Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 12 December 2007; Revised 20 May 2019
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Book of Matthew" because that is how Matthew introduces his story (Matt 1:1). Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Matthew and his book.
Date: Nisan 12, A.D. 30 (Tuesday)
The lengthy sermon that encompasses chapters twenty-four and twenty-five of Matthew is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse because it took place on the Mount of Olives, perhaps in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:39). The sermon is Yeshua's response to questions posed by his disciples and serves as a reality check to their expectations for an immediate establishment of Messiah's kingdom. Yeshua prophesies the future in a straightforward manner with warnings to his apostles of difficult times for them and proclamation of events that will lead to the glorious Second Coming at the end of the age.
Considerable scholarly debate has arisen concerning the content of the sermon, but there is no good reason not to accept the sermon as the authentic words of Yeshua. Some scholars liken this sermon to Jewish apocalyptic works that flourished for a century before Yeshua. Such Jewish writings have been classified as apocalyptic because they include vivid imagery and symbolism to communicate that there is no hope in this present age, but at some point in the future history will end in a cosmic catastrophe, the wicked will be punished and the persecuted righteous rewarded. Yeshua's sermon departs from the typical Jewish apocalyptic by avoiding the symbolic language of those works and offers a confident fulfillment of Jewish expectation for the Messiah to reign over the earth.
Judgment on Jerusalem, 24:1-2
Warnings for the Apostles, 24:3-13
End of the Present Age, 24:14-26
The Second Coming, 24:27-31
Lessons from the Fig Tree and Noah, 24:32-41
Admonition for Readiness, 24:42-51
Judgment on Jerusalem, 24:1-2
Parallel Passages: Mark 13:1-3; Luke 21:5-6, 20-24
1― Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.
[And: Grk. kai, conj. left untranslated. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction, as in this verse, is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek.]
Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, perhaps "yay-soos," is an attempt to replicate the pronunciation of Yeshua, the name of our Lord in Hebrew, the language he spoke. Iēsous does not translate the meaning of Yeshua. The Vulgate (4th cent. AD) translated the Greek name with the Latin Iesus. In the 15th century the letter "J" was added to the Latin alphabet and this letter replaced the "I" used for many names of people and places in the Latin Bible. The English word "Jesus" reflects the development of the English language using the Latin alphabet, including the continuation of the spelling convention of the word beginning with "J" and ending in "s." For many Jews the name "Jesus" is a distinctly Christian word. Sadly, for many Christians the name "Jesus" does not evoke the reality of his Jewish identity.
Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua, which means "YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as yoshia ("He will save") and is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah, ("salvation") (Stern 4). Both Yeshua ("Jeshua") and Y’hoshua ("Joshua") were common names in Hebrew culture and rendered in the LXX as Iēsous. The name of Yeshua was given to six men in the Tanakh (Neh 8:17; 1Chr 24:11; 2Chr 31:15; Ezra 2:6; Neh 3:19; Ezra 2:40; Hag 1:1).
In his thirty-some years on earth people called him Yeshua. Gentile believers must never forget that Yeshua was born to a Jewish mother, raised in a Jewish home in a Jewish community situated among the Jewish people in the land God gave to Abraham and his Jewish posterity. Jews expected the Messiah to function as a rabbi and teacher as the woman at the well said, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when that One comes, he will declare all things to us" (John 4:25). Yeshua embodied that expectation and functioned as a rabbi as he roamed the country teaching about the kingdom and how to live by Torah as God intended.
came out from the temple: Grk. hieron, sanctuary, temple (subst. neut. of the adj. hieros, 'sacred, holy'). When used of the temple in Jerusalem hieron applies to the entire temple complex with all its courts in contrast to naos, which refers to the sanctuary proper where priests offered sacrifices. There were three temples in Jerusalem’s history, the first one being built under King Solomon (1Kgs 5-8). The second temple was built under Zerubbabel (Hag 1-2; Ezra 3:4-13), and the third was a renovated and much expanded temple under King Herod the Great (Matt 21:12). For a description of the construction and characteristics of Herod's temple see my comment on Mark 11:11.
and was going away when His disciples: Grk. mathētēs, one who learns through instruction under a teacher. In the apostolic writings mathētēs corresponds to the Heb. talmid, a student of a rabbi. Like other rabbis of his time, Yeshua gathered talmidim, but his recruitment was not merely to attend a school. In first century Jewish culture becoming a disciple would radically change a man's life. First, to be a disciple required sacrifice. A disciple had to leave close family, relatives and friends to be with his rabbi. Traveling the country often mean leaving behind security and living under austere conditions (Luke 9:57-58). This was not a life of luxury. Peter alluded to this sacrifice when he spoke of leaving everything to follow Yeshua (Matt 19:27). The rich young ruler was not willing to pay this price to be a disciple (Matt 19:21-22).
A particular hardship of a married disciple was being away from his wife. Disciples commonly were single, but since marriage took place at a relatively early age (usually by eighteen according to Avoth 5:21) many disciples had a wife and children. For example, the mother-in-law of one of Yeshua’s disciples is mentioned in Luke 4:38. If married, a man needed the permission of his wife to leave home for longer than thirty days to study with a sage (Ket. 5:6).
Second, becoming a disciple required commitment. In Jewish culture studying Torah was as important as it is to honor one’s parents, leaving home to study Torah with a rabbi was even more important. The rabbi became like a father to the disciple. In fact, the rabbi was to be honored above the disciple’s own father. The Mishnah indicates that when one is searching for the lost property both of his father and of his teacher, his teacher’s loss takes precedence over that of his father since his father brought him only into the life of this world, whereas his teacher, who taught him wisdom [i.e., Torah], has brought him into the life of the world to come (B.M. 2:13).
A prospective disciple had to consider his priorities. Following the rabbi must come before all other obligations (Luke 9:57-62). Loyalty to the rabbi must be more important than possessions or family affection (Luke 14:26-33). Yeshua spoke of "hating" one’s family, but this word does not carry the meaning it normally has in English usage. In Hebrew "hate" not only means to have hostility toward, but was an idiomatic expression meaning to love less or "put in second place."
Third, being a disciple required obedience (Matt 28:19). The rabbi’s will became the disciple’s will. The rabbi directed, the disciple obeyed. The only authority greater in the disciple’s life would be God. The disciples of Yeshua demonstrated this response. Even though they frustrated him at times, they always obeyed him when given specific directions.
came up to point out the temple buildings to Him: As any Jew of that time the disciples were clearly awed by the temple construction. Herod's Temple was one of the larger construction projects of the 1st century BC. Herod was interested in perpetuating his name for all eternity through building projects, and his construction program was extensive. He had magnificent palaces in Masada, Caesarea and Tiberias. Herod built temples for various pagan gods to serve the Gentile populations, which were paid for by heavy taxes on the local Jewish population, but his masterpiece was to be the Temple of Israel’s God. The temple built by Zerubbabel nearly half a millennium before, despite frequent renovation, was still run down and relatively small.
In 20 B.C. Herod announced that the old temple would be torn down and replaced with something truly magnificent. The Jewish priesthood, as well as the rest of the population, were skeptical, requiring Herod to quarry all the stones required for the project before the destruction of the Post-Exile structure could begin. An agreement was made between Herod and the Jewish religious authorities to continue the sacrificial rituals for the entire time of construction, and the Temple itself would be constructed by the priests. However, King Herod had architects from Greece, Rome and Egypt plan the construction.
The Temple area was enlarged to a size of about thirty-five acres. Around the Temple area were double colonnades. The Jewish historian Josephus describes the colonnades:
"All the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported -the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver. The cloisters -(of the outmost court) were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts" (Wars V, 5:2).
There were eight gates leading into the temple. Anyone was allowed to enter the outer area, which was therefore called the Court of the Gentiles. The actual Temple grounds was enclosed by a barrier, and at the entrances to it were warning notices forbidding entry by any uncircumcised person on pain of death. Inside the barrier was the Court of the women. Next came the Court of the Israelites (men only) and then the Court of the Priests. In its center the altar for the burnt offerings and to the left of it a large basin called the Brazen Sea resting upon twelve bulls cast in bronze.
Further steps led up to the sanctuary (Grk. naos), a comparatively small building. A priceless curtain, embroidered with a map of the known world, concealed from view what lay beyond, and none except the priest on duty was allowed to go farther. It contained the golden altar at which incense was offered and next to it the seven-branched menorah and the table with the twelve loaves of shewbread, which were replaced by fresh ones every Sabbath. Beyond it, behind another large curtain, lay the Holy of Holies, which none except the high priest was allowed to enter, and he only on the Day of Atonement. A stone designated the place where once the Ark of the Covenant had stood.
2― And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down."
And: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The third usage applies here. He said: Grk. legō, aor., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material as here. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
Do you not see: Grk. blepō, pres., may mean (1) possess the capacity to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) to have inward or mental sight or (4) be looking in a certain direction. The second and fourth meanings seem intended here. Yeshua directs their attention to examine their surroundings more closely. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every, anyone, everyone. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. Yeshua anticipates their question by asking a rhetorical question that implies the obvious.
Truly: Grk. amēn ("ah–mayn") reflects a strong affirmation, meaning "so let it be" or "truly." In the LXX amēn transliterates the Heb. 'amen (ah–mayn, SH–543), which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true." The Heb. root aman means "to confirm or support." The word amēn reflects an Hebraic conviction that God’s words were to be reverently received. In typical Jewish usage the singular amēn points to something previously said (Stern 26). For example, in the Torah people responded with "amen" for each of the curses as they were pronounced (Deut 27:15 +11t) and on other occasions "amen" was a congregational response to a public blessing of God (1Chr 16:36; Neh 5:13; Ps 106:48).
However, Yeshua sometimes uses "amen" to introduce a declaration as here (e.g., Matt 8:10; 11:11; 16:28; 17:20; 19:23; 21:21; 25:12, 45; 26:21). Similar usage does occur in the Tanakh (1Kgs 1:36; Jer 28:6). Beginning the sentence with amēn emphasizes the certainty of the prophesied event. I say: Grk. legō, pres. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. not one stone: Grk. lithos, stone. The term is used of various types of stone. here will be left: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. pass. subj., has a range of meaning, (1) release from one's presence; send away, divorce, give up; (2) release from an obligation; cancel, forgive; (3) let remain behind; leave, leave behind, give up, abandon; (4) leave standing or lying; and (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The fourth meaning applies here.
upon another: lit. "upon a stone. which will not be torn down: Grk. kataluō, fut. pass., to tear down, to destroy or to demolish, lit. "loosened down." Only the foundation stones would remain after the destruction. The description reflects the manner of conquest of cities in antiquity. As the disciples were remarking on the wonder of so great an edifice and perhaps fantasizing about when the Temple would be under the Messiah’s control (and theirs), Yeshua bursts their bubble with an ominous and deeply disturbing prophecy. The prediction would come to pass in all its literal horror in 70 A.D.
Warnings for the Apostles, 24:3-13
3― As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
As He was sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. Sitting was the normal posture for a teacher or rabbi to give instruction (cf. Matt 5:1; Mark 4:1). on the Mount: Grk. oros means "mountain," "hill," or "hill-country." The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. Although oros is rendered here as "Mount," English Bible versions reflect the arbitrary standard of modern science in many passages, rather than recognizing that a single Hebrew and Greek word was used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height.
of Olives: Grk. Elaia, "olive tree." The Hebrew name for the mountain (also called Mount Olivet) is Har HaZeitim, given for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The Mount of Olives is located across the Kidron Valley, part of the two and a half mile-long mountain ridge that towers over the eastern side of Jerusalem, or more precisely, the middle of the three peaks forming the ridge. The ridge juts out in a north-south direction (like a spur) from the range of mountains running down the center of the region. The Mount of Olives rises 2,676 feet above sea level, but only about 175 feet higher than Jerusalem (NIBD 554, 731). In the days of the Israelite monarchy it provided a lookout base and signaling point for armies defending Jerusalem.
Tell us: No indication is given whether there was any intervening discussion after Yeshua’s startling announcement, but the two questions asked by the disciples seem remarkably insensitive. Didn’t they comprehend that the glory and point of pride of the Jewish people would be utterly obliterated? Where is the incredulous reaction that would be normal in the circumstances.
when will these things happen: Grk. eimi, fut. mid., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). Nevertheless, the two questions are significant and still being asked. First, is the issue of "when." Since the triumphal entry in Matthew 21 Yeshua had told several parables about His mission and the fulfillment of the kingdom, taught on the resurrection and had just prophesied that the temple would be destroyed.
what will be the sign: Grk. sēmeion means sign, miracle or wonder. Sēmeion is used in reference to miracles to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; 20:30f). The corresponding Heb. word oth referred to signs, omens or miracles promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges or attestations of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men. Oth has its root in the verb avah, which means to sign, mark or describe with a mark (BDB 16).
