Matthew 24:1-14 Part 3

Jesus’ disciples come to Him privately as He is sitting alone on the Mount of Olives; and they require of Him evidence of His “parousia” and consummation of the age.  And what follows in the two chapters before us is commonly called the “Olivet Discourse.”

It is filled with contemporary concepts and words – taken right out of the Old Testament prophets; and it has to do with those things which must shortly come to pass – in this generation (i.e. Israel, 30 AD).

The context, in Jesus’ Own words in the former chapter, is the pursuit and persecution of the Church and its apostles by Judaizers; and the judgment of Israel for all the blood of the righteous from the beginning!  So however Jesus responds to the disciples’ desire for information, (i.e. whatever is about to happen), it will all take place in that context!  What’s the context?  Once more:  the persecution of the Church and the judgment of Israel!

The information that the disciples want (here in the last couple of days before the crucifixion and resurrection of the Son of God!) is the sign of His “parousia” and consummation of the age.  When will it be, and what is the sign?  What is the evidence?

The “parousia” (you remember from last Lord’s Day) is the active “presence” of the King, with all subject powers being set in motion around Him – 1) obedient subjects being rewarded, and 2) disobedient subjects being severely dealt with!  Salvation and judgment!

So the disciples want to know when Jesus is going to be “manifested” as King.  When will they “see” Him!  What is the evidence of His “presence!”  What’s going to happen!  How will they know that all these things are taking place!  What is the “sign” of His “parousia!”  (His active presence)

If you have read (or should you read) any of the material from dispensationalist “best-sellers,” you might understand the excitement of believing in Jesus’ “imminent” return!  Men like Hal Lindsey (Late Great Planet Earth); John Walvoord of Dallas Theological Seminary; Dwight Pentecost, the late dispensationalist evangelist; Harold Camping who has written extensively – setting date after date for the “coming” of Christ.  And then there is Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins who have written the “Left Behind” series.

The books are national best-sellers; the excitement is at a fever-pitch in millions of people who profess faith in Christ and anticipate His immediate return!  Since the constitution of the new Jewish state fifty-four years ago, the predominant American religious interest has been in prophetic fulfillment – not in faithful living, not in perseverance, but in the prospects of the return of Christ at any moment. 

This has provoked and stimulated and galvanized American fundamentalism.  They are a huge, animated movement which is intoxicated with the sensationalism and the mystery and the intrigue!  And pulpit after pulpit fans the flames every Sunday, as events occur around the world which can be placed in the arena of prophetic fulfillment:  the moral degeneracy of America, the war with Iraq, false prophets, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, plans to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and on and on.  (Almost anything that happens can be made to fit the scheme.)

But if we could empathize with them a little, and imagine the sensual excitement of believing with all one’s heart that the “signs” are occurring and that Jesus could burst upon the scene at any moment, we might could understand the impetuous curiosity of the disciples as they demand that Jesus tell them what to expect with regard to His “parousia” and consummation of the age.  Big things were happening, and they were full of “wonder” and awe and anticipation!

But remember two things.  The disciples were still not inspired, mature, skilled theologians (as they soon would become).  There was still much they didn’t know and couldn’t see!  They were excited by it all and curious and inquisitive.

And on the other hand, these twelve men (and their families and converts) were about to be placed in the epicenter of the “shaking” of heaven and earth!  And the principalities and powers of the air would focus all fury and wrath upon them as they followed the commands and directions of The Son of God.  So Jesus begins to respond to them concerning the “sign” of His “parousia” and consummation of the age.

Now, to this point we’ve still not said much about Jesus’ “consummation of the age.”  His “parousia” and consummation of the age occurs as one event.  They go together.  His active presence in salvation and judgment is identified with “consummation of the age.”  In other words the “coming” of the King of Kings to judge Israel and to save the world is one event with a two-fold purpose.  The termination of one is the beginning of another!  The Presence of Christ means the “completion” and “finality” of that which came before; and the “newness” of that which proceeds after!

You may have noticed in our Lord’s Day intercessory prayers that, as we praise and glorify God, we give Him thanks that our Lord Jesus Christ is Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet).  So He’s the first and the last.  I’ve also mentioned that He is Arche and Telos – beginning and end.  So He is First and Last; and Beginning and End.

