Welcome to part 4 of a 5-part study of Jesus' most in-depth teaching about His second coming, the resurrection and the judgment. The events we are studying occurred two days before Jesus' crucifixion.

Here are links to the previous parts of this post:

This post resumes in the midst of section 17 of 25 regarding Jesus' answer to the four apostles, Peter, James, John and Andrew about signs of Jerusalem and the temple's looming destruction.

...

This is the 22nd post in my series on rethinking Christian eschatology. Each posts builds on the previous one, so if you've not already done so, I invite you to begin at the beginning so that you can get the most value and context.

...

Let's dive in...

To refresh our minds, here is the portion of the combined text we are in the midst of studying:

Jesus answered them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah; I am he,' and, 'The time is near.' [They] will deceive many. Do not follow them.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed or frightened. Such things must happen and these things must happen first, but the end is still to come—[it] will not come right away.”

Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. These are the beginning of birth pains.

“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And so you will bear testimony to me. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand what to say. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. You will be hated by all nations because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 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.

"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

"If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Messiah!' or, 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; see, I have told you everything ahead of time.

"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the wilderness,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“But in those days, 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.’

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then, at that time, all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with great power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

He told them this parable: “Look at the fig trees and all the trees. 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. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things happening, you know that it is near—the kingdom of God is near, right at the door.

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Observations (continued)

Because this section of text is really long and meaty, we've broken section 17 into subsections.

In the last post, we covered subsections 1-12. We resume here with subsection 13.

  1. "You" Who?
  2. Imposters Would Come
  3. The End to Come
  4. Earthquakes in the First Century
  5. Persecution of the Apostles
  6. Gospel Preached to All Nations
  7. Abomination of Desolation
  8. Evidence of a Localized Event
  9. Fulfillment of Everything Written
  10. Days of Unequaled Distress
  11. Those Days Cut Short
  12. Signs in the Sun, Moon and Stars
  13. Signs in the Heavens
  14. Coming on the Clouds
  15. The Loud Trumpet Call
  16. Gather His Elect from the Four Winds
  17. More Evidence of a Near-term Fulfillment
  18. Heaven and Earth Will Pass Away

(17.13) Signs in the Heavens

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.”

In addition to the Scriptures we’ve previously referenced regarding the sun, moon, stars, etc., Josephus gives amazing testimony regarding frightful and awe-inspiring events that occurred near the time of the Jewish war with Rome. Here are some examples:

Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. Thus also before the Jews' rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, [Nisan,] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour.
… 
At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night.

So these publicly declared that the signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.

Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us remove hence.’
(War of the Jews, b.6, c.5, s.3)

We can’t say with any certainty that these signs Josephus reports are what Jesus referred to here. But we can say that they are fully consistent with both the timing and the descriptions Jesus provided.

(17.14) Coming on the Clouds

“And then, at that time, all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with great power and great glory.”

Through the centuries, the predominant view of Christians has been that Jesus was speaking here of physical events: that He would physically return to the earth one day riding on a wave of physical clouds that we could see with physical human eyes. When we look at the totality of Jesus' teachings, as well as the Prophets and other Scriptures, however, this perspective does not harmonize.

But just as we’ve seen with the sun, moon, stars and other phrases, in order to understand what Jesus meant by “coming on the clouds,” we’ve got to look at how GOD used this language previously in the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures. Here are a few examples:

1 A prophecy against Egypt:

See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud
and is coming to Egypt.
The idols of Egypt tremble before him,
and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear.
2 “I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—
brother will fight against brother,
neighbor against neighbor,
city against city,
kingdom against kingdom.
3 The Egyptians will lose heart,
and I will bring their plans to nothing;
they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead,
the mediums and the spiritists.
4 I will hand the Egyptians over
to the power of a cruel master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
(Isa. 19:1-4 NIV)

 

27 See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar,
with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
his lips are full of wrath,
and his tongue is a consuming fire.
28 His breath is like a rushing torrent,
rising up to the neck.
He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction;
he places in the jaws of the peoples
a bit that leads them astray.
29 And you will sing
as on the night you celebrate a holy festival;
your hearts will rejoice
as when people playing pipes go up
to the mountain of the Lord,
to the Rock of Israel.
30 The Lord will cause people to hear his majestic voice
and will make them see his arm coming down
with raging anger and consuming fire,
with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.
31 The voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria;
with his rod he will strike them down.
(Isa. 30:27-31 NIV)

 

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.
… 
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
(Dan. 7:1-3, 13-14 NIV)

What we see is that in the OT, “coming on the clouds” was consistently used as an ominous picture of GOD’s impending judgment upon a people.