The term "sign" in Scripture has a variety of important uses in the Tanakh. The first usage is in Genesis 1:14 in which the stars would serve as signs that speak for God or even as portents of events on earth (cf. Ps 19:1f; Jer 10:2). "Sign" also referred to a visible manifestation of God’s grace and favor, as the rainbow, circumcision and the Sabbath are covenantal signs (Gen 9:12f, 17; 17:11; Ex 31:13, 17; Ezek 20:12). Most of the usages of "sign" in the Tanakh are related to miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, such as the plagues on Egypt (Ex 7:3) and the shadow’s advance on the palace steps (2Kgs 20:9). Sometimes a sign was a token that would serve as a warning or reminder, such as Aaron’s rod (Num 17:25) and the stones in the Jordan (Josh 4:6). These meanings frequently overlap and the use of the word "sign" may point backward to a historical event or even forward to the fulfillment of a promise (See TWOT 1:39f).
of Your coming: Grk. parousia means presence, coming or advent. The special word occurs some 25 times in the Besekh, four of which are in this chapter, but most occur in the writings of Paul. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 the parousia has four elements: (1) the believing dead are resurrected before the living, (2) Yeshua will descend from heaven with a shout, (3) Yeshua will descend with the voice of the archangel and (4) the living will be caught up to meet Yeshua and the resurrected disciples in the clouds. This chapter of the Olivet Discourse adds other elements in verses 27-31, 37-39. The parousia is followed by Yeshua delivering the kingdom to His Father and all human rule and authority is abolished (1Cor 15:24). God will establish our hearts unblameable in holiness with all God's people at the parousia (1Th 3:13). Peter likewise links the parousia and the Day of the Lord (2Pet 3:4, 10). Coincidental with the parousia the heavens will be destroyed by burning and the elements will melt with intense heat (2Pet 3:12).
The apostles could not have been thinking of coming in the clouds when Yeshua was still on the ground. Their idea of "coming" had to do with coming into Jerusalem and claiming the throne, which is what they thought he would do when he made the "triumphal entry." However, they expected that Yeshua would perform some special sign that would convince all the Jews that he was the Messiah. The Pharisees had asked a similar question (Matt 16:1). So, when the apostles asked about the "sign" of Yeshua's coming, they weren't talking about the coming itself, but the portent or event that would signal the appearance was about to occur. They had probably thought the "triumphal entry" was the sign, but when Yeshua didn't ride to the palace to claim the throne, they began to wonder.
and of the end: Grk. sunteleia, the close or the end of time. of the age: In the Besekh time is sometimes referred to as either the present age or the age to come, the Messianic age (Matt 12:32). The "end of the age" would be that point just preceding the age to come. The apostles’ questions reflected their own hopes, dreams and expectations of God fulfilling all His promises to the Jewish people. Their expectations could be summarized as: (1) universal peace through the Messiah, Isa 9:6-7; 11:6; (2) judgment on the wicked, namely the Gentile nations, Joel 3:1-2; (3) establishment of Israel as a Kingdom once again, Isa 9:1-7; Dan 2:44; 4:3, 34; 7:14; (4) the return of dispersed Jews to their homeland, Isa 11:11-12. The one promise they didn't really consider was that of the New Covenant in which God would pour His Spirit on His people to enable them to keep His Torah, Jer 31:31.
4― And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you.
And: Grk. kai, conj. Jesus answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. part., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah, to answer or respond to something said in conversation; to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances or to testify or respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (BDB 772). and said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 2 above. The combination of the verbs "answered and said" is a typical Hebraic way of advancing the narrative of dialog (e.g., Gen 27:39; 40:18; Josh 24:16; Jdg 20:4; 2Sam 1:17). The verb apokrinomai emphasizes that a verbal response was made and the verb legō introduces the quotation. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
See: Grk. blepō, pres. imp. See verse 2 above. Yeshua could have issued the command without this verb but he engages in a play on words. They need to look beyond what can be perceived with the physical eyes. to it that no one misleads you: Grk. planaō, aor. subj., to cause to go astray, in the sense of leading one from a standard of truth or conduct, to deceive. For the theoretical issue of whether true disciples can be deceived, see the note on verse 24. The potential deception applies not just to the warning of the next verse, but the entire chronology of events described in this discourse. Yeshua set forth a clear prophetic calendar and anyone who says that fulfillment of prophecy is not necessary or that events won't transpire as presented in this discourse essentially questions the integrity of Yeshua. Judas Iscariot refused to accept Yeshua's prophecy and easily became a pawn of Satan.
5― For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many.
For many: pl. of Grk. polus, an adjective of number indicating extensive in scope. will come: Grk. erchomai, fut. mid., to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances, to go. The verb generally depicts physical movement and when used of persons erchomai often indicates traveling or a journey. in My name: Grk. onoma, in its central sense is used to identify someone. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Yeshua used the complete idiomatic expression "in My name" 16 times in various contexts. The Semitic saying may refer to possessing a personal connection with Yeshua (e.g., Matt 18:20), acting on his authority to accomplish something (e.g., Matt 18:5; Mark 9:39; John 14:14) or claiming possession of Yeshua's qualities, powers, attributes or reputation.
With this latter usage Yeshua may be alluding to the b'rakhah and Messianic prophecy of Psalm 118:26, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." He had already warned Jerusalem (a figure of all Israel) in Matthew 23:39, "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Yeshua proceeds to explain how the "many" will try to claim fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of a Davidic deliverer.
I am the Christ: Grk. christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Christos was chosen deliberately by the Jewish translators of the LXX to render Mashiach and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. The Heb. title Mashiach means ‘anointed one’ or ‘poured on.’ Mashiach was used in the Tanakh for (1) the patriarchs (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); (2) the High Priest, Lev 4:5; (3) the King, 1Sam 12:3 (King Saul); 2Sam 22:51 (King David); Isa 45:1 (King Cyrus); and (4) the Messiah, Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26. This last usage defined the term in the first century A.D.
The significance of being known as "The Anointed One" is that Israelite kings were crowned and priests were ordained in a ceremony of anointing with olive oil, which invested them with the authority of their positions. There was no comparable concept in Greek culture. Yeshua was not physically anointed with oil in his commissioning for ministry, although he was anointed with the Spirit in accordance with Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16) after completing the ceremonial washing required of priests (cf. Ex 40:12; Matt 3:13-15). However, he was anointed with nard in preparation for his death (Mark. 14:3-8; John 12:3), so in that sense he was physically anointed for his final and greatest ministry.
Messianic expectation sharpened after the failure of the Hasmonean Kingdom (37 B.C.) and being subjected to Imperial Rome. Jews began looking for a leader who would deliver them from oppression and usher in an Olam Habah ("world to come") or Messianic Age. Jewish leaders believed that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David and he would fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs and to Israel. Those promises included redemption for Israel, destruction of the enemies of Israel, the restoration of Israel to sovereign rule in its land and establishment of the Davidic monarchy over Israel and the nations. In fact, the angel Gabriel provided assurance of fulfillment to Miriam and Zechariah. What the Jews did not expect was that in order to have a victorious Messiah, they would have to first have a suffering Messiah, one who would be an atoning sacrifice.
Among Christians the title "Christ" is generally used merely as a synonym for "Son of God," the second person of the triune Godhead as presented in Christian creedal statements. It cannot be emphasized too many times that the title Christos was the invention of Jews long before Yeshua was born and not by Gentile Christians. Apostolic writings make it clear that Christos or "Messiah" was the expected deliverer from the line of David (Matt 22:42; John 7:42; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8). While the apostles also declared that the Messiah was the Son of God (Matt 16:16; Mark 1:1; John 20:31; Rom 1:4; 2Cor 1:19; Gal 2:20; Eph 4:13; 1Jn 5:20), they did not confuse the two titles.
and will mislead many: When Yeshua says that many will say they are the Messiah he is not referring to claims of deity. Many Jewish imposters have indeed claimed the title or been heralded by Jewish groups as the Messiah. (See the web article Jewish Messiah Claimants.) In addition, various non-Jewish cultic leaders have claimed to be the expected Messiah. (See the web article List of Messiah Claimants.)
There have been more than fifty messianic pretenders in the last 2000 years of Jewish history, starting with Theudas and Judas of Galilee in the first century, Acts 5:36-37, and ending with Joseph Frank in the 18th century who became a Roman Catholic (Stern). None of them met the criteria laid down in Scripture concerning the identity of the Messiah, whereas Yeshua fulfilled them all.
6― You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.
You will be: Grk. mellō, fut., focus on the future as disclosure, be in the offing, be about. The verb may also have the connotation of a designed or certain outcome. hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. inf., to hear with focus on willingness to listen to or heed the substance of what is said. of wars: pl. of Grk. polemos, to wage war. While the noun polemos in Greek literature may refer to strife, conflict or quarrels, in Scripture the term refers generally to armed conflict and hostilities between nations or kingdoms. When used of armed conflict, the term may indicate a single battle or a war of some duration consisting of many battles.
Wars during the lifetime of the apostles would have included the ongoing war between Rome and the Parthians, the invasion of Britain in 43 AD and the Roman civil war of 68-69 AD. The apostles were absent from Judea during the Jewish-Roman war of 66-73 AD and thus they would have "heard" about the catastrophic consequences to their people, rather than being eyewitnesses. While mass media did not exist in ancient times, important news events were publicized through Acta Diurna, or government announcement bulletins, made public by authority of Caesar. The bulletins were carved on stone or metal and presented in message boards in public places. Jews would have also learned the gory details of the war through the publication of the eyewitness chronicle of Josephus.
and rumors: Grk. akoē, something that is heard, whether a report or rumor or message. of wars: pl. of Grk. polemos. Sharp political tensions abounded in Israel during the first century and with the constant pressure of the zealots the threat of Roman reprisal was ever present. See that you are not frightened: Grk. throeō, pres. pass. imp., used of inward disturbance by outward circumstances, be alarmed, terrified or scared. Yeshua had already warned his disciples on various occasions against allowing any situation or person, other than God, to cause fear (Matt 6:25-34; 10:26-31). for those things must: Grk. dei, an impersonal verb from deō, pres., to stand in need of. The basic idea is that circumstances, expressed or implied, determine expectations for an outcome or event, thus "it is necessary."
take place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The aorist tense signifies the completed action, thus the prophecy views the action as already accomplished. In the LXX ginomai renders Heb. hayah (SH-1961), "to fall out, to come into being, become, come to pass, to be," e.g., 22 times in Genesis 1. This clear statement rebuts any notion that these prophesied events are unnecessary to complete God's plan for the end times.
but that is not yet the end: Grk. telos, "a point in time that marks culmination." BAG defines this point of time in the sense of either (1) termination or cessation of something; (2) the last part or conclusion of something; or (3) the goal toward which a movement is directed. In Classical Greek telos is derived from a root tel-, which means to turn around. Originally it referred to the turning point, hinge, the culminating point at which one stage ends and another begins; later the goal, the end. Telos occurs 150 times in the LXX, chiefly in adverbial combinations and often to translate the Heb. qēts, "end" (DNTT 2:60). The Hebrew word qēts is most often used of time, especially in phrases that speak of the end of a definite time period (e.g., Gen 8:6; 2Sam 15:7; 2Kgs 18:3) or indefinitely of the passing of a time (e.g., Gen 4:3; 1Kgs 17:7) (BDB 893).
7― For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.
For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements, and its use is implied in the two preceding verses since the parallel verses in Matthew 24 begin with gar. The conjunction serves to introduce a reason for the preceding warning (Lane 455). nation: Grk. ethnos, originally referred to a number of people or animals forming a group, then later strictly of humans as a people group. Mounce gives the root meaning as multitude or company. In the LXX ethnos renders Heb. goy (SH-1471), nation, people, first in Genesis 10:5, which begins the listing of the 70 people groups that descended from Noah.