Now the root word for “consummation” (as it appears in verse three of your printed text) is “telos” – end.  There is an element of “termination” included here, but there is also “fullness.”  For example, on December 31st of this year, 2005, will end.  At the end of that day the year will terminate.  But the year will always have been, and the year will have reached its “fullness” at that point.  All of the days and all of the hours and moments and events come to completion.  And the next day is the dawn of a new year.

Well, a much more serious “completion” – a much more profound “fullness” – a much grander “consummation” is meant here in the word “age!”

Translated “world” in the King James, it is the subject of much confusion to many.  But “world,” in the sense of the physical earth and universe and its time and way of operating, is “kosmos” in Greek.  And there’s another one altogether, which is the earth in particular.  But this word is “aeon,” which is completely different.

And the best way to get at it is to hear it used in the Scriptures and see what we can learn from it.  We’ve seen it once before in the text of Matthew – at chapter twelve and verses thirty-one and thirty-two.  This is what it says:  “Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.  But the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men.  And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it may be forgiven him.  But whosoever speaks against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him – neither in this age, nor in that which is about to be.”  So Jesus speaks of two “aeonos” – ages.  One of the present, and one “about to be” – aeon, as it appears here in our text.

And the apostle Paul, speaking to the “perfected ones,” the newborn babes in Corinth, says this in chapter two:  “…. We speak wisdom, although not of this age; neither of the heads of this age who are being rendered powerless; but we speak of a wisdom of God hidden in concealment, which God foreordained before the ages for our glorification….”

And as he writes the second letter to this Church, he says this in chapter four:  “… we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s Word; but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, in whom the god of this age blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving so as not to shine forth the enlightening of the Gospel of the glory of Christ….”

And, then, it is in Galatians and Ephesians we find the full concept of the “aeon.”  Listen first to Galatians chapter one as the apostle greets the church:  “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself on behalf of our sins so as to deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father….”

And then in Ephesians chapter one, Paul is extolling the excellencies of God Who has enlightened us, and Who, by His power (verse twenty) “has worked in Christ – raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right in the heavenlies – far above all rule and authority and power and lordship, and above every name being named, not only in this age, but also in the one about to be….”

So what we have, in the plain words of Scripture, are two “aeons,” or ages.  One which is defined by sin and depravity, and the blindness of the world, and the concealment of the hidden mysteries of God – all of which reaches its termination point in the Revelation of Christ and the annihilation of the old covenant nation of Israel.

The new age, on the other hand, is defined by the Revelation of the concealed mysteries of God in Jesus Christ, His express Image; the enlightenment of the Gospel to the world and the rebirth of the elect out of the old age; and the progressive establishment of the  Kingdom of Christ and its visible manifestation – the Church!

The old “age” was brought to an end in a mighty flood in which all the elements of that order were burned in searing heat. It was an end – a finishing (consummation).  The old heavens and earth were shaken and made desolate, and a new heaven and a new earth were created!  All that was old has passed away, and “behold, all; things are made new!”

The new age is the age of salvation in Christ!  The decisive blow was struck when Christ was crucified and was raised from death, and was seated at the right of His Father.  And through his apostles the Church was established in all the world – under horrible persecution as the rulers and powers of the old “aeon” struggled against the authority of Christ.

And the catastrophic consummation of the age came to pass in the Parousia of Christ, as He exacted the penalty upon Israel for all the blood of God’s righteous people from the beginning!

And now the mysteries of God, once concealed to an entire “aeon,” are revealed unto us in this “new age,” so that we might give glory to God through Jesus Christ, Who, by His great power, accomplished all these things for us – His people!  It is all revealed to us.  We have so much more than did His disciples that day on the Mount of Olives when they went to Jesus to require evidence from Him concerning His Parousia and consummation of the age.

They wanted to know what the sign was.

And they were to establish the Church and persevere in the faith in the most tumultuous and chaotic times in all of the history of the world!  God was bringing an “aeon” to an end, and these disciples and the remnant of Israel were the first-fruits of it all!  And they wanted to know what the sign was!

Doesn’t that make us seem weak and foolish and dull and devoid of wisdom – to have the full revelation of the mysteries of God in Christ Jesus the Lord, and still have all kinds of trouble persevering in the faith, and remaining stable in our little troubles, and worshipping in Truth, and being obedient, and raising our children in the Covenant, and preaching the Gospel to the nations!!!