Now look at some other statements Jesus made:

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
(Matt. 16:23-28 NIV)

Note: In other words, Jesus was saying, “Like Father, like Son.”

Regarding Jesus’ Sanhedrin trial, Matthew wrote:

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Note: This statement Jesus made in v.64 was a claim that it was He about whom Daniel wrote in Dan. 7:13 (quoted above). Jesus affirmed directly and indirectly that He was the Messiah. Realizing this connection, it is no wonder why the high priest responded as he did, for this Man was equating Himself to GOD.

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.
(Matt. 26:62-65 NIV)

Jesus stated that He did only those things that He saw His Father doing (see John 5:19-30). Thus, when Jesus spoke of His "coming on the clouds," Jesus was using the same metaphoric language that the Father had previously used. Jesus was describing His coming in judgment upon the people He had been arguing with all morning—the rebellious, hard-hearted Jews led by the religious leaders.

(17.15) The Loud Trumpet Call

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

As with the previous examples, the trumpet is seen in the OT Scriptures as a symbol of battle and GOD’s judgment.

To illustrate, consider again the beginning of Joel 2:

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand—
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times
nor ever will be in ages to come.
(Joel 2:1-2 NIV)

Here’s one more example:

1 “Flee for safety, people of Benjamin!
Flee from Jerusalem!
Sound the trumpet in Tekoa!
Raise the signal over Beth Hakkerem!
For disaster looms out of the north,
even terrible destruction.
2 I will destroy Daughter Zion,
so beautiful and delicate.
3 Shepherds with their flocks will come against her;
they will pitch their tents around her,
each tending his own portion.”
4 “Prepare for battle against her!
Arise, let us attack at noon!
But, alas, the daylight is fading,
and the shadows of evening grow long.
5 So arise, let us attack at night
and destroy her fortresses!”
6 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Cut down the trees
and build siege ramps against Jerusalem.
This city must be punished;
it is filled with oppression.
(Jer 6:1-6 NIV)

(17.16) Gather His Elect from the Four Winds

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

We have previously discussed the second gathering of Israel which followed their scattering due to disobedience, as prophesied by Moses.

Here, Jesus was discussing that second gathering.

Moses had prophesied that the gathering would occur (see Deut. 30:1-6) but it was conditional. Israel would be gathered when “you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today.”

When Israel repented, Moses said, GOD would make them more numerous than ever, bring them back to the land of their ancestors, and put all the curses that had previously fallen upon them upon their enemies.

Physically, this repentance Moses spoke of never happened for Israel.

Though a remnant returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, they were small in number—so small they had to cast lots to see who would live in Jerusalem so that it could be defended against enemy attacks (see Neh. 11).

But Isaiah spoke of a second gathering, one that would happen in the time of Jesus.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

12 He will raise a banner for the nations
and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth.
(Isa. 11:10-12 NIV)

It is this gathering that Jesus here referred to.

Jesus elsewhere spoke of this gathering:

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
(Luke 13:22-30 NIV)

 

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
(Matt. 8:5-12 NIV)

Just a few weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion, we see this long-discussed spiritual gathering of the scattered Israelites begin to occur. Regarding the Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension, Luke writes:

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
… 
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
(Acts 2:5-21 NIV)

Peter wasn't only referring to spiritual distance in Acts 2:39. First and foremost, Peter was saying that this promise of salvation—this offer to be gathered underneath their one King, Jesus—was for the Jews who had been physically scattered because of their sins!

This is a huge truth that I've never heard anyone point out before.

The whole reason these people had to travel so far to reach Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost was because what Moses had foretold in Deut. 28-32 had indeed played out.

Lastly on this point, consider the following testimony from Josephus during the Roman siege of Jerusalem:

But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began [Tim: 62 A.D.], and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, ‘A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!’ This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city.

However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!"

And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come.

This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, "Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!" And just as he added at the last, "Woe, woe to myself also!" there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.
(War of the Jews, b.6, c.5, s.3)

Jesus spoke often about the gathering from the east and west, as well as the wedding feast and banquet. All of these conversations are referring to the same events, the second gathering which had been foretold as far back as Moses in Deut. 30.

(17.17) More Evidence of a Near-term Fulfillment

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

He told them this parable: “Look at the fig trees and all the trees. 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. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things happening, you know that it is near—the kingdom of God is near, right at the door.

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

Remember who Jesus was talking to here: It was four apostles—Peter, James, John and Andrew. He plainly gave these four men instructions that pertained to their own lives and those they would personally pass Jesus’ words along to.

Then Jesus plainly stated that the generation alive during the first century would live to witness all of these things He was describing.