In the Tanakh the term "nations" (pl. Heb. goyim) is used for people groups defined by language and culture, including descendants of Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; 42:1, 6; Jer 5:15). The term is used often in the Besekh for "Gentiles" in contradistinction to Jews and Israel (e.g., Matt 5:47; Acts 2:27; 21:21; 26:17; Rom 3:29; 9:24; 11:25; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:14-15), but is also used of the Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:9) and Israel (Matt 21:43; John 18:35; Acts 24:10, 17; 26:4; 1Cor 10:18). Often ethnos is used in a geographical sense with a diverse population that would include descendants of Jacob as residents or citizens (Matt 12:21; 24:14; Acts 17:26; Rom 1:5; 16:26; Gal 2:9; 1Tim 3:16). The word does not have a particular religious meaning.
will rise: Grk. egeirō, fut. pass., to rise from a recumbent or lower position. The verb is used here metaphorically of appearing on the scene. against: Grk. epi, prep., the root meaning of 'upon.' Normally with the accusative case of the noun following the preposition would be translated as "upon, on, up to, to, or over," emphasizing motion or direction. The use of "against" is appropriate to the depiction of conflict. nation: Grk. ethnos. The use of "nation" might give the wrong impression, since ethnos does not refer to a political state. So the expression of ethnos against ethnos could refer to civil war or strife between ethnic groups, whether within a country or across country boundaries.
and kingdom: Grk. basileia may means either the act of ruling or the territory over which a king or sovereign rules. Basileia does refer to a political entity. against: Grk. epi, prep. kingdom: Strife between kingdoms or countries as political entities has existed from the first great kingdom established by Nimrod after the deluge. The strife may range from tensions to all out war. there will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 3 above. The futurity is certain, but no timing is given.
and in: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is "down," but when used with nouns in the accusative case (as here) the preposition normally pertains to a place and has the sense of extension in space and may be translated as along, over, through, in or upon (BAG 406). various places: pl. of Grk. topos, a spatial area, which may be an unnamed geographical area or a named locality. Most versions insert the word "various" as fitting for the plural noun and unspecified locations.
there will be famines: pl. of Grk. limos, condition of misery caused by lack of food and impacting a large area. The common word in the Tanakh for "famine" is ra'ab (Gen 12:10), but re'abon also occurs (Gen 42:19), and kaphan (Job 5:22), all meaning "hunger," "want of food" and "famine." Throughout Bible times famines were not infrequent. Famine may be caused by lack of adequate rainfall, destructive hail storms (Ex 9:23; 10:12-15), infestation of insects (Ex 10:15) and by enemies (Deut 28:49-51; 2Kgs 6:25). Famine occurred during the lives of all the patriarchs, as well as in the time of the judges (Ruth 1:1) and during the reigns of David (2Sam 21:1), Ahab (1Kgs 17:1) and Zedekiah (2Kgs 25:3). In the time of Caesar Claudius, A.D. 45, a famine severely affected Israel (Acts 11:28). The apostle Paul collected and delivered financial support to the Jerusalem congregation to relieve their plight (Acts 11:29; Rom 15:26; 1Cor 16:1-3).
The warning of famine is also a prelude to the unveiling of the sixth seal in Revelation:
broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I
looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales
in his hand. 6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of
the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and
three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the
Agricultural production is primarily dependent on the right weather, whatever the skill of the farmer may be. The mention of "famine" is not to describe drought per se, because famine or shortage of food products can result from a variety of causes as already mentioned. Famine causes food to become more expensive and the poor suffer as a result.
and earthquakes: pl. of Grk. seismos, from which we get our English word "seismic," means "to shake." While used once for a strong storm at sea (Matt 8:24), seimos is used mostly for earthquake (BAG). Seismos occurs 13 times in the Besekh, three of which are in the Olivet Discourse narratives and seven in Revelation (6:12; 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18). The other three quakes mentioned occur in special circumstances. Prior to the first century only a few earthquakes are mentioned in relation to Israel (Ex 19:18; 1Sam 14:15; 1Kgs 9:11-12; Amos 1:1), the first one accompanying the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai and the last one occurring in Jerusalem in the days of King Uzziah. Yeshua warned his disciples to expect significant seismic events as well as other adverse environmental catastrophes as portents of the end of the age.
In almost immediate fulfillment an earthquake followed the death of Yeshua and opened tombs (Matt 27:51-54), and a quake opened the tomb from which Yeshua had risen (Matt 28:1). Luke records that a house in Jerusalem "was shaken" (Grk. saleuō, see verse 25 below) after a Spirit-anointed prayer meeting (Acts 4:31). A quake in Philippi severely damaged the prison house in which Paul and Silas were incarcerated and opened the prison doors (Acts 16:26). In the year 60, just ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem, an earthquake destroyed Laodicea and demolished a large part of Pompeii (Tacitus 14:27; 15:22), no doubt adversely impacting the Messianic congregations in those regions.
Earthquakes are common on every continent and have always existed, but only in modern times could they be measured. The Richter scale, developed in 1935, calculates the intensity of earthquakes on a ten-point scale. Detectable earthquakes (2.0 and greater) routinely occur around the world, but most cannot be felt and cause no damage. Quakes measuring 5.0 or greater are considered significant due to the potential for property damage and loss of life. In the parallel account Luke uses the word "great" in describing the earthquakes (Luke 21:11), perhaps denoting killer quakes. Revelation describes a future earthquake that destroys a tenth of a great city and kills 7,000 people (Rev 11:13). Only eleven earthquakes in modern history have exceeded this number of fatalities, some with the number of dead in the hundreds of thousands (Deadly History of Earthquakes," BBC News, UK Edition, 30 March 2004).
Charles Wesley, in his sermon The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes (Sermons on Several Occasions, 1872 ed.) in recounting several catastrophic earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries, asserted that earthquakes are truly acts of God, and, whatever the natural cause may be, they are the result of His judgment on sin. Indeed, the very first earthquake in human experience initiated God's judgment of the great deluge in Noah's time, "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open" (Gen 7:11). Prior to Noah there had apparently never been an earthquake, but ever since then earthquakes are a reminder of God's wrath. Scriptures are replete with prophetic pronouncements attributing earthquakes and climate-related calamities to God acting in judgment (Judg 5:4-5; 2Sam 22:8; Job 9:5f; Ps 18:7; 46:8; 75:3; 77:18; 82:5; 97:4f; 104:32; 114:7; Isa 2:19, 21; 5:25; 13:11, 13; 24:1, 18-20; 29:6; 54:10; Jer 5:9, 22; 10:10; Ezek 38:19f; Hag 2:6; Zech 14:5).
Luke's version of the Olivet Discourse not only mentions earthquakes, but also powerful storms in the sea and threats from interstellar space (Luke 21:11, 25). These calamities are not outside of God’s control (cf. Heb 1:3), but rather signs of the self-destruct sequence that began with God’s curse on the physical world in the Garden (Gen 3:17), and further accelerated by the global deluge in Noah's time. The ecological and geological cataclysm of the deluge totally destroyed the world Noah knew and set in motion physical stresses in the earth's structure still being felt to this day. The many promises in Scripture that neither the righteous nor God's kingdom can be shaken (e.g., Prov 10:30; Heb 12:28) point to the reality that earthquakes bring fear and torment because people are not ready to meet their Creator and Judge.
On the basis of the Olivet prophecy a number of Bible teachers have claimed that a pronounced increase in both the frequency and intensity of earthquakes would occur just prior to the Second Coming and that recent decades have witnessed such a trend. However, Yeshua did not say that earthquakes would increase in any manner; only that they would happen. (For a contrary opinion on the statistical frequency of earthquakes see the article, Steven A. Austin and Mark L. Strauss, Earthquakes and the End Times: A Geological and Biblical Perspective, Institute for Creation Research: 1999.) Whatever the frequency of earthquakes may be, Scripture does speak much of catastrophic earthquakes to come in the final days of the present age (cf. Ps 99:1; Isa 2:19-21; 13:13; 24:18-21; Joel 2:10; 3:16; Hag 2:6; Heb 12:26-27; Rev 11:13, 19). Every time an earthquake happens it is one more reminder that the present age is coming to a close. John describes the earth being destroyed by a final cataclysmic earthquake:
"And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found." (Rev 16:18-20)
8― But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
But all these things are merely the beginning: Grk. archē, the point of derivation or originating moment, and may be rendered as "beginning" or "start." of birth pangs: pl. of Grk. ōdin, pain associated with giving birth. Yeshua no doubt alludes to the prophecy of Isaiah, which summarizes the teaching of this discourse:
"As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so we were before You, ADONAI. 18 We have been with child, we have been in pain, yet we gave birth to wind. We are accomplishing no deliverance for the earth, nor are inhabitants of the world coming to life. 19 Yet it will be: Your dead will live! My corpses will rise! Awake and shout for joy, you who dwell in the dust! Your dew is like the dew of the dawn. The land of dead souls will come to life! 20 Go, my people, enter your rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide for a little while, until the wrath is past. 21 For behold, ADONAI is coming out from His place to punish inhabitants of the earth for iniquity. The earth will disclose her bloodshed, no longer covering up her slain." (Isa 26:17-21 TLV)
Paul echoes this same prophecy,
"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Rom 8:22-23)
The point for the apostles was that they were not going to witness the glorious Second Coming and their experiences in the world would be just the beginning of the earth's "labor" as well as the pattern for the centuries to come.
9― Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
Then they will deliver: Grk. paradidōmi, fut., to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over." In this case the verb is a reference to subjecting others to arrest and a judicial process with the connotation of disloyalty and treachery. you to tribulation: Grk. thlipsis, which literally means pressure or a pressing. Sometimes the word is translated as affliction. It occurs 45 times in the apostolic writings. Thlipsis refers both to distress brought about by outward circumstances or spiritual or emotional anguish because of the circumstances. Throughout the apostolic writings tribulation is treated as a normal and expected experience for God's people (Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Eph 3:13; 1Th 1:6; 3:3-4; 2Th 1:4; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 10:33; Rev 1:9). As Yeshua indicates here the source of tribulation for his followers is not God but Satan or the world (cf. John 15:18-23; 1Pet 5:8).
and will kill: Grk. apokteinō, to put an end by force to existence of someone; kill. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Yeshua essentially prophesied the martyrdom of his disciples of which he will later exclude John (John 21:18-23). Yet, given the nature of the prophecy the plural pronoun likely envisions a much broader scope than just the remaining eleven disciples, since of that number only one was killed by Jewish authorities, Jacob son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-2). Judas will commit suicide and according to church tradition the rest of the original Twelve were martyred in various lands of the Diaspora in which they engaged in missionary activity.
Church tradition offers some information. Simon Peter was executed by Caesar Nero, c. 67 A.D. Andrew reportedly was crucified in Achaia. Philip was killed in Hierapolis. As for Matthew there is a legend that he died a martyr in Ethiopia. Traditions for Thomas are varied with his death reported in Parthia, Persia and India. The apostle Matthias, chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:23-26), was reportedly martyred in Colchis (modern Georgia). No information exists for the deaths of Bartholomew, Jacob son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot. John, the son of Zebedee, of course, did not die a martyr (John 21:20), but of old age, sometime after Trajan became emperor in A.D. 98.
The plural pronoun would likely include apostles who would later join their number, such as the seventy apostles that included Luke (Luke 10:1; see the list of Hippolytus), Jacob ("James") and Judah ("Jude") the Lord's brothers (Acts 1:14), Matthias (Acts 1:23), and Paul. The plural pronoun probably includes the disciples that would join the Body of Messiah on Pentecost and shortly thereafter. About three years after Pentecost a great persecution broke out against the disciples in the aftermath of the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1). Saul of Tarsus (later Paul the apostle) was the ringleader of the persecution and according to the record of Luke imprisoned many (Acts 8:3; 26:10) and had some put to death (Acts 9:1; 22:4; 26:10). Many years afterward Jacob, the Lord's brother, was executed in Jerusalem (Josephus, Ant. XX, 9:1).
and you will be hated: Grk. miseō, means to detest, abhor or reject. In the LXX miseō renders Heb. sane (SH–8130; "saw–nay"), which has the same meaning (first in Gen 26:27). The Hebrew word often indicates an emotional impulse to despise that can result in an action to turn against (e.g., Joseph's brothers, Gen 37:2–8). Hatred in Scripture also refers to the hostility shown by an enemy (Gen 24:60; Ex 1:10; Num 10:35; Deut 30:7; Matt 24:9; Luke 1:71). by all nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 7 above. because of My name: Grk. onoma. See verse 5 above. It may seem strange that the mention of being hated does not precede being killed. However, Yeshua points out that hostility toward the apostolic message will continue long after they are dead.
10― At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.