Weak, sensitive, feminine Christians we are, who can’t seem to remain on track even though we have the plenary Revelation of the Gospel of Christ!  Weak men who have no discipline and no masculinity and no power – so unlike the disciples of Christ who underwent forty years of “hell on earth” as the principalities and powers of the old “aeon” wreaked havoc on them at every step of the way!

And they just wanted a “sign” of the Power of God and the coming salvation of Christ!  “Just tell us when these things shall be, and what shall be the sign of Your parousia and consummation of the age!”  (Little did they know what they were asking!!!)

And what does Jesus say to them first? (verse four)  “See, lest someone should deceive you….”  The sixth verse of Isaiah fifty-three says, “all we, like sheep, have gone astray….”  That’s not just some small, innocuous word – it’s the same word used here by Jesus – to “deceive.”  All are deceived, Isaiah says.

Jesus says to His disciples, “open your eyes and see.  And don’t allow anyone to cause you to vacillate and stagger and wander around like dumb animals.  Don’t be caused to turn aside.  Don’t be caused to err.  Watch, lest someone deceive you!

This word means “practical seduction.”  Those who, in practical matters, cause others to turn aside from the Truth are seducers and deceivers!  False teaching and false prophecy cause people to err.  But when we turn aside from the Truth and what is right, we become idolaters!

One Biblical example of the deceiver is one who teaches against, and rails against, the One God Who brings to pass whatsoever He wills!  In other words, one who teaches against election and predestination of a sovereign God is a false teacher who deceives!

Another example of the false prophet is one who causes others to rebel against authority.  It is practical seduction.  In the case of our text, Jesus says, open your eyes and behold!  “See, lest someone deceive you….”

“For many shall come upon My Name….” – that is, upon the credence or credibility of the Name of Jesus Christ.  “And they will say, I am Christ (God’s Anointed); and many will be deceived!”  Many will stagger and vacillate and be led astray like dumb sheep by anyone who makes a credible claim to the anointment of God!

And that’s exactly what happened!  After the resurrection of Jesus (and for the next forty years) there were many who made disciples for themselves by claiming the authority of anointment!  They were God’s Messiahs who would lead Israel back to glory!  But, keep your eyes open lest one of them deceive you, He says.

And, further, “you are about to hear wars (battles) and rumors of battles; see, lest you be terrified; for it is necessary to occur.  But it is not yet the end.”

In addition to the false prophets and false Christs, there will be chaotic unsettling in every place – starting right away.  In Judea and in Jerusalem gangs and cliques and parties and political groups will begin a reign of terror and violence as Jews become bitter enemies with Jews; and murders and lynchings and crucifixions occurred by the thousands as demonic violence flared even between families and in families.

Josephus tells of an instance in 67 AD when, in one rampage through the temple complex, ten thousand people were killed.  Rumors of fighting also came to the disciples’ ears from everywhere else in the civilized world, as the upheaval of the age came to begin.

But the disciples were not to be frightened by what they saw and heard.  God was doing it; it was not by accident; it was not without the Providence of God.  And it was necessary to occur, Jesus said.  Don’t be alarmed; don’t be terrified.  Meet it with courage.  It will spread like a flame, and you will be surrounded by calamity!

But it is not the end.  These things are truly distressing, frightening things.  But however terrifying they are, they are only preparations for greater calamities!  But be steadfast; and persevere.  Don’t be afraid.

The apostles of Christ, and the early Church, suffered greatly during those forty years before Jesus’ Parousia and consummation of the age.  It seemed as if the whole world was coming apart!  From the descriptions in the Revelation of St. John and those in the non-inspired histories, it was terrifying.  Fighting everywhere, great killing plagues, famines, pestilences and mighty phenomena on the earth and in the skies!

But Jesus says, “See, lest you be terrified.”  The word He used “to see” is one of several – this one is to see with wisdom.  Understand through God’s perspective.

We’ll continue that next time.

But there should be nothing even approximating the travail of that time in our lives.  Maybe that’s why we’re weaker.  We haven’t suffered in Christ – we haven’t shared His suffering.  In a way, we’re greatly blessed.  And for that we ought to be in constant thanksgiving for the peace – and prosperity – and the safety of the Church – and the freedom to worship and preach and witness.  Should we not be giving constant thanks to God for those things, then we’re certainly ungrateful misfits in the Church.

But even in the trouble we do have, none of it occurs by accident.  It is by the hand of God.  Seek His face, and acknowledge it.  Be steadfast in it and persevere.  “See, lest you be afraid.”