeneutic can make such a statement and expect to be taken seriously.  Within the same context in which our Lord spoke these words he also described in  unambiguous language his visible and personal second coming - language which the Preterists refuse to take at face value.  As noted, Preterists spiritualize vast amounts of scripture with the greatest latitude and variation of meaning even amongst themselves.

In illustration, consider what this same author has to say when commenting on the words of the apostle Paul in First Corinthians 15:26, that 'the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death'.  Keep in mind that to James Stuart Russell ALL prophecy, including this promise from the apostolic pen, has already found its fulfillment in the events of 70 AD Stuart writes:

But what shall we say of the destruction of ‘the last enemy, death?’ Is is not fatal to this interpretation that it requires us to place the abolition of the dominion of death, and the resurrection, in the past, and not the future? Does not this contradict fact and common sense, and consequently expose the fallacy of the whole explanation? Of course, if the language of the apostle can only mean that at the Parousia the dominion of death over all men was everywhere and for ever brought to an end, it follows either that he was in error in making such an assertion, or that the interpretation which makes him say so is an erroneous one. That he does affirm that at the Parousia (the time of which is incontrovertibly defend in the New Testament as contemporaneous with the destruction of Jerusalem) death will be destroyed, is what no one can with any fairness deny; but it does not follow that we are to understand that expression in an absolutely unlimited and universal sense. (emphasis mine)

The 'short version' of what is here stated is that James Russell has already decided that the scriptures undeniably teach that Jesus' second advent occurred in 70 AD, therefore the words of the Apostle Paul cannot be taken in their literal and most obvious sense.  Words fail me when confronted with 'logic' such as this: that one who proclaims that death itself has been destroyed, has the audacity to protest when one might suggest that our Lord's words concerning 'this generation' in Matthew 24:35 might have broader meaning than they themselves allow.

Within the Preterist system, it would seem as though only the scriptural time texts are immune from such 'spiritualizing'  But are the Preterists themselves even consistent when it comes to the scriptural time texts? Consider the following quote from Preteristarchive.com which can be found in their 'Questions and Answers' section:

In my opinion, the "three and a half years" / "forty-two months" / "one thousand two hundred and sixty days" / "time, times and half a time" (and the implied "half week" in Dan. 9:27) are symbols of a time of trouble or distress. They are "broken sevens," as others have put it. The expressions occur in "apocalyptic" contexts. (Dan. 7,9; Rev. 11,12,13) (emphasis mine)

The scriptural time expressions quoted by this author appear frequently within the Biblical prophetic material, and their repetition should alert us to their great importance.  Notice though how this author spiritualizes even these terms to make them simply 'broken sevens' instead of giving these 'time texts' (which I might add are much more specific than 'this generation') their literal meaning!

While it is not my intent to rail against the Preterist position, I feel that it's extremely important for believers to see that those who would tell us that we err if we do not believe with them that Jesus promised his second advent within forty years of when he spoke of 'this generation', are themselves wholly inconsistent in their interpretation of scripture. Which is right; To accept a system of interpretation which is so blatantly inconsistent in order that the time texts such as 'this generation' - and SEEMINGLY THEY ALONE  - CAN BE TAKEN AT FACE VALUE, or to commit that we will accept NO interpretation except one that can reasonably harmonize ALL the scriptural evidence?

What is the true meaning of 'this generation' in Matthew 24:35?  Preterists say that it is unquestionably the generation to which Jesus spoke these words.  Many Futurists tell us that it is the generation which saw the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948.  Jehovah's Witnesses tell us that it is the generation which witnessed the events of 1914. Are any of these correct?

Before answering that question consider our Lord's words which he spoke almost immediately after he spoke of 'this generation':

Mat 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

It seems incredibly strange that Jesus would first absolutely fix the time of his return within a mere 40 years duration, then mention this fact that he had no personal knowledge regarding that 'day and hour'.

Now some would say that Jesus knew his second coming would be close - within that generation - but could not specify exactly when within that generation he would return.  But consider the words of Peter:

2Pe 3:3-8 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, (4) And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. ...(8) But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Peter here admits the possibility that Jesus' return may be far off.  His point here is that any delay in Jesus' return should not make us doubt the fact that he will return, regardless of how long that time is, whether a day or even a thousand years or more.

But why would Peter employ an argument such as this if he had understood Jesus as meaning that he would return within only 40 years.  Would it not have been much more effective to silence the scoffers in that way; to make known that Jesus' return would absolutely occur within the lifetime of some to whom he wrote? Why prepare them for an interval of perhaps thousands of years if it was already widely understood that such a thing could not be possible?

All of this should alert us to the fact that there may be more in Jesus' words about 'this generation' than meets the eye.