At that time: i.e., at the time of the tribulation. many: pl. of Grk. polus, extensive in scope and as an adjective of number, many. will fall away: Grk. skandalizō, fut. pass., the imagery of trap-setting or the laying of obstacles in another's way underlie the use of the verb. and will betray: Grk. paradidōmi. See the previous verse. and hate: Grk. miseo, fut. having a strong dislike for someone or be hostile to. Yeshua predicts a condition of society, but the Body of Messiah will also be affected by these actions. Times of testing always determine the true disciples of Yeshua from the false.
11― Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.
Many false prophets: A pseudoprophētēs is one who falsely claims to have divine credentials for service as a prophet, with or without the implication of offering incorrect information. In order to understand what makes a prophet false, we must consider the ministry of prophets in Scripture. Biblical prophecy (noun, Grk. prophēteia; verb, prophēteuō) means to foretell, tell forth or to prophesy, with three functional meanings: (1) the act of stating or disclosing divine will and purpose; (2) a gift for disclosure of divine will or purpose; (3) or a disclosure made under divine authority or direction. will arise: Grk. egeirō, fut. pass. See verse 7 above. and will mislead: Grk. planaō, fut. pass., to cause to go astray, in the sense of leading one from a standard of truth or conduct. many: pl. of Grk. polus. See verse 5 above.
False prophesying has two elements identified in Scripture, although they do not always occur together. First, the forth-telling of false prophets may counsel abandonment of the God of Israel, in particular, or more generally to disobey God's commandments (Deut 13:1-3) or may introduce false (heretical) teachings (2Pet 2:1). They often engage in reprehensible conduct themselves, such as immorality or divination (Jer 23:14; Acts 8:9-24; 13:6-12). False prophets play the role of giving credibility to the false messianic figure, much as Rabbi Akiva did for Simon bar Kokhba in the early 2nd century AD.
Second, the foretelling of false prophets may announce predictions that do not come to pass (Deut 18:22; Jer 23:25) or deny predictions that biblical prophets have made (Jer 20:6; 2Chr 18:5; John 7:40-43). False prophets sometimes make their pronouncements based on dreams or visions or the bold declaration that "God told me" (cf. Jer 14:14; 23:32; Lam 2:14; Ezek 13:7, 9, 23; 13:7-9; 21:29; 22:28; 27:15; Zech 10:2; Col 2:18). The second element should be a strong clue to cease giving a prophet credibility when the prediction doesn't come true.
Yeshua warned his disciples of false prophets in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:15-16) and the apostles reiterated the threat (cf. 2Pet 2:1). Paul similarly declared, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2Tim 4:3-4). Paul advised the Corinthian disciples to "pass judgment" on anyone who prophesies (1Cor 14:29). John instructed disciples to "test the spirits" (1Jn 4:1), i.e., evaluate carefully anyone who claims to speak for God. Merely, asserting that one's message is from God does not automatically provide credibility. The message must accord with Scripture to be accepted as divinely inspired.
12― Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.
Because lawlessness: Grk. anomia for the Heb. peshah, transgression. Anomia is formed from nomos, law, and the negative particle "a," making the word the equivalent of Torah-lessness or living contrary to Torah commands. The word "lawlessness" as applied to the evil personage in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 does not mean abandonment of governmental laws, but Torahlessness or a rejection of God’s authority and His commandments as the standard for ethics and morality. is increased: Grk. plēthunō, aor. pass. inf., cause to become more in number, increase, multiply. most people's: lit. "of the many." Even today lawlessness pervades the Body of Messiah since many Christians don't believe the Torah commandments have any authority and tend to pick and choose what commandments they will obey.
love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. The noun agapē is one of the four Greek words for "love." In the LXX agapē renders Heb. ahavah (SH-160, BDB 12), which is used of both human and divine love. The Jewish translators of the LXX apparently coined the noun agapē, since there is no Greek literature earlier than the LXX that uses the word (DNTT 2:539). God's nature and actions are the epitome of agapē (1Jn 4:8) and the preeminent virtue (1Cor 13:1-13). The essential factor in every passage employing agapē is the willingness to sacrifice for an object, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō, the family loyalty of storgē and the passion of eros.
will grow cold: Grk. psuchō, fut. pass., used in imagery of fire that changes from flame to a cold state; go out, be extinguished. The two preeminent commands are to love God and love one's neighbor. When people reject God's authority they will also become unwilling to sacrifice for the good of others.
13― But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
But the one who endures: Grk. hupomenō, aor. part., stay in a place when others are leaving or to be steadfast in the face of difficulty; lit. "the ones enduring." In context the verb is not talking about enduring the trials of life that come to all human beings. The enduring here has to do with refusing to recant one's devotion to Yeshua when faced with the reality of suffering or even dying because of one's discipleship.
to the end: Grk. telos, "a point in time that marks culmination." BAG defines this point of time in the sense of either (1) termination or cessation of something; (2) the last part or conclusion of something; or (3) the goal toward which a movement is directed. In Classical Greek telos is derived from a root tel-, which means to turn around. Originally it referred to the turning point, hinge, the culminating point at which one stage ends and another begins; later the goal, the end (DNTT 2:59). Telos occurs 150 times in the LXX, chiefly in adverbial combinations and often to translate the Heb. qēts, "end" (DNTT 2:60). The Hebrew word qēts is most often used of time, especially in phrases that speak of the end of a definite time period (e.g., Gen 8:6; 2Sam 15:7; 2Kgs 18:3), indefinitely of the passing of a time (e.g., Gen 4:3; 1Kgs 17:7), the end of a people (Jer 51:13), or the end of an individual (Job 6:11; Dan 11:45) (BDB 893).
In Daniel "the end" has an eschatological sense as the end of the age and conclusion of God's sovereign plan (Dan 8:17, 19; 9:26; 11:35, 40; 12:9). In the context of the Olivet Discourse the phrase "to the end" is probably shorthand for the "end of the age" (Dan 12:13; Matt 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20). Yeshua is viewing his disciples as a collective group, regardless of their individual lifespans. The "end" in this passage could be the an allusion to death, since millions will be executed in the great tribulation (so Rev 7:9, 14), or, if spared, the Second Coming.
he will be saved: Grk. sōzō,, fut. pass., to rescue from a hazardous condition or circumstance. The verb is used in various contexts to refer to being rescued from bodily peril, including sickness and death, as well as from spiritual peril, frequently in an apocalyptic sense of being delivered from God's wrath. In the historical books of the Tanakh God’s judgment was temporal, but beginning with Isaiah the prophets foretold the results of judgment lasting forever (Isa 34:10; Jer 25:9; Ezek 35:9). The apostolic writings reveal that salvation is the assurance of deliverance from God’s judgment of eternal death (Rom 5:9; 1Cor 5:5; Heb 11:7), as well as deliverance from all that might lead to such death, such as sin. Yeshua does not promise deliverance from persecution (cf. John 17:15), but he promises that the actions of others cannot affect his judgment of his loyal disciples.
The essence of the promise of "the one enduring will be saved" is captured by Paul's dictum, "If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us" (2Tim 2:11-13). Discipleship requires perseverance or continued loyalty to Yeshua to gain the promise of reigning with the Messiah. In Revelation the "enduring ones" are called "overcomers" and it is they who inherit all the benefits of Paradise (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:3, 5, 12). The book of Revelation closes with this promise to the overcomers, "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son" (Rev 21:7).
End of the Present Age, 24:14-28
Given the prophecies that follow Yeshua seems to speak of the end of the age. Some Christians believe that fulfillment of prophecy is unnecessary for Yeshua to come. There were over 50 prophecies related to the first coming of Yeshua. They were all fulfilled. Does it not make sense that all the prophecies pertaining to the Second Coming of Yeshua would also come true?
14― This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
This gospel: Grk. euangelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. The term is formed from Grk. eu, "good," and angelia, "message, announcement." Christian Bibles translate the term as "gospel," but given the origin of "gospel" in Old English ("god-spell"), many Jews regard the word as a distinctively Christian word. In the LXX euangelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). The good news proclaimed by Yeshua and his apostles was that God had fulfilled His promises given to Israel through the prophets and sent His Messiah in Jewish flesh to provide deliverance and atonement and to establish his kingdom on the earth (Matt 1:1, 20-23; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:30-37, 68-75; 24:44; John 1:29; 20:31; Rom 1:1-4, 16). The good news concerns directly the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.
of the kingdom: Christians often speak of the good news of grace, but Yeshua came proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. (See my note on Mark 1:15.). He announced that the kingdom was at hand, meaning that it was present in His person. The King had arrived, so the kingdom had arrived. The Kingdom exists wherever the king reigns. The good news is about the kingdom.
In the apostolic narratives the Kingdom is not (1) just about a future age; (2) heaven in the sense that you have to die to enter; (3) a church or denomination; (4) given to human leaders for their custodial care; or (5) imposed by human political action.
The good news of the Kingdom:
● is instituted by God alone.
● fulfills all the promises made to Israel under the Old Covenant.
● promises that a descendant of David will sit on the David’s throne.
● promises divine power to enables obedience to live the Torah.
● promises salvation for all Israel.
● promises divine power that brings healing and reconciliation to the world.
shall be preached: Grk. kērussō, fut. pass., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald; proclaim. The verb refers to the proclamation of the content of the good news by an authorized representative of Yeshua. in the whole: Grk. holos, adj. signifying that a person or thing is understood as a complete unit and not necessarily indicative of every individual part; all, whole, entire. world: Grk. oikoumenē (from oikeō, to inhabit or dwell), the world as an inhabited area, often with focus on its inhabitants. In the earliest classical Greek literature the term was used of the world inhabited by Greeks in contrast to those lands inhabited by barbarians, but later literature included the lands of barbarians. In the Roman period the term meant the lands under Roman rule, because whatever lay outside was of no account. In the LXX oikoumenē occurs 40 times, mostly in Psalms and Isaiah, and translates primarily Heb. tebel, 'world,' as an inhabited place (DNTT 1:518).
as a testimony: Grk. marturion, that which serves to corroborate or attest, a testimony or witness. to all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope and without statistical emphasis; (1) sometimes with the components viewed as an aggregate, all, whole; or (2) sometimes with the focus on the components of an aggregate, each, every. Here the adj. leaves none out. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 7 above. and then: Grk. tote, temporal adv. here focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. the end: Grk. telos. See verse 6 above. The "end" is the end of the present age. will come: Grk. hēkō, fut., to have come, have arrived, or be present.
15― "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).
Therefore when you see: Grk. oraō, aor. act. subj., perceiving with the eye. The verb is meant to be taken in the literal sense of physical eyesight. the abomination: Grk. bdelugma means a detestable thing and refers to anything that must not be brought before God because it arouses his wrath. Rienecker says that bdelugma refers to something that stinks in the nostrils (2:503). In the LXX bdelugma renders Heb. shiqquts, which means a detested thing, particularly anything associated with idolatrous religion (BDB 1055). See Deut 29:16; 2Kgs 23:24; Jer 4:1; 16:18; Hos 9:10; Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.C of desolation: Grk. erēmōsis, a condition of having been made uninhabitable, depopulation, desolation or devastation.
spoken: Grk. ereō, aor. pass. part., inform through utterance, here denoting speech completed. of through Daniel: Grk. Daniēl, a transliteration of Heb. Daniyyel, "God is my judge." Daniel was a young man of nobility taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, after the battle of Carchemish, 605 B.C. and transported from Judah to Babylon. The text does not indicate his precise age. The Babylonians sought to remove all vestiges of Daniel's nationality and religion. For this reason, they sought to change the name of Daniel to Belteshazzar. He was trained in the arts, letters, and wisdom in the Babylonian capital. Eventually, he rose to high rank among the Babylonian men of wisdom.
He was a civil servant throughout the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C.) and a high governmental official during the reign of Cyrus (539-529 B.C.). He served also during his old age into the reign of Darius I (522-486 B.C.). Daniel would probably have celebrated his one hundredth birthday during the reign of Darius. He demonstrated at an early age propensities of knowledge, wisdom, and leadership. In addition to his wisdom, he was skilled in dream interpretation (Dan 1:17). He was a man of singular piety (Dan 1:8-16; Ezek 14:14, 20), a man of prayer, (Dan 2:17; 6:10; 9:3-21) and courage (Dan 6:18-24).
the prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. Some prophets left literary works that later became Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).