Jesus had elsewhere made similar and equally-clear comments about the first century timeframe (see Matt. 10:22-23; 16:27-28; 23:34-36; Luke 11:48-51).

(17.18) Heaven and Earth Will Pass Away

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

First, remember that the word “earth” here can be translated “land.”

I think land is the more appropriate English word to use here because Jesus was referring to the passing away of GOD's covenant with the physical land of Israel—with its capital of Jerusalem and its temple—to be superseded by the spiritual land of Israel and its Jerusalem under the new (spiritual) covenant with spiritual Israel (see Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:7-13).

As additional evidence, consider what Jesus had previously said during the Sermon on the Mount:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
(Matt. 5:17-18 NIV)

In other words, Jesus plainly said that the Law of Moses would exist and be in effect until heaven and earth/land disappeared! (See also Luke 16:17 for a similar statement.)

So, either the Law still matters or “heaven and earth” have disappeared. And since planet earth still exists as does the sky and outer space, this phrase must mean something different than the elimination of our world and universe. (Not to mention the fact that the preceding statement Jesus made was that these things would happen during the first century generation’s lifetime.)

18.) Exact Times Unknown

Finally, having thoroughly covered Jesus' comments in section 17, we conclude this post with section 18.

Combined Text

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know on what day your Lord will come, when that time will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Observations

It is crucial to our understanding that we acknowledge there is no subject change with the words, “But about that day…” Jesus was still talking about the same day that had been under discussion from the beginning of this conversation and, in reality, since the triumphal entry two days earlier—the day when the temple buildings would be destroyed.

Regarding Jesus’ statements about the one being taken and the other left, the word translated “taken” can also mean “received” (i.e., “I receive / admit / acknowledge / take with me”).

In its context (remember, we’re talking about the same day that has been discussed from the beginning, when the temple would be destroyed), Jesus was not describing a miraculous floating up into the sky as many have believed and taught, but rather the simple obedience of the true disciple when the signs Jesus had outlined began to unfold.

Remember, Jesus had just finished giving these four apostles signs to watch for:

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. … 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
(Luke 21:20-31 NIV)


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 housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak.
(Matt. 24:15-18 NIV)

Therefore, the one “taken” from the field and hand mill would be the one who obeyed Jesus’ warnings, watched for the signs, and got out of the city. He would “take” or “receive” them.

Concluding Part 4 Observations

The further in the reading we are removed from Jesus’ fiery encounters with the religious leaders earlier in this great day in history, the more difficult it is to keep the entire set of events in our minds.

No wonder Bible students for centuries have struggled and stumbled over these teachings of Jesus! This is difficult! It stretches our mental abilities.

To help us reset, let’s quickly zoom out and recap:

  • On Tuesday, two days before His crucifixion, Jesus entered the temple where He began teaching. He was quickly confronted by the Jewish religious leaders.

  • Jesus challenged the religious leaders with a question about John the Baptist’s baptism, a handful of parables dealing with the fast-approaching destruction of Jerusalem and their excruciating punishment, and a series of woes because of specific evils.

  • The lengthy skirmishes having ended, Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and taught the apostles about the widow’s great gift.

  • Jesus then left the temple area and headed out of the eastern gate of Jerusalem. As they were leaving, the apostles remarked about the grandeur of the temple buildings. Jesus replied that the time was approaching when all those buildings would be destroyed.

  • When they reached the Mount of Olives opposite the city, Peter, James, John and Andrew privately asked Jesus for signs when these things would occur. Jesus gave a lengthy list of signs, mixing clear physical signs (e.g., Jerusalem being surrounded by armies) with references to OT Scriptures (e.g., the abomination of desolation, coming on a cloud, the four winds).

Historically, many Christians have confused some of Jesus’ OT Scripture references, as well as the apostles’ inquiry regarding “the end of the age,” as being physical signs to watch for. So have I. As a result, we have misunderstood key aspects of Jesus’ intended message here and other Scriptures, as we will continue to see.

This confusion has had—and continues to have—massive impacts on what many believers believe about Jesus' second coming, the resurrection, the judgment, what happens now when a person dies, along with many other related subjects.

As you can see, I have presented a mountain of evidence which has led me to the conclusions I've presented. And we are just getting started.

This is not a case of some person finding a single passage of Scripture and building a wild fantasy around it.

Rather, what I am exposing throughout our journey is how the entirety of Scripture meshes together beautifully to tell this consistent story from Abraham through the Revelation.


Continue to the next post, where we will study the conclusion of Jesus’ next words to Peter, James, John and Andrew. You might be surprised what else Jesus had to say as part of this same conversation.

Got questions or comments? Leave them below.

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

If this article blessed or challenged you, would you visit my Patreon site? ⬇️