Mat 23:34-39 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (35) That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (36) Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (38) Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (39) For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

These are the words from our Lord leading up to the discourse in Matthew 24 concerning the desolation of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem.  Notice that we find here the same parallel thoughts which we find in that discourse.  That the temple would be left 'desolate', and that all the judgments mentioned 'shall come upon this generation'.

Did Jesus here mean specifically that the foretold desolations would be upon only those of the literal generation to which these words were spoken?  The text here seems to imply a much broader application; that the prophesied desolation would come upon the nation as a whole UNTIL a certain condition was met - namely that they would recognize Jesus as their Messiah and welcome him proclaiming 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'.   Does 'this generation' in this context mean that these desolations would apply only to those who would live within forty years of this prophecy, or do they not imply that 'this generation' means the whole of the unbelieving nation upon whom these desolations would fall?  In other words, in this context, is 'this generation'  mainly a 'time text', or may it not perhaps be more likely to be understood as meaning that the Jewish people as a nation would remain in a state of evil unbelief and experience the prophesied desolations UNTIL they learned to say 'blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'?

Look carefully at how Jesus addresses the Jewish national leaders:

Mat 23:34-36 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (35) That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (36) Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

Is it literally true, in the strictest sense, that those to whom Jesus spoke are the ones who killed 'Zacharias son of Barachias'?  No!  But it is 'this generation' to whom Jesus attributes these things.  This shows us that Jesus had more in mind than a period of forty years when he spoke of 'this generation'. 'This generation' clearly refers to those who reject and persecute God's true messengers, and ultimately Jesus himself as their messiah. But 'this generation' was by no means limited to a brief time period of forty years either before Jesus' ministry to the Jewish nation as is shown here, or after the destruction of the city in 70 AD as is borne out by history. 'THIS GENERATION' as shown in Matthew 23:36 would last until the Jewish people were purged from their unbelief and learned to say 'blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'.

We also considered earlier Jesus' words from Luke2:24:

Luk 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

Notice here how the same thought is brought to mind - that the prophesied desolations would continue upon the Jewish people UNTIL a certain time.  In Luke 21:32 we find the parallel of Matthew 24:34, that 'this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled'.  Brothers and sisters, if we are to understand Jesus' words here that ALL of what he spoke concerning the desolation of Jerusalem was finished by 70 AD, then we must conclude that by that time the Jewish people stopped falling by 'sword, flame and captivity', and that the treading down of Jerusalem then stopped. But how can we possibly believe these things?  The bitter persecution of the Jewish people, and the desolation of their city at the hands of the gentiles in no way can be limited to the desolations of 70 AD, and in fact continues even now.  Does not this sole fact alone demand that 'this generation' in this context cannot possibly mean 'those who would live to within forty years of when these words were spoken'?  On the contrary, doesn't it seem reasonable that the true meaning of these words is that the Jewish people would continue as an unbelieving evil 'generation' and experience the prophesied desolations and persecutions right up until the second coming?

Notice then the absolute absurdity of the Preterist position when they attempt to assert that we 'make Jesus a liar' if we refuse to believe that he returned within the lifetime of some of his disciples.  Don't they themselves make Jesus a liar since the treading down of Jerusalem did not end in 70 AD?  Didn't Jesus say that Jerusalem would be trodden down UNTIL the times of the gentiles were finished?  Since Preterists assert that all these things actually were finished in 70 AD, and since history makes obvious that Jerusalem has continued to be trodden down for centuries, then aren't the Preterists doing just what they accuse others of doing?

The Preterist position presses the language of Matthew 24:34 and believes that since in their interpretation everything must be completed by 70 AD, then it was, all evidence notwithstanding.  They must imagine, as they do elsewhere that the treading down of Jerusalem must have ceased in some sort of 'spiritual' way.  But this is simply a convenient 'ad hoc' way of getting around any scripture that seems to disturb their theory.  One cannot pretend that somehow Jesus suddenly shifted focus to some spiritual heavenly Jerusalem when he said that 'Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the gentiles till the times of the gentiles be fulfilled'.

But if the Preterists feel that their logic is acceptable, then why isn't it just as acceptable to reason the opposite; namely that since it is obvious that the treading down of Jerusalem has not ceased, and since the Jewish people remained the victims of 'sword, flame, and captivity' for centuries following 70 AD, that this then proves that Jesus has something more far reaching than 40 years in mind when he spoke of 'this generation'?

Rom 11:25-27 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (26) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (27) For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Here we see the same thought.  Paul is obviously commenting upon Jesus words' that the Jews would remain desolate and unbelieving until the 'times of the gentiles' were complete.  Paul tells us that Israel's blindness (their unbelief in Jesus as their promised Messiah) will continue UNTIL the 'fullness of the gentiles are come in'.

Notice:

'You shall not see me again UNTIL you say 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'...

'Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles UNTIL the times of the gentiles are complete'...

'Blindness in part has happened to Israel UNTIL the fullness of the gentiles be come in'...

Now friends, if EVERYTHING in Matthew 24 was fulfilled within 40 years of the time Jesus spoke the words concerning 'this generation' and if we are to understand them as such, then of necessity, ALL of the above conditions would have to have been fulfilled by 70 AD.  But notice how impossible this is.  The horizon to which all these passages point is not the destruction of the Jewish nation, but its conversion immediately preceding or at the second advent.

The events of 70 AD did not mark the end of the foretold period of desolation; on the contrary they marked only the beginning.  These verses all carry the same thought; that there would be no great change in the Jewish nation - that the unbelieving generation and the desolations decreed upon it would continue UNTIL the Jews are CONVERTED at the second coming. 'THIS GENERATION' - this evil generation of unbelief will not pass away or cease UNTIL all things are fulfilled - UNTIL they say 'blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord', UNTIL the times of the Gentiles are FINISHED, UNTIL the FULLNESS of the gentiles are come in.  Those events must be fulfilled before THAT UNBELIEVING DESOLATE GENERATION PASSES AWAY.

Luk 23:28-31 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. (29) For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. (30) Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. (31) For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

Notice here that Jesus foretells that the calamities which were to fall upon the Jewish nation were to affect not only those to whom he was immediately speaking, but their children as well.  Should we press this language to mean that only those TWO literal 'generations' are in view here?  Obviously not.  The calamities upon the nation have affected every generation of Jewish people since the Romans razed the city in the first century.  The children of the 'Daughters of Jerusalem' feel the weight of these words to this day.

Mat 27:24-25 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. (25) Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

We note the excellent comments of Albert Barnes:

His blood be on us ... - That is, let the guilt of putting him to death, if there be any, be on us and our children. We will be answerable for it, and will consent to bear the punishment for it. It is remarked by writers that, among the Athenians, if anyone accused another of a capital crime, he devoted himself and children to the same punishment if the accused was afterward found innocent. So in all countries the conduct of the parent involves the children in the consequences of his conduct. The Jews had no right to call down this vengeance on their children, but, in the righteous judgment of God, it has come upon them. In less than forty years their city and temple were overthrown and destroyed. More than a million of people perished in the siege. Thousands died by famine; thousands by disease; thousands by the sword; and their blood ran down the streets like water, so that, Josephus says, it extinguished things that were burning in the city. Thousands were crucified suffering the same punishment that they had inflicted on the Messiah. So great was the number of those who were crucified, that, Josephus says, they were obliged to cease from it, “room being wanted for the crosses, and crosses for the men.” See the notes at Matt. 24. To this day, also, the curse has remained. They have been a nation scattered and peeled; persecuted almost everywhere, and a hissing and a byword among people. No single nation, probably, has suffered so much; and yet they have been preserved. All classes of people, all the governments of the earth, have conspired to overwhelm them with calamity, and yet they still live as monuments of the justice of God, and as proofs, going down from age to age, that the Christian religion is true - standing demonstrations of the crime of their fathers in putting the Messiah to death, and in calling down vengeance on their heads.

Barnes correctly notes that the woes of the Jewish People only began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD but have continued for the last twenty centuries.  But the scriptures are absolutely clear that these horrible calamities have a horizon in view - that the 'blindness' which Israel is experiencing will end; that the 'treading down of the holy city' will cease; that the Jews will one day no longer be the objects of bitter persecution in which they fall by 'flame, sword, and captivity'; that one day they will say of their Messiah 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'  But as surely as this horizon is in view, equally clear is that fact that for now these calamities continue upon the generation about whom Jesus spoke - the unbelieving Jews who to this day reject their king and Messiah.

Commenting on 'this generation in Matthew 24 Anthony Buzzard points out how this phrase can indeed characterize a society who shares an evil trait such as unbelief:

Some will ask: Why did Jesus say that "this generation will not pass before all these things come to pass" (Matt. 24:34)? He was clearly referring to all the great events of Matthew 24 including his arrival in power and glory. Did these events happen within 40 years of his giving the prediction? Clearly not.

...For the meaning "age" for "generation," see Luke 16:8: "The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own 'generation' than the sons of light." "Generation" here means a type of society characterized by evil qualities. This sort of society will last until the Kingdom comes. See also Proverbs 11:11-14 where "kind" translates the same word "generation." For the same meaning for "generation," as a group of people characterized by a single quality, usually wicked but sometimes righteous, see Psalm 22:30 and 24:1-6. "Generation" in Matthew 24:34 does not mean "race," nor does it refer to some future period of 40 or 70 years. (emphasis mine)

In this we see that the Jews as a nation will share the same evil trait - rejection of Jesus as their Messiah - right up until the end of the current age.  In this we have a satisfactory and scriptural understanding of what Jesus meant by 'this generation' in Matthew 24:34.  'This generation' represents not only those who were living when these words were spoken, but the whole of the unbelieving Jewish society which would continue until our Lord comes again in power and glory.

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