Yeshua alludes to the book that bears Daniel's name and in so doing identifies him as a prophet. Ironically the Jewish canon did not accord Daniel that honor by including his book in the Neviim ("Prophets") portion of the Tanakh, but because his writing seem so mysterious his book was placed among the Ketuvim ("Writings"). The prophecy of the abomination of desolation is found in Daniel 9:27; 11:31 and 12:11. (See my commentary on these passages.) However, Yeshua repeated the revelation given to Daniel regarding the Desolator, a man who would make a covenant with "the many" and then commit a detestable act. Daniel’s prophecy states that this abomination occurs in the last week of the seventy-week prophetic timetable.
While the actions of the Greek dictator Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 B.C. (as described in 1Macc 1:54-55; 2Macc 6:1-3) may have paralleled Daniel's prophecy, Yeshua indicated that the fulfillment of the abomination of desolation lay in the future. Messianic Jews might well have thought Yeshua's prophecy was about to happen in A.D. 40 when Caligula sent an army into Syria with an order to erect a statute of himself in the Jerusalem temple with force of arms if necessary. Josephus tells the dramatic story that after many entreaties to the Roman General by thousands of Jews willing to die to prevent the sacrilege, his support to their cause was gained and a final appeal by King Agrippa succeeded in convincing Caligula to abandon his plan (Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII, 8:2-9).
In the first Jewish-Roman War of 66-70 A.D. the Romans had no interest in using the temple for idolatrous worship as Antiochus and Caligula and in A.D. 70 destroyed the temple. Ironically, Jewish Zealots committed a sacrilege during this war. Josephus records that the Zealots moved into and occupied the temple area and allowed persons who had committed crimes to roam about freely in the Holy of Holies. The Zealots even carried out the farce of casting lots to replace the High Priest and selected one named Phannias who was totally unqualified for the office. The retired High Priest Ananus who witnessed these events lamented, "Certainly it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places, that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains" (Wars of the Jews, IV, 3:7-10).
standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. part., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; (2) to be in an upright position, used of bodily posture; (3) to set or place in a balance; (4) fig. to stand ready, to be of a steadfast mind. The first meaning applies here. The perfect tense points to action completed in past time with continuing results to the present without any indication of the period of time. in the holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy.
place: Grk. topos is used to mean (1) a spatial area, as a locality or a location for some activity; place; (2) a position with obligation; responsibility; or (3) a circumstance that offers a chance to do something; opportunity. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX topos renders Heb. maqom (SH-4725), a standing place, place, site, used widely of a locality (first in Gen 12:6). The idiom of "holy place" occurs in the Torah for a place of sacrifice (Ex 29:31; Lev 6:30) and a court where priests ate (Lev 6:16, 26) and washed (Lev 6:27).
In the Tanakh "holy place" is used of the inner area of the tabernacle or temple that encompassed the holy of holies and the outer area where the altar of incense and table of shewbread were kept (Ex 26:33). The holy place can be the hill on which the temple stood (Ps 24:3). Ezekiel 48:15 designates a sizable area given to the priests as an allotment as a "holy place." It is generally assumed that the abomination will stand in the Jerusalem temple, largely because of Paul's words to the congregation in Thessalonica,
"Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." (2Th 2:3-4)
However, this assumption is by no means certain, since Yeshua does not say the abomination of desolation is standing in a temple. While "temple of God" in the Tanakh refers to the Jerusalem temple (Ezra 3:9; 6:17), Paul also uses the expression in a figurative sense of a physical body (1Cor 6:19) and of a congregation (1Cor 3:16-17; 2Cor 6:16). We won't know until it happens.
let the reader: Grk. anaginōskō, pres. part., means to read, to read aloud and referred to a public reader; lit. "the one reading." The verb alludes to the practice in early congregations of reading Scripture in services and meetings, which was adopted from Jewish practice (cf. Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15; 15:21; 2Cor 3:15; Col 4:16; 1Th 5:27). In Judaism any member of the congregation may be called upon to read Scripture, lead in congregational prayer or preach sermons (Wilson 216). understand: Grk. noeō, pres. imp., to grasp with the mind or heart ('understand') or to give thought to ('think about or ponder'). In a Jewish synagogue or Messianic congregation the reader would understand or recognize that the reference to the abomination of desolation. While the command to the reader appears to be Matthew's instruction (reflected by versions putting the phrase in parentheses), there is no reason not to take it as coming from Yeshua in anticipation of his words being repeated. (Parentheses do not appear in the original Bible MSS.)
16― "Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
Then those who are in Judea: Grk. Ioudaia transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea and corresponds to the Heb. name Y'hudah, which means "praised" or "object of praise" (Gen 29:35; BDB 397). "Judea" most likely refers to the historic territory of Judea (which lay between Samaria and Idumea), since the context is during the reign of the Herods, although the first readers of Mark might assume he meant the Roman province of Judea, which comprised all three territories. Only in the parallel version in Luke 21:21 does Yeshua direct those in the city (Jerusalem) to leave. must flee: Grk. pheugō, pres. imp., to make a decision movement away to avoid a hazard. The present tense emphasizes to start and continue the action until completed. to the mountains: pl. of Grk. oros . See verse 3 above. In Judea people would not have to go far to find mountains.
17― "Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house.
Whoever is on the housetop: Grk. dōmatos, the roof as a level structure over a house; lit. "the one on the roof." The flat roofs of ancient houses, accessed by means of an outside staircase, served as places for mourning (Isa 15:3) or prayer (Dan 6:10; Acts 10:9). must not go down: Grk. katabainō, aor. imp., to proceed in a direction that is down from the starting point; to come or go down. The prohibition is not directed at vacating the roof in the face of imminent danger, but the destination after leaving the roof as explained in the rest of the verse.
to get the things out: Grk. airō, aor. inf., may mean (1) to cause to move upward; raise up, lift; or (2) move by lifting or taking from one position to another; take away, remove, carry off. The second meaning applies here. The infinitive is used to express purpose. that are in his house: Grk. oikos is a structure for habitation. The obvious point of the instruction is that life is more important than possessions. The instruction anticipates the warning of verse 21.
18― "Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.
Whoever is in the field: Grk. agros normally refers to a plot of ground used mainly for agriculture (Matt 13:24), i.e., a field, and occasionally as the countryside outside a city or village (Mark 15:21; 16:15; Luke 23:26). must not turn back: Grk. epistrephō, aor. imp., to turn about. to get his cloak: Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). The himation was worn over an undergarment, Grk. chitōn (Matt 5:40). In the LXX chitōn renders Heb. kethoneth, "tunic," the principal ordinary garment made of linen and worn next to the skin by both men and women (BDB 509). The scenario envisioned seems to be that of someone laboring in a field, having removed his outer garment for comfort. Yeshua's instruction insists that the crisis and danger, as described in verse 21, is so great that the worker does not even have time to go fetch his cloak.
19― "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!
But woe: Grk. ouai is normally used in the apostolic writings as an interjection denoting pain or displeasure, "woe" or "alas." Here ouai refers to a pending calamity. In the LXX ouai renders Hebrew words meaning "to howl," which may express grief (Prov 23:29), despair (1Sam 4:7), lamentation (1Kgs 13:30), dissatisfaction (Isa 1:4), pain (Jer 10:19), a threat (Ezek 16:23) or simply to attract attention (Isa 55:11) (DNTT 3:1051). to those: Grk. tais, fem. personal pron., pl. of ho, lit. "the [female] ones." who are: Grk. echō, pres. act. part., to have or to possess something. pregnant: Grk. gastēr, the region of the body containing the stomach and the womb. The verb combined with the noun "womb" is used idiomatically for being pregnant.
and to those who are nursing babies: Grk. thēlazō, pres. part., to nurse, to suckle at the breast; lit. "and to the ones giving suck" (Marshall). in those days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The fourth usage applies here. The time of distress is defined in verse 21.
20― "But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.
But pray: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. imp., to petition God for a personal desire or to intercede for others. that your flight: Grk. phugē, escape from a painful circumstance, flight. will not be: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj., to become or come into being. in the winter: Grk. cheimōn, from cheima ('winter weather, storm') means inclement weather conditions or more particularly the rainy season, which would be winter. or on a Sabbath: Grk. sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath ("sabbath observance" BDB 992) (DNTT 3:405). We should remember that all the appointed times on the Hebrew calendar, including the first and last days of week-long festivals, were considered sabbaths (Lev 23), because ordinary work was prohibited on those days.
The principal Torah instruction for the Sabbath may be found in the following passages: Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11; 31:13-16; Lev 19:3; 23:3; Num 15:32; Deut 5:12-15. (See my web article Remember the Sabbath.) The lack of the definite article with the noun here would suggest that this sabbath refers to any day of the calendar considered a Sabbath. Strict Sabbath observance restricted travel that day to 2,000 cubits or about 1,000 yards (Ex 16:29; Josh 3:4; cf. Acts 1:12). Bethpage, as a suburb of Jerusalem, was considered the outer limit for a Sabbath day's journey (Mish. Menachoth 11:2; Tal. Pesachim 63b, 91a; Menachoth 78b). This rule would not be broken for private travel even in an emergency.
The Apocrypha recounts how Apollonius, sent by Antiochus Epiphanes, with an army of twenty-two thousand attacked Jerusalem on a Sabbath (1Macc 1:29-39). The Syrian army killed thousands, plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. It was not unusual for Yeshua to tell his disciples how to pray, but this is the most specific instruction he gave on prayer. Notable is that Yeshua does not enjoin prayer that the tribulation described in the next verse won't happen. There is no point praying against fulfillment of divine prophecy. Rather, disciples should pray as Yeshua instructed.
21― "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.
For then there will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 3 above. a great: Grk. megas, adj., large, great, used of quantity as well as intensity. tribulation: Grk. thlipsis. See verse 9 above. In context Yeshua explains four aspects of the great tribulation that set it apart from all other periods of tribulation. He has already said in verse 15 that the great tribulation is initiated by the one that commits the abomination of desolation, the little horn of Daniel 7:21-25 and the prince of Daniel 9:27, otherwise known in the Besekh as anti-messiah, man of lawlessness, son of destruction and beast. Ultimately, of course, Satan is responsible for the great tribulation (Rev 12:11, 13, 17). Yeshua goes on to explain the scope of the great tribulation and then in the next verse its length and target.
such as has not occurred: The meaning of thlipsis in the Besekh as referring to trials experienced by the followers of Yeshua is greatly intensified by adding the adjective "great" to it. The great tribulation is called "great" because such a time has not occurred since creation. This same hyperbole is used in Daniel 12:1 of a distress that Israel will experience. In the past tribulations of God’s people were localized. The great tribulation will be global in scope. The narratives of Revelation 6:9-11, 7:9-17, 15:2-4 and 20:4 all an experience of horror. Millions will suffer betrayal, economic privation, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, homelessness, grief and death.
22― "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
Unless those days: i.e., the days of the great tribulation. had been cut short: Grk. koloboō, aor. pass., to curtail in the sense of a reduction in number. Yeshua declares a divine intention to limit the length of tribulation, because of the potential of catastrophic consequences. no life: Grk. sarx, lit. "flesh," has a variety of literal and figurative uses in Scripture. In the LXX sarx stands for Heb. basar (SH-1320), with much the same applications as sarx (DNTT 1:672). The Hebrew word basar, is used to refer to all living beings on earth (Gen 6:17, 19; 7:21; 9:11), animals (Gen 7:15-16; 8:17) or mankind in distinction from animals (Gen 6:12, 18; Num 16:22). The use of sarx here intends human life.
would have been saved: Grk. sōzō, aor. pass. See verse 12 above. Without a divine limitation the great tribulation would destroy the world's population even as the global deluge in Noah's time. but for the sake of the elect: Grk. eklektos, adj., to be favored with select status, (derived from the verb eklegō, to pick out for oneself, choose or select); chosen, elect. In the LXX eklektos primarily renders two words: Heb. mibchar (SH-4005), choice or best (Gen 23:6) and especially Heb. bachir (SH-972), chosen (2Sam 21:6). The noun bachir indicates that the purpose of the choice is some commission or service, and can only meaningfully retain its validity in its fulfillment (DNTT 1:538). This election began with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and extended to their blood descendants, the nation of Israel (Deut 4:37; 10:15).
The noun eklektos appears 22 times in the Besekh, mostly with the focus on an object of choice by God. About half of the occurrences of the noun are in the apostolic narratives, particularly in the Olivet Discourse. In Yeshua's eschatological teaching the elect endure the great tribulation (here; Mark 13:20), contend with false messiahs and false prophets (verse 24 below; Mark 13:22) and are gathered by the angels from heaven and earth (verse 31 below; Mark 13:27). The elect are also those who petition God for justice and receive it (Luke 18:7).
Interpretation of the identity of the elect in this context largely depends on one's view of eschatology. Those who adopt the pretribulation viewpoint assume that the word "elect" must refer to Israel or Jews since the Christians have been Raptured before the tribulation. In one respect the interpretation is positive because the term "elect" or "chosen" certainly refers to Israel in Scripture. The Jews are God’s chosen people (Deut 7:6). However, the pretribulation viewpoint lacks convincing evidence. See my article The Rapture Debate.
According to Daniel and Revelation the beast will wage a fierce war against God's people, wearing them down and shattering the power of the holy people (Dan 7:25; 12:7; Rev 11:7; 12:17; 13:7). He will succeed as no previous tyrant in silencing the voice of God’s people. While Yeshua's words do have a particular application to Jews, the global nature of the events described in this discourse and the reality of Revelation 7:9 cannot be ignored. John said that he saw "a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne" and the angelic explanation that all of these peoples came out of the great tribulation (Rev 7:14).
There is absolutely no biblical evidence that God has changed the rules to exempt any of Yeshua's followers, especially Christians, from suffering in the last days, including at the hands of the anti-messiah. Nowhere does Scripture say that the great tribulation will only be directed at Jews. Question to ponder. Why should God do something for the Church at the end of the age that He’s never done before? The Rapture may be a purely academic dispute if virtually all the Church is martyred in the great tribulation. The only ones seen being protected during this time are the 144,000 Israelites (Rev 7:3) and the woman (Rev 12:6). (See my commentary on Revelation 7.) The idea that God would ensure that Christians get to party in heaven while Jews are going through hell on earth is totally repugnant.
What does Scripture say about the elect? The meaning of "chosen" is relative to the context. Yes, Israel is the chosen people, but individuals were also chosen within Israel, such as the priests and the kings, and outside Israel, such as King Cyrus (Isa 45:1), whom God called Mashiach ("anointed one"). Most significant is that the first time the concept occurs is in reference to Abraham (Gen 18:19). The blessing of Abraham extends to all nations (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:14) and all those of the nations who believe in the God of Israel and His Messiah are the sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7) and therefore among the chosen (Col 3:12).
In this verse (also Mark 13:20) the great tribulation is cut short for the sake of the elect, which means they must experience it. The term has an historical focus, not an ethnic focus. The length of the great tribulation would make no difference to the elect if they were "raptured" before it even started. In verse 24 (also Mark 13:22), the elect are the objects of deception by false Messiahs and false prophets and in verse 31 the elect will be gathered from the four winds by His angels and a great trumpet. Mark 13:27 further clarifies the gathering as being from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. Thus, Yeshua's coming will be a grand reunion of the elect; therefore, the gathering of the elect must be equated with the resurrection.
In apostolic letters the word "elect" includes Gentile believers. The apostle Paul established the important theological truth that the designation of "elect" was not the exclusive property of ethnic Jews, because "they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel" (Rom 9:6). The elect are all whom the Father has called to salvation and who have responded in trusting faithfulness (Rom 9:24-25; 10:11). Thus, Gentiles who had not previously enjoyed the "chosen" status could now attain it by virtue of being grafted into the Jewish root (Rom 11:17). In addition, the apostles used the term "elect" as a standard greeting in letters to the congregations, all of which were mixed congregations of Jews and Gentiles (Rom 8:33; Col 3:12; 2Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1Pet 1:1; 2:9; 2Jn 1:1).
The word "elect" emphasizes that the total Body of Messiah is a corporate unit selected by God to share in an everlasting covenant. The use of the word "elect" in the context of great tribulation passages serves to depict how special are God’s people who will be called upon to endure the war of the beast against them.
those days: i.e., the days of the great tribulation. will be cut short: Grk. koloboō, fut. pass. Fortunately, by divine decree the great tribulation has a set time limit. If the period were to be allowed to go longer then Satan would destroy all life on the earth. According to Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 the length of the great distress or tribulation, is "a time, times and half a time," presumptively three and a half years since Daniel 12:11 says there will be 1,290 days from the time the abomination of desolation is established until the end. Yeshua says here that the time of the great tribulation would be cut short for the sake of the chosen ones. This exception could allude to the fact that the two witnesses prophesy and the woman, presumptively Israel, is protected for 1,260 days, and then Israel is given 30 days to mourn over their Messiah (Zech 12:10-12; Matt 24:30). The great tribulation concludes before the coming of Yeshua in the clouds (verse 29 below).
23― "Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him.
Then if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. says: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See verse 2 above. to you, Behold: Grk. idou, demonstrative interjection (the aor. mid. imp. of eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek particle, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009) in divine monologues or narratives (e.g., Gen 1:29), serves particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG).
here is: Grk. hōde, adv. of place, here or in this place. the Christ: Grk. Christos, Messiah. See verse 5 above. Yeshua echoes the Torah instruction warning about spiritual seduction:
"If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him." (Deut 13:6-8)
do not believe him: Grk. pisteuō, aor. subj., to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. Since the verse begins with "if anyone," then the translation of "believe him" is appropriate. The command with the negative particle mē is a strong prohibition. Yeshua forbids his disciples giving any credence to anyone claiming personal knowledge of someone else being the Messiah. Don't trust in such a claim and don't act on such a claim, because to do so will bring utter ruin.
24― "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
For false Christs: pl. of Grk. pseudocristos is one who makes false claims to being Israel's Anointed One, a bogus Messiah. Christian writers have nominated many different world leaders for the role of Antichrist, but Yeshua pointed out that some men will identify themselves as a messianic figure or specifically as the Messiah expected by Israel. See the note on verse 5 above. Many Jewish imposters have indeed claimed the title or been heralded by Jewish groups as the Messiah. In addition, various non-Jewish cultic leaders have claimed to be the expected Messiah.
There have been more than fifty messianic pretenders in the last 2000 years of Jewish history, starting with Theudas and Judas of Galilee in the first century, Acts 5:36-37, and ending with Joseph Frank in the 18th century who became a Roman Catholic (Stern 5). None of them met the criteria laid down in Scripture concerning the identity of the Messiah, whereas Yeshua fulfilled them all. False messiahs as consummate politicians hold out the promise of peace and safety (cf. 1Th 5:3) and yet never fulfill expectations. False messiahs typically deny God's expectations in Torah and live as if they're accountable to no one. Eventually, though, their lives come to nothing and pass from the contemporary scene only to face God for their arrogance and presumption.
and false prophets: pl. of Grk. pseudoprophētēs (from pseudēs, 'false' and prophētēs, 'prophet') is one who falsely claims to have divine credentials for service as a prophet, with or without the implication of offering incorrect information. In order to understand what makes a prophet false, we must consider the ministry of prophets in Scripture. Biblical prophecy means to foretell, tell forth or to prophesy, with three functional meanings: (1) the act of stating or disclosing divine will and purpose; (2) a gift for disclosure of divine will or purpose; (3) or a disclosure made under divine authority or direction. The Hebrew prophets warned of the sins that lead to judgment, announced in advance various disasters and consequences for specific sins, taught the people about how to avoid judgment and turn back to God, and gave hope for the future when Israel and Judah would be restored and revived.
False prophesying has two elements identified in Scripture, although they do not always occur together. First, the forth-telling of false prophets may counsel abandonment of the God of Israel, in particular, or more generally to disobey God's commandments (Deut 13:1-3) or may introduce false (heretical) teachings (2Pet 2:1). They often engage in reprehensible conduct themselves, such as immorality or divination (Jer 23:14; Acts 8:9-24; 13:6-12). In relation to false messiahs and the final antichrist false prophets play the role of giving credibility to the messianic figure, much as Rabbi Akiva did for Simon bar Kokhba in the early 2nd century AD.
Second, the foretelling of false prophets may announce predictions that do not come to pass (Deut 18:22; Jer 23:25) or deny predictions that biblical prophets have made (Jer 20:6; 2Chr 18:5; John 7:40-43). False prophets sometimes make their pronouncements based on dreams or visions or the bold declaration that "God told me" (cf. Jer 14:14; 23:32; Lam 2:14; Ezek 13:7, 9, 23; 13:7-9; 21:29; 22:28; 27:15; Zech 10:2; Col 2:18). The second element should be a strong clue to cease giving a prophet credibility when the prediction doesn't come true.
Yeshua warned his disciples of false prophets (Matt 7:15-16; 24:11) and the apostles reiterated the threat (cf. 2Pet 2:1). Paul similarly declared, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2Tim 4:3-4 NASB). Paul advised the Corinthian disciples to "pass judgment" on anyone who prophesies (1Cor 14:29). John instructed disciples to "test the spirits" (1Jn 4:1), i.e., evaluate carefully anyone who claims to speak for God. Merely, asserting that one's message is from God does not automatically provide credibility. The message must accord with Scripture to be accepted as divinely inspired.
and will show: Grk. didōmi, fut., to give, with various literal and figurative senses: (1) to give something to some one, whether a person or God; (2) to cause, or produce, give forth from oneself; (3) to grant or permit something; (4) to commit a thing to one, deliver it into one's power, to set before (Thayer). The second sense fits here. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, SH-5414, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). The force of the verb here is to cause or produce. great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 21 above. The adjective indicates something impressive and out of the ordinary.
signs: pl. of Grk. sēmeion, an indirect way, as by a circumstance or deed, of indicating or verifying something at hand or in the future. The noun usually refers to an extraordinary phenomenon, a portent or a miracle (Mounce). In the apostolic narratives sēmeion is normally used in reference to miracles to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18). In the LXX sēmeion is predominately a translation of the Heb. word oth (SH-226), "sign, pledge, token, standard or miracle" (DNTT 2:626). Various signs were promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men (BDB 16). Most of the "signs" in the Tanakh are miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, especially the many miracles for Israel's benefit (Ex 4:17; 7:3; Num 17:25; Deut 4:34; 7:19; 11:3; 26:8; Josh 4:6).
and wonders: pl. of Grk. teras, a phenomenon with an astounding effect, and in the Besekh always with "signs" (cf. Isa 8:18). In Greek sources teras denotes terrible appearances which elicit fright and horror and which contradict the orderly unity of nature (DNTT 2:633). In the LXX teras chiefly renders mopheth ("wonder, sign or portent," BDB 68). The Hebrew and Greek words feature in contexts of supra-terrestrial occurrences and divine intervention. Since "signs" and "wonders" appear together they may be considered two sides of the same coin. In other words, "sign" is the event and "wonder" is the impact on those who witness the sign.
The Torah acknowledges that a false prophets can perform "signs and wonders" (Deut 13:1-2). Bible history records miracles by those opposed to God, beginning with the magicians of Egypt (Ex 7:11, 22). In Revelation the false prophet causes fire to come out of the sky and makes an image of the beast come alive and speak (Rev 13:13-15). Exorcising demons can be performed by those who are not faithful disciples of Yeshua (Matt 12:27), as he said,
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you.'" (Matt 7:22-23)
Performing "signs and wonders" is no guarantee of truly speaking for God. Unfortunately, too many modern believers follow after popular preachers because of miracle-working claims and fail to examine both their theology and their lifestyle.
so as to mislead: Grk. planaō, aor. inf. See verse 4 above. if possible: Grk. dunatos, having power or competence ("competent, able") or capable of being realized ("possible, realizable"). the elect: Grk. elektos. See verse 22 above. Satan will be extremely successful in deceiving the world (2Th 2:9-10), but he will not succeed with the elect, although the potential exists. Disciples are human beings and there are limits to endurance. Yet, it seems most likely that the elect here are synonymous with the overcomers in Revelation who do not abandon their Savior and Messiah in the face of trials.
25― "Behold, I have told you in advance.
Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 23 above. I have told you in advance: Grk. prolegō, perf., to tell beforehand or in advance. The instruction must be qualified by what Yeshua said before his ascension, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority" (Act 1:7 NASB). The disciples were informed about all the things they needed to know, but Yeshua never intended to provide a detailed timetable of the future. Many commentators practice "media exegesis," by which they try to fit contemporary events into biblical prophecy, but so many assessments and predictions are pure speculation with little value for discipleship.
26― "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them.
So if they say: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See verse 2 above. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Behold: Grk. idou. See verse 23 above. He is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. in the wilderness: Grk. erēmos, unpopulated region, desert or lonely place. do not go out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. subj., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. or, Behold, He is in the inner rooms: pl. of Grk. tameion, an area in a house of a rather private nature; storeroom, inner room. do not believe them: Grk. pisteuō, aor. subj. See verse 23 above. Yeshua actually warned his disciples against believing he would return secretly, as if he would sneak back and hide.
The Second Coming, 24:27-31
27― "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
For just as the lightning: Grk. astrapē, a stream of light or lightning. comes from the east: Grk. anatolē, an astronomical term of the position of a heavenly body, in this case the sun and used as a position marker, that is the east from which the sun rises. and flashes: Grk. phainō, to function in a manner that makes observation possible, with the focus on provision for a lighted condition, thus to shine, to appear or to flash. even to the west: Grk. dusmē, the direction of the setting of the sun, the west. Yeshua is not saying that lightning only flashes horizontally from east to west. Lightning can flash in any direction. However, in ancient times lightning from the east was usually seen as a good omen. This is reasonable because it is probably the end of a storm. Lightning from the west was ominous, but also meant a storm was probably approaching.
so will the coming: Grk. parousia. See the note on verse 3 above. With this word picture Yeshua gives important information related to the timing, speed and visibility of his coming. The storm would be the great tribulation, the speed would be comparable to the "blink of an eye" and his coming will be easily seen by anyone on the ground. Son of Man: Grk. ho huios tou anthrōpou, which translates the Heb. ben adam. "Son of man," or "son of the first man, namely Adam." The idiom is thoroughly Hebraic and has no counterpart in Greek culture. Christian interpreters typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his identification with humanity, whereas "Son of God" pertains to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite.
In the Olivet Discourse and other passages that point to the Second Coming the "Son of Man" is a Messianic title that refers to the supra-natural figure from heaven who establishes a kingdom on the earth (e.g., Matt 13:41; 16:27-28).
"I kept watching the night visions, when I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 To him was given rulership, glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His rulership is an eternal rulership that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. … 27 Then the kingdom, the rulership and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. Their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey them.'" (Dan 7:13-14, 27 CJB)
For first-century Jews the "Son of Man" is Daniel's divine redeemer in human form. He appears younger than the Ancient of Days and will be enthroned on high. Jewish intertestamental literature expounded strongly on his identity and activity (cf. Book of Enoch Chapter 46). David Flusser, Orthodox Jewish scholar and professor at Hebrew University, explains,
"In all of the sources, the one resembling a man is portrayed in a consistent manner. The Son of Man has a superhuman, heavenly sublimity. He is the cosmic judge at the end of time. Sitting upon the throne of God, judging the entire human race with the aid of the heavenly hosts, he will consign the just to blessedness and the wicked to the pit of hell. Frequently he is identified with the Messiah, but he can also be identified with Enoch, who was taken up into heaven." (112)
28― "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Wherever: Grk. hopou ean, "where if." the corpse: Grk. ptōma, that which has fallen, a carcass or corpse. is: Grk. eimi, pres. subj. See verse 3 above. The subjunctive mood would render the verb as "might be." there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place. the vultures: pl. of Grk. aetos, a large bird of the family Accipitridae. The term refers to a bird of prey, an eagle or vulture. Some versions have "eagles" (ASV, DRA, KJV, NKJV, RSV). Some commentators interpret the term to refer to Roman military standards, and thus a jeopardy to the first century apostles. However, the chronology of the narrative argues against such an interpretation.
will gather: Grk. sunagō, fut. pass., to bring together in a collective manner; gather. Yeshua may have been quoting a folk proverb. Birds preying on carrion may refer to persons used by demonic spirits to carry out evil purposes; they gather around false messiahs and draw people away from the truth. There is a possibility that the saying is a cryptic allusion to the revelation later given to John of the vultures feeding on the beast's army who are slain when Yeshua returns (Rev 19:17-21). See my commentary on Revelation 19. The final false messiah will be judged by the true Messiah.
29― "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
But: Grk. de, conj. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., 'immediately, forthwith, right away. The adverb is a dramatic device that shifts the scene. after: Grk. meta, prep., may be used as (1) a marker of association or accompaniment; 'amid,' among,' 'with,' or 'in company with'; or (2) a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The second usage applies here. This verse and the next indicate important events in a particular chronological sequence. the tribulation: Grk. thlipsis. Seeverse 9 and 21 above. Yeshua then conflates the message of Isaiah 13:10, Ezekiel 32:7, Joel 2:10, Amos 5:20 and Zephaniah 1:15.
the sun: Grk. hēlios (Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). Its mean distance from the earth is about 93 million miles, its diameter about 864,000 miles, and its mass about 330,000 times that of the earth. The surface temperature of the sun is in excess of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and its distance from the earth assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). The sun moves in an orbit through the Milky Way Galaxy (Ps 19:5-6), at a speed that scientists estimate to be 600,000 mph (BBMS 165). In ancient times the sun was worshipped as a deity in pagan cultures.
will be darkened: Grk. skotizō, fut. pass. (from skotos, 'absence of light') to undergo darkness as a natural phenomenon. and the moon: Grk. selēnē (Heb. yareach), the earth's natural satellite, orbiting the earth at a mean distance of 238,857 miles and having a diameter of 2160 miles. Like the sun the moon was created on the fourth day to "govern the night" (Gen 1:16). As a result of the space program and lunar landings, the moon is now known to be completely void of life (just as the Bible indicated all along) but to be composed of similar rocks and minerals to those of earth. At the same time, the structure of the moon, as well as the proportions of the different rocks and minerals, is so vastly different from the corresponding attributes of Earth as to make it certain that the two could not have had a common evolutionary origin (BBMS 164). Like the sun the moon was also worshipped as a deity in ancient pagan cultures.
will not give its light: Grk. pheggos, brightness projected by a light-giving object, light or radiance. The moon, of course, does not generate light as the sun, but governs the night by reflecting the light from the sun. The sun and moon were given to mankind not only as a means to sustain life and aids to navigation, but to function as "signs" (Heb. mo‘adim), portents with religious significance (Gen 1:16-18). The sun and moon determined the climatic "seasons," but mo'adim is used in the Torah to refer to sacred seasons or festivals, especially in Leviticus 23 (BDB 417). The constancy of the sun and moon are reminders of God’s covenantal faithfulness to Israel as the Psalmist says, "His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful" (Ps 89:36-37).
The prophecy reports a condition as seen from the surface of earth, or more precisely from Israel. The prophecy does not mean that the sun's light is extinguished, only that it can't be seen from earth. Yeshua predicts a double eclipse as preceding his coming. The prophecies of Joel 2:31 and Revelation 6:12 add important information about this event. John saw that the sun looked black as sackcloth. In John’s day sackcloth was a rough cloth made from the hair of a black goat and worn in times of mourning. Both Joel and John saw that the moon looked like blood. While blood is bright red on the inside of a body, it begins to darken when exposed to outside air.
During a total eclipse of the moon, the lunar disk is not completely dark, but is faintly illuminated with a red light refracted by the earth’s atmosphere, which filters out the blue rays. A lunar eclipse may even result in a range of colors from dark brown and red to bright orange and yellow. If the earth had no atmosphere, then the moon would be completely black during a total eclipse. The exact appearance depends on how much dust and clouds are present in earth’s atmosphere at the time of the eclipse.
The cause of these effects are described in Joel 2:30: "I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke." The description in this verse says something significant about the atmospheric conditions of the earth at the time of the lunar eclipse. Total lunar eclipses tend to be very dark after major volcanic eruptions since these events dump large amounts of ash into Earth’s atmosphere. For example, in December 1992 dust from the Mount Pinatubo eruption during the lunar eclipse rendered the moon nearly invisible. The dark red color of the moon may indicate a similar condition of a massive volcanic eruption. What could cause the "blood, fire and columns of smoke?"
(1) John says that a great earthquake occurs immediately before the sun and moon are darkened. Volcanic eruptions are often triggered by earthquakes.
(2) Joel’s prediction could also be fulfilled in the first five trumpet plagues described in Revelation, which makes sense because the fifth trumpet plague lasts five months.
and the stars: pl. of Grk. astēr, a luminous heavenly body. Modern astronomy generally defines a star as a large, fixed, self-luminous heavenly body, as the sun, but the Bible word is also used of wandering bodies, such as comets or meteors (Jude 1:13). Occasionally in Scripture angels are identified as "stars" (Judg 5:20; Job 38:7; Ps 148:3; Rev 1:20). will fall: Grk. piptō, fut. mid., to drop from a relatively high position to one that is lower, to fall or to collapse. from the sky: pl. of Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the atmosphere, interstellar space and the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. word hashamayim ("the heavens") (DNTT 2:191). The consistent use of the plural form for "heaven" is thought to signify completeness, yet different activities and places are associated with hashamayim (DNTT 2:188).
The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to three different places (Ps 148:1-4). The first heaven refers to the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Job 38:29; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26). The second heaven is the name given the expanse stretched out from the initial watery black hole (Gen 1:8) and then populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth. Finally, the third heaven is the abode of God the Father, the home of angels and the place where Yeshua sits at the right hand of God (1Kgs 8:30; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2-4; Eph 1:20). The majority of the occurrences of "heaven" in Scripture refer to the third heaven.
This phrase "stars will fall" cannot be taken literalistically since falling has no meaning in outer space. Falling from the sky as far as observation goes from the earth would imply impact with the earth as suggested by Revelation 6:13. However, multiple "stars" (as defined by modern astronomy) falling into the earth would destroy it. Scripture promises that the earth will be destroyed, but not from stars crashing into it. The quotation could be taken from Isaiah 34:4. In that prophecy the stars wear away (Heb. maqaq), which means to rot or decay.
The LXX translates maqaq with piptō, which means to fall and that is the word used in the Matthew passage, which obviously quotes from the LXX. However, piptō not only means to fall as a direction, but to fall apart or to collapse as a structure might collapse. A fact of astronomy is that big stars can experience gravitational collapse and when they do it produces a supernova, a massive explosion. Isaiah 13:10; Ezek 32:7-8, Joel 2:10 and 3:15 speak of stars losing their light. Another factor to consider is that in Scripture any object in interstellar space is identified as a "star," so the stars falling could refer to a meteor shower.
The quotation could be taken from Daniel 8:10, which speaks of a small horn, "It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down." According to Revelation 6:13 stars fall to the earth; so the stars falling could refer to the fall of Satan and his angels (1) sky, NIV, NASB = heaven; (2) angels are called stars (Judg 5:20; Job 38:7; named Ps 147:4; 148:3; seven stars Rev 1:20); (3) Yeshua saw Satan fall from heaven (Luke 10:18); (4) angels are powers in heavenly places (Eph 6:18; 1Pet 3:22), (5) John saw Michael the archangel defeat Satan and throw him and his angels to earth (Rev 12:7-9).
and the powers: pl. of Grk. dunamis, having ability to perform something, whether it be physical, spiritual, military or political (DNTT 2:601). In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602). The word functions here as a personification of powerful entities. of the heavens: pl. of Grk. ouranos. will be shaken: The phrase forms a poetic parallelism with the previous phrase and clarifies the meaning of the prophecy. The phrase could refer to a physical catastrophe in outer space, cf. Isaiah 13:13; 34:4 sky rolled up as a scroll, torn in Isaiah 64:1, shaken Hag 2:6; Rev 6:14. The phrase could also refer to Michael's war against Satan's kingdom and thus connected to the "stars falling." Powers of the heavens is a metaphor for Satanic forces (Rom 8:38; Eph 6:12; Col 2:15; 1Pet 3:22). The prophecy of Michael’s war has relevance here because he is the protector of Israel (Dan 12:1; Rev 12:7-9).
30― "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
Yeshua proceeds add to the previous prophecies by conflating prophecies in Zechariah 12:10 and Daniel 7:13. Yeshua summarizes three specific events for God's people to anticipate without inserting any reference to the length of time between the events. And then the sign: Grk. sēmeion. See verse 3 above. The apostles had asked Yeshua to describe the "sign" of his coming into royal power. Before doing that he warned them that false messiahs would produce great signs (verse 24), but only God can produce the sign that God's people are anticipating.
of the Son of Man: See verse 27 above. This prophecy of the "sign of the Son of Man" has been understood by most interpreters as a reference to the Second Coming of Yeshua in the clouds as described in the second half of the verse. However, the "sign" cannot be synonymous with the "Son," because the clause would then be a redundancy. Seeing the first event facilitates the middle part of this verse's prophecy and then the last part will happen.
will appear: Grk. phainō, fut. pass., to function in a manner that makes observation possible, with the focus on provision for a lighted condition, thus to shine, to appear or to flash. in the sky: Grk. ouranos. See verse 29 above. The translation of "sky" is misleading, since ouranos is not limited to the atmosphere of the earth, but would extend into interstellar space. The portent prophesied by Joel is a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse, which is impossible by definition. However, all things are possible with God, and the impossible should be expected in conjunction with the Second Coming. This sign might well be preceded by various planetary conjunctions. Several astronomical signs of this nature occurred prior to the first coming of Yeshua. (See Summary of Conjunctions of Planets Near Time of Christ's Birth.)
Especially relevant to the next event in the end-times chronology is the appearance of Elijah (Mal 4:5). While not specifically mentioned in the Olivet Discourse Yeshua confirmed on another occasion that Elijah must precede the glorious Second Coming (Matt 17:11). Elijah is no doubt one of the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3-6, 11-14. Every so often someone appears in Israel claiming to be Elijah, but they can't produce the miracles of Elijah or the two witnesses in Revelation (Stern). When the real Elijah appears Israel will know that the Messiah is not far behind. The seal of Elijah's ministry will be his resurrection and ascension into the sky on a cloud (Rev 11:12), followed by a great earthquake.
all the tribes: Grk. phulē has two basic meanings: (1) a tribe of Israel and (2) a nation or people. In the apostolic writings phulē occurs 8 times in the singular, 23 times in the plural, and is often used to denote one or all the twelve tribes of Israel. In the LXX phulē occurs over 400 times and translates three different Hebrew words, meaning tribe, clan or nation. Basically phulē is a body of people united by blood kinship or habitation. While the Hebrew terms apply predominately to the tribes of Israel, phulē can also apply to the nations of the world, as in the blessing of Abraham (Gen 12:3). (DNTT 3:870-871). The word translated "tribes" occurs frequently in the Tanakh and the apostolic writings, normally indicating the tribes of Israel. In only a small number of instances does the term apply to non-Israelites (Rev 7:9; 11:9; cf. Gen 12:3; 25:16; Isa 19:13; Ezek 20:32).
of the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates the earth in a cosmological sense, but often occurs in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (TWOT 1:74). The complete phrase "tribes of the earth" has been interpreted three ways: (1) a symbolic reference to unsaved humanity; (2) a reference to the tribes of Israel; and (3) a symbolic reference to spiritual Israel consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles. However, the CJB, Darby, ISV, LITV, Mace (1729), Marshall, MW and TLV translate "earth" as "land" expressing the common usage of the term in the Tanakh to designate the Land of Israel. The phrase "all the tribes of the land" alludes to the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10 and can only refer to those Jews alive in the land of Israel at the Second Coming of their Messiah.
will mourn: Grk. koptō, fut. mid., means to beat one’s chest as an act of mourning. Koptō may be contrasted with lupē that refers to the grief, sorrow or pain of mind or spirit (2Cor 7:10). The Heb. word for mourning is sapad or to make lamentation. Hebrew mourning was always demonstrative and might include cutting oneself, shaving off one’s hair, eating mourning bread, calling in mourning women (Jer 9:16-21), putting on sackcloth (Isa 15:2f), removing one’s beard (Isa 7:20), beating one’s breast (Nah 2:7), but most prominent was wailing (Isa 15:2; Mark 5:38) (DNTT 2:417f). Stern comments that in Hebrew to mourn generally includes both grief over the death itself and sorrow at what one failed to do in relation to the deceased (789).
The prophecy alludes to Zechariah 12:10, and many commentators assume the mourning refers to remorse at having rejected Yeshua as Messiah and Savior and anticipation of divine judgment. There are several reasons why this interpretation does not fit the context:
(a) The verb here for mourning refers to the normal grief felt at the loss of a loved one (cf. Matt 11:17; Luke 23:27). The mourning that may include regret or repentance is the verb pentheō or the noun penthos, not koptō (cf. Matt 5:4; Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25; 2Cor 12:21; Jas 4:9; Rev 18:7f, 15, 19, 21:4).
(b) The context of Zechariah 12:10 from which this prophecy comes is actually judgment on the Gentile nations opposing Israel and deliverance by the Messiah of his beloved people;
(c) The mourning in Zechariah follows the "Spirit of grace and of supplication" received from the Messiah;
(d) The focus of the mourning is Yeshua Himself, not what he does negatively to wicked people.
Therefore, the mourning of this prophecy is not anguish over impending judgment but the anticipation of the day when the Jewish people will open their hearts to their Messiah. Then the Messiah will provide consolation (Isa 66:13). In his comment on Matthew 23:37-39 Stern clarifies that the national confession of Israel must take place before the Lord will return (71). The national confession must precede the appearance of Yeshua based on his explicit words, "Behold your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until [emphasis mine] the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'" (Luke 13:35; cf. Luke 16:30-31).
There has already been a great turning of Jews to their Messiah, as prophesied by Hosea, "Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to his goodness in the last days" (Hos 3:5; cf. Rom 11:25-27). The reader should note that Hosea says "in the last days" not "on the last day." Today Messianic Judaism is growing at an unprecedented rate and Hosea’s prophecy will achieve its complete fulfillment in Israel.
In the Zechariah context the mourning that follows receipt of the Spirit of "grace and supplication" (cf. Eph 2:8) and looking to (i.e. believing in) the Messiah for salvation is not a repentant humbling to prevent judgment, but a deep grief of having rejected the Messiah for so long and a manifestation of an existing attitude of repentance (cf. Jer 6:26; Amos 8:10). Moreover, Zechariah clarified the mourning "as one mourns for an only son," which is not a synonym for the initiation of repentance, but as a result of true confession experiencing the grief of the Father who gave his only son and through Yeshua bore our sins. This grief is so profound that Zechariah compares it to the sorrow of Israel over the death of Josiah (Zech 12:11) and depicts each Jewish family as mourning privately (Zech 12:12-14).
and they will see: The third person verb points back to the tribes of the Land as the ones seeing. the Son of Man: The mention of "son of Man" here alludes to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 5 above. The present tense of "coming" emphasizes the active nature of achieving his purpose. Israelites will see Yeshua first, because Jerusalem is his destination. on: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 7 above. The parallel verses in Mark 13:26 and Luke 21:27 use the preposition en, which means inside or in. The repetition of the prophecy in Revelation 1:7 uses the preposition meta, 'with.'
the clouds: pl. of Grk. nephelē, cloud, referring to the atmospheric phenomenon consisting of a suspended collection of water particles. The plural number may be intended to convey overall mass or a quantity of individual clouds. In Scripture the divine presence, particularly in judgment, is often accomplished in a cloud, accompanied by a cloud or represented by clouds (Ex 13:21; 16:10; Job 22:14; Ps 104:3; Isa 19:1; Jer 4:13; Lam 2:1; Ezek 30:3; Nah 1:3; Matt 17:5). Yeshua declares the blessed hope of every disciple, the point toward which all of history is moving. Later Yeshua would depart the earth hidden by a cloud and the apostles will be informed that Yeshua will return in the same manner (Act 1:9-11). The mention of clouds would have significant meaning related to the disciples.
James Neil offers this interesting first-hand report from his experience in Israel:
"I have observed invariably that in the late spring-time, in summer, and yet more especially in the autumn, white clouds are to be seen in Palestine [sic]. They only occur at the earliest hours of morning, just previous to and at the time of sunrise. It is the total absence of clouds at all other parts of the day, except during the short period of the winter rains, that lends such striking solemnity and force to those descriptions of the Second Advent where our Lord is represented as coming in the clouds. This feature loses all its meaning in lands like ours, in which clouds are of such common occurrence that they are rarely absent from the sky." (Neil 44. James Neil, an Anglican minister, lived in Jerusalem from 1871 to 1874.)
of the sky: Grk. ouranos. with power: Grk. dunamis, See the previous verse. The term is used here of divine omnipotence. and great glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). In this context "glory" refers to the radiance of his countenance and the accompaniment of myriads of angels.
31― "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
And He will send forth: Grk. apostellō, fut., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. In the LXX apostellō translates Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). His angels: pl. of Grk. angelos, means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as "angel" or "messenger" (of a human) relies primarily on the context. About half of the occurrences in the Tanakh refer to humans, such as to denote a prophet (Eccl 5:6; Isa 42:19; Mal 2:7) and a priest (Hag 1:13; Mal 3:1). In the Besekh angelos occurs 175 times, and is used of men only 13 times (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52; Jas 2:25; Rev 1:20; 2:1, 8, 12; 3:1, 7, 14). In this verse angelos refers to a divine messenger.
with a great trumpet: Grk. salpigx, which may refer to the instrument itself, the sound made by blowing into it or the signal given by the instrument. In the LXX salpigx translates six different Hebrew terms, the most common being shofar and chatsotsrah (DNTT 3:873f). The term shofar referred to originally the curved "ram's horn," then more generally "horn" or "wind instrument," and was used for both military and religious purposes. Chatsotsrah was a long straight "trumpet" made of beaten silver and used mainly for religious purposes (Num 10:1-10). The CJB, MW, OJB and TLV translate salpigx with "shofar."
gather together: Grk. episunagō, fut., to gather together. His elect: Grk. eklektos. See verse 22 above. In this verse and Mark 13:27 the elect are gathered from heaven, not just the earth. It makes no sense to say that Yeshua is only going to gather Jews. In addition to these references Yeshua referred to his followers as elect (Matt 22:14; John 13:18; Rev 17:14). from: Grk. ek, prep. the four: Grk. tessares, the cardinal number four. winds: pl. of Grk. anemos, the natural motion of air moving horizontally at any velocity along the earth's surface. The idiomatic expression "four winds" occurs several times in Scripture (Jer 49:36; Ezek 37:9; Dan 7:2; 8:8; Zech 2:6; Rev 7:1), generally assumed to be a reference to the four points of the compass. Rabbis have called these the cardinal winds, i.e., winds directly controlled by God (Sevener 67).
from: Grk. apo, prep. one end: Grk. akron, extremity, applied to vertical or horizontal things, here the extreme limit. of the sky: pl. of Grk. ouranos, lit. "the heavens." to the other: Grk. akron. The narrative depicts a grand reunion of God's people gathered together from heaven and earth (cf. 1Thess 4:15-17).
Lessons from the Fig Tree and Noah, 24:32-41
32― "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near,
Now learn: Grk. manthanō, aor. imp., acquire knowledge; learn, understand. the parable: Grk. parabolē, something serving through comparison or analogy to encourage a new perspective; parable, proverb, figure, illustration. In the LXX parabolē renders Heb. mashal (SH-4912), first in Num 23:7. The Hebrew word mashal has a broader usage than parabolē. A mashal could be in story form or in proverb form or even a discourse. Many proverbs are similes (DNTT 2:744). The parable was a primary teaching method of Yeshua (Matt 13:3). While the parable is typically thought of as a pithy story there are three one-verse parables in the apostolic narratives (Matt 9:17; 13:44; Mark 4:21).
of the fig tree: Grk. sukē (for Heb. teenah), a tree that produces figs or the fruit of that tree. The fig tree grows plentifully in Israel as a wild and cultivated tree. The fig tree bears bountiful figs, ripening principally in the month of August. The fig tree was one of the blessings promised to Israel in the Land (Deut 8:8) and thus became important to Israelite agriculture. The wood of the fig tree was the primary source of kindling used for the fire on the Temple altar (Tam. 2:1; Yoma 24b). Figs were eaten fresh (2Kgs 18:31), pressed into cakes (2Sam 25:18), and used as a poultice (Isa 38:21).
The fig tree is used in the Tanakh as symbolic of someone's home (cf. 2Kgs 4:25; 2Kgs 18:31; Isa 36:16; Mic 4:4; Zech 3:10), that in Rabbinic writings the shade of a fig tree was used as a place for prayer, meditation and study (Ber. 16a). Of interest is that Yeshua first saw Nathanael under a fig tree (John 1:48). The sages also had a saying, "If one sees a fig tree in a dream, his learning will be preserved within him, as it says: Whoso keeps the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof" (Prov 27:18; Ber. 57a). In addition, "gathering figs" was an expression in later sources that meant "studying," apparently because rabbinic scholars believed the tree of knowledge in Genesis 3 was a fig tree (Ber. 40a) (JANT 160).
Yeshua is telling a parabolic story, but mentioning the fig tree as symbolic of truth. The fig tree in Matthew 21:19-20 (para. Mark 11:12-14, 20-24) represented the corrupