Matthew 24:1-14 Part 2

We now have the opportunity to see briefly into the mind of Christ as He speaks to His disciples concerning the things which are shortly to come to pass – in this generation!

As we hear and understand what all our Lord has done in order to establish the Church, and in order that we Gentiles might be saved, there is really no other reaction possible than for us to be full of awe and humility; because we who were once afar off are made near by the grace of God.  We who once were dead in sin and in bondage to our depravity are now chosen and adopted and grafted into a covenant that wasn’t ours!

On that stalk, before we were given to be there, was a great nation.  One that God had taken unto Himself as His Own Son; one whom He loved dearly as a beloved wife; one to whom He manifested His glory and revealed His perfections … one to whom He made a covenant promise to give them life and every good thing if they but humbled themselves before Him and obeyed Him; but one to whom He also promised to be their destroyer if they didn’t.

That nation, which was His joy and delight, was cut off of that covenant in order that we, the Church (and beyond that – the nations of the earth), might be the undeserving recipients of His tender mercies through Jesus Christ our Lord.  The termination of that covenant relationship is described in God’s Word as being catastrophic for the whole world.  In all of history nothing like it had happened before or since.

So as we look at Jesus’ words concerning the things that are to happen toward that end, we realize that it was all for us….  For the body of Christ – the Church – which will glorify Him ultimately … everlastingly.  This is the Gospel; and we are to praise and glorify God our Father for so great salvation!  We are undeserving recipients!

If the Church believed these things, wouldn’t we have the biggest upswing in optimistic Theology and preaching!  The whole Church would be humiliated before God, and we would have that national repentance we pray for each Lord’s Day!

Now, let me say a few things about Biblical language – especially “prophetic” language.  We haven’t discussed this in a while, and it’s very important that we come back to it now.  We continue to have a little difficulty with it, so we go back through it from time to time.

And, first, remember that God didn’t read something, or look at something already in existence, as a “pattern” when He created everything.  There was no pattern or “idea book.”  He is the Creator from Whom all things originated!  Therefore His creation is “analogous” to its Creator – it corresponds to Him – and all things reflect His glory as an image.

Nothing in His creation actually participates in His divine essence, but it “images” Him.  I think probably the essential sin against God in the second Commandment has to do with the fact that all things image God as Creator.  And for man to take it upon himself to create an image, he likens himself to be “god”!  But all “being,” all character, all personhood, all personality originates in God; therefore the central value of any thing is that it “reflects” the nature and person and being and glory of God.

The universe itself reflects the glory of God for example.  It is analogous of Him.  The universe doesn’t participate in the essence of God, therefore it is not God; but it reflects the being of God!  And within that universe it was instructed of man to build a hand-made, man-made, universe; so the temple was built.  It was an analogy within an analogy, an image within an image!  (The temple may still be a mystery to some, and we will need to spend more time on it.)

But God is especially revealed in His Words.  The Word of God is also in analogies, since the entire universe reflects His glory.  Therefore we should expect His Word, in His universe, to also reflect His image.  After all, His Word is “self-declaration!”

For example, the word “Father.”  All through His Word God reveals Himself in that way.  Now, a man who sires a son, or daughter, is a father.  But essentially the word “father” applies first to God – the then to man.  “Father” didn’t originate with man; the essence of “father” begins in God.  The man who sires a son “images” God, Who is Father.  He is analogous to God, and thereby, in many ways, reflects God’s “fatherhood.”

But we don’t participate in the divine “essence” by fathering a child, do we?  We don’t become “God” by the act of siring a son.  The analogy isn’t a “complete” one, is it? No Biblical analogy is.

The analogy is also true of marriage.  God has revealed the marriage covenant as analogous to the covenant He made with His people.  But marriage isn’t a sacrament by which we become gods and participate in the divine essence.  Marriage between a man and a woman is “analogous” of, and thereby reflects in many ways, God and His essential being.

Now, the whole of life is this way!  The entire creation is analogous to God.  He is the Source of all things, and all being and existence and life flow from Him and image Him as the Creator.  His is the essential being, and all else is analogous.  It corresponds to Him.  (And that’s why it’s so absurd, when you think about it, that creature should rebel against the Creator!)

Now, since all of creation and all of life is analogous to God, His Word is also given and received in analogy.  Anything else would be unspeakable and non-understandable!  From the beginning, God’s Word is spoken by way of analogy!  And all things in Scripture are spoken by God by way of Himself as primary source of all things and all life.

Where men have their greatest difficulty in reading and interpreting Scripture is in focusing on man’s being and man’s history and man’s thought – rather than on God as originator and Creator of all things!  So the focus is on the “image” or on the “analogy” rather than on the Creator where it ought to be.  We, living images of God our Father, ought to have our eyes and our hearts upon Him … rather than on ourselves!

But from the beginning the Scriptures are written with God being “primary” – the source of all things – and man and history and life being analogous to Him.  And the words and concepts are revealed in history in a fluid flow of Biblical literature – not in facts and figures and stereotyped language.  There’s no “code” in Scripture that a CIA analyst could work out with a sophisticated computer.

Now – there is a style of interpretation and preaching and teaching which is truly antagonistic to God’s revelation.  It is seeing everything in “events.”  Most use the Scriptures in this way because it’s easier.  Conservative ministers and teachers say that Scripture is inspired, inerrant Revelation, but they treat it only as a record of Revelation rather than Revelation itself!  And they use the “events” of the Bible, or the “sayings” of the Bible to teach stories.  (And, of course, the next step then is to explore what this might mean to me … rather than exploring what it means!)

But the good teacher of the Bible will see it as a whole, not as a series of stories, and will strive to understand its imagery as God reveals Himself in history – in prose and poetry and satire and allegory and every other literary device!  The Bible is a delight to children who begin to understand God’s “analogical” revelation: light and darkness, water and land, sky and clouds, mountains and valleys and gardens, beasts and dragons, gold and jewels, cherubs and flaming swords!  Images!

A powerful example to use here to illustrate the imagery of Scripture is the picture of Jesus Christ on a white horse – with a bow.  Some would just tell the story and come up with some “moral” lesson of some kind, I suppose; but what is the imagery?  Where did Jesus get a bow?  And what is it?  By way of analogy, what did God reveal about the Christ?  He’s revealed in the Psalms and the prophets with a bow!  And in the Revelation of St. John (chapter six.).

Very quickly, just to stimulate your thinking about that, we see in the Revelation of the Glory/cloud – Throne/room of God (to the prophet Ezekiel), God was sitting above the firmament of His universe/Creation, and over His head was a bow!  And as a Covenant sign, God placed a bow in the sky after the flood!  So, as you can see, the analogy/imagery of the bow flows throughout the history of the Revelation of God – from Genesis to the Revelation!  And a vision of Christ with a bow in His hand is to be seen in that light!  It isn’t a “story” to be told (and then some moral application to be made), but a Revelation of the God-man to be interpreted in the light of all the rest of God’s self-declaration!  There’s the value to the believer!

And to be faithful to the system of doctrine in the Scriptures, all of the Bible must be interpreted the same way!  And whether it fits anyone else’s notion of “plainness” is beside the point.  God’s Word is “plain” only when it’s read and interpreted in its own light; for God is the originator of all things, and all else is analogous.  Everything else corresponds to Him!

So now, moving to the more “prophetic” portions of Scripture (such as our text), we find revealed language, the roots of which are in history.  And the understanding of the text ought to be the same today as it was when it was written.  And, (if I might use a Biblical analogy), when that’s the case, the glorious, objective Truth of God will come down like dew upon opening leaves (which is an analogy of the Revelation of God and the rebirth of man).

The analogy of Scripture is set in contemporary, historic times.  Therefore the language used is the declarative Revelation of God in history.  And none of it is to be removed from that history.

So when Jesus speaks to His disciples concerning the great events which would shortly come to pass (the most catastrophic events in all of history), He speaks in definitive language that is used consistently in God’s Revelation with regard to those events!  It is His Own language.  It is His Own Self-declaration.  Why would He change it?

It is contemporary language; it is corresponding imagery; and it is all directly out of God’s Revelation in the Old Testament!  We have no right whatever to see and use God’s Word any other way!

Now.  Back to the text.  Jesus has just spoken to His disciples concerning the destruction of the temple.  As of Friday it was obsolete.  And it would soon be burned and leveled.

Jesus and His disciples then continue to leave the temple complex and the city of Jerusalem; and they go back the way they came – up to the Mount of Olives.  Apparently the disciples leave Jesus to Himself; and He is sitting somewhere up on top of the hill alone.  And without any of the crowds of people around, they approach Him privately (verse three).

And they don’t ask Him a question; but they say to Him, “Tell us when these things shall be and what shall be the sign of Your coming and consummation of the age.”  Several things about what they said:  first, this is not an interrogative; nor is it a declarative statement (although there is an element of declaration in it … that they realize now that there are some big things happening; but it is an imperative statement.  And an imperative carries with it something of a command.  They are requiring Jesus to tell them something about what’s happening here.

Up until recently the disciples were still anticipating Jesus’ ascension to the throne of David and their being made important people in His administration.  But now they suspect that that’s not the way it’s going to be at all!  So, unsure and unsettled about it, they privately approach Jesus to require some clarification.

Something else that’s interesting about their statement is “these things.”  Tell us when “these things” shall be!  They’ve heard some things about the coming judgment on the Pharisees and destruction of the temple.  And it’s possible that they’ve put two and two together concerning the nation and the city of Jerusalem.

And also notice that the “coming” of Jesus and consummation of the age are not two separate events in their minds.  The two are linked inseparably.  They do not say “the sign of your coming and the (sign of) consummation of the age.  The “sign” refers to Jesus’ coming and consummation!  It’s one event!

Now, the words that are used here, as usual, are extremely significant.  Take the word “sign” here in verse three.  A “sign” has to do with an object or an event which happens which makes possible a specific insight.  So what they’re asking is, what event or series of events gives evidence of, or marks, Jesus’ “coming” and consummation of the age?  In other words, how will they know the time is approaching?  What will be the evidence of it?  They want confirmation and evidence.

And at issue is the “coming” of Jesus.  That word “coming” is probably the best word to use as a translation, but it certainly doesn’t say all that needs to be said.  The Greek word is parousia.  Remember it.  And since it has been translated the way it has in the King James, dispensationalists and fundamentalists have read it to mean the “second coming of Christ.”

But when one “comes” from some place or another to here, a different word is always used.  What the word” parousia” actually means is “active presence” – accompanied by all subject powers being set in motion!  A “visitation of a king” in the strongest sense of the term.

The word never intimates a “return,” and there’s no mention here of a “parousia” of Christ in the flesh.  Parousia is always with the clouds of heaven and with the holy angels!  And the active presence of God with the clouds of heaven is always judgmental in nature!  It is the Glory cloud/Throne-room depicted by the “clouds of heaven”; and each and every time there appears the Glory cloud, such as upon Mt. Sinai, it is with loud noises, shaking, and the fire of judgment!

Now, all these things are very clearly seen … so much so that Scripture treats the parousia as a highly visible presence of Christ Himself!  In the Gospel of Mark, chapter fourteen and verse sixty-two, Jesus is asked by the High priest of Israel whether He is the Christ, Son of the blessed One.  And Jesus answered:  “I Am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven.”

Parousia … coming, visitation, active presence.  The Day of The Lord.  His active presence in the Glory Cloud … highly visible in judgment, with all the sound and shaking and fire associated with the Glory cloud.

And the entire post-resurrection Church hoped and waited for the imminent parousia of Christ in Messianic Glory!  Because the termination of the old covenant and the judgment of the nation of Israel was for the ultimate glory of Christ and His Church.  As Paul says in Romans chapter eleven, their “loss” redounds to the riches of the world!

And the Revelation of St. John itself anticipates a very imminent parousia of Christ.  In the very first verse of the book, this is what it says:  “A Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to show to his servants the things which it is necessary to occur ‘en taxei’” – in speed (literally)!

 And verse three says, “blessed the one reading and the ones hearing the words of the prophecy and who are keeping the things written in it, for (kairos eggus) the time is near!”

And then the next to the last verse of the Revelation says, “The One witnessing these things says: ‘Yes, I Am coming quickly.’ Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!”

So, the Day of the Lord/Parousia/visitation of Christ in Messianic Power is a highly anticipated (by the Church), imminent judgmental event … the evidence, or “sign” of which is being requested here by Jesus’ disciples!

They want to know what the evidence is – they want to hear from Jesus what the sign is of His parousia.  They want to know when “judgment day” is – the consummation of the age.

We don’t have enough time to do all we need to do with that, so let me just say, in closing, that these very same disciples, during the next forty years of establishing the Church in all the nations of the earth, would write and preach many times with respect to perseverance.  Perseverance in the face of upheaval likened unto the flood in Noah’s time.

The apostles of Christ would plead and urge holiness among the Lord’s people as Messiah’s appearance (parousia) would bring massive Decreation to heaven and earth.  Massive, earth-shattering things were about to take place!  And the Church was going through great tribulation and persecution – both from Jews and from the Roman government.  But from it all, for those who persevered in the faith, would emerge the glorious, perfected body of Christ – the Church.