Was Matthew 24 Fulfilled at the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70?

Question:  I had an interesting conversation with someone last week who said this passage in Matthew 24 was about the fall of Jerusalem not the rapture or end times. What do you think?

1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 15 So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29 Immediately after the distress of those days  ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 30 At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that itd is near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generatione will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Answer:  It is a common hallmark of Biblical prophecy that there is an ultimate fulfillment of kingdom prophecies that nevertheless have multiple in-between fulfillments that are less than the ultimate fulfillment.  For example, God told the serpent that He would put enmity between the serpent and the woman and between her seed and his seed, and that the serpent would bruise the seed of the woman’s heel but the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).  We are almost immediately given an example of that in Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.  The apostle John, writing about this many centuries later, says Cain “belonged to the evil one” (1 John 3:12), an apparent reference to his being the seed of the serpent.  Many other attempts are made by the serpent (Satan) to destroy the godly seed (Joseph’s brothers selling him into captivity, Pharoah trying to have all boys born to Israelites killed, Baalam’s attempt to curse Israel, etc.) but in each case the godly seed survives and gains a victory over the ungodly.  However, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is found in Jesus, whom Satan manages to kill but whom God resurrects and who will come eventually to destroy Satan and all those who follow him.

In the same way, this prophecy in Matthew 24 has a near fulfillment and even some subsequent fulfillments (the attempted extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany), but the ultimate fulfillment is still waiting.  Yes, many of the features of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 fit Jesus’ description, but many do not.  Most obviously is the fact that Jesus did not come back in the clouds in a way that is obvious to all.  We are still looking for this coming so we should still expect these predictions to be fulfilled in the most literal and complete way.

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Are We Making Too Much of an Obscure Reference to the Rapture?

Questions:

  1. Where does the idea of the RAPTURE come into Christian philosophy when it is not located in Revelation by which we place so much of the final times idea, but mentioned only once in Paul’s letters, 1st Thessalonians?
  2. I was doing some research and it I came up with something interesting. Apocalyptic literature was very popular and important during the times of John. It was used to “reveal” why and what was going on in the world symbolically at the time. Why then, do we take Apocalyptic literature and make it a prophecy?
  3. If the Christians are raptured, then who is going to be left to fight in the final battle?
  4. If the Christians are raptured away, then when Christ returns and remakes and rules over the Earthly Kingdom, then who gets to live there?
  5. When does the term antichrist come into Christian ideology when it is not used but 5 times in the Bible and not in Daniel or Revelation, but used more in Paul’s letters. When Paul uses this term, it seems to be used as doing things or ideas, that are not in the likeness of Christ, not necessarily a person. Paul says, for instance, that Christian communities that do not believe that Christ was flesh and blood are antichrist.

Answers:

  1. The word comes from the Latin translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (“caught up”) and describes the giving of resurrection bodies to those believers who are still alive at the coming of Christ.  Instead of their bodies being “raised” from the dead and made new like Christ’s, they are simply made new without going through death and made to ascend to where Christ is.  There is no reason to believe that Revelation is or should be the only New Testament book that addresses issues of eschatology (last things).  And there needs be mention only once for a concept to garner attention in Scripture.  Admittedly, this passage is one that is highly debated, not with regard to whether there will be a rapture but as to when it will occur.  Some believe it will occur prior to God’s outpouring of wrath (see Revelation 6-19) on earth and others that it will occur after that at the coming of Christ to earth to establish his kingdom.  The former believe that Jesus only comes in the air in a way that is not evident to all the world, takes up the dead in Christ and those still alive at his coming, keeps them in heaven until the wrath is finished, then comes to earth with them to establish the kingdom.  The latter believe he concludes the wrath with his coming, resurrecting and rapturing the saints, meeting them in the air and then immediately coming all the way down to earth to establish his kingdom.
  2. Though Christian writings follow commonly used forms of communication (letters, histories, apocalyptic) this does not mean they are slaves to the form and cannot in any way add something new to it.  The Gospels do not follow any form of that day exactly.  Paul’s letters take the letter form to a new level.  John’s apocalyptic form does not have to limit itself to speaking to present conditions only, especially when we consider that he knows the God of the universe who is and has been quite willing to tell the end from the beginning and who is concerned to warn us of the coming wrath so that we might flee to Jesus.
  3. Whichever view of the rapture you take (pre-outpouring of wrath, also called pre-tribulation rapture, or post-outpouring of wrath, post-tribulation rapture), it is those who belong to Jesus and have been resurrected or raptured who will help him fight the final battle (Revelation 19).
  4. The assumption in this question and the one before is that once you’ve been resurrected or raptured (the dead are resurrected, the living are raptured) then you go away somewhere.  But Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that you go to be with Jesus and if he comes back to earth we will be with him.  Now on the pre-tribulation rapture view, when Jesus comes back all the way to earth to fight the final battle and establish his kingdom, those who have been resurrected and raptured will come with him, but they will also find on earth others who have believed in Jesus since or during the tribulation (wrath).  Together, they will populate the kingdom, those who have resurrection bodies and those who don’t, but all believers in Jesus.  On the post-tribulation rapture view, only resurrected/raptured believers will populate the kingdom.  This seems to pose a bit of a problem if you take Revelation 20 as describing the literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, because at the end of it Satan is released and is able to mount an army of humans who rebel against Jesus.  Where do these unbelievers come from?  The pre-tribulation rapturists believe that those believers who enter the kingdom without resurrected bodies will have children, who will have children, etc., who do not believe.  They make up the army of rebels at the end of Christ’s perfect rule on earth.
  5. Paul never uses the term “antichrist” but rather “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, therefore not a thing or idea).  Daniel talks about “the ruler who will come” and “confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’”, who then breaks that covenant by desecrating the temple, setting “up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:25-27).  John uses the term “antichrist” in 1 John 2:18, for example, where he says, “as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come,” and he references those of the church he is writing to who have left the congregation to follow false teachers.  It is these false teachers who are the antichrists.  He remarks in 4:3 that “every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” and that “this is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”  Here it is the spirit of antichrist that John speaks of and this is indeed an idea or false idea that seeks to draw attention away from the true Jesus Christ.  But this does not mean that the “spirit of antichrist” is or can be separated from individuals.  It cannot.  And one day it will be embodied in a particular antichrist who is described in Revelation 13 as an individual empowered by Satan who seeks to deceive the world and convince them that he is to be worshiped.

Do We Believe There Can Never Be More Revelation From God?

Question:  I should know the answer to this already, but why do Christians think there can never be more revelation from God (as opposed to the Mormons, who are just fine with God revealing more ideas and are willing to give them equal weight to the Scriptures)?  I am assuming we base our idea on “do not add or take away from the Scriptures”.  Is that it?

Answer:  Not necessarily.  It is more, I think, that our experience has been that nothing anyone else has offered as prophetic or Scripture (since the apostles) has equaled the apostles’ work and it has been the church’s experience that everything we need we have found in the New Testament and Old Testament.  Or, as in the case with “scriptures” like the Latter Day Saints have produced, we have found them in contradiction to our Bible. 

We believe that God orchestrated getting into our canon (our accepted list of books) all that we needed for formulating our doctrinal understanding of the gospel and who God is.  We certainly respect the doctrinal traditions of the church and writings of other important church leaders, but we see them more as witnesses to the final authority of Scripture and guides to its interpretation.  Anything that claims to be Scripture must pass muster with the existing Scriptures, and none so far have passed that test.

This does not mean that there haven’t been and might still be revelations that speak to particular needs.  It is more doctrinal revelation that seems to have ceased or been made unnecessary.  We do not equate the other kinds of revelations with Scripture since they are more time bound or related only to one specific situation.

 The Revelation 22:18,19 warning seems related specifically to the book of Revelation, not the Scriptures generally.  You might note that the same kind of warning is given in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, and Scriptures have surely been added since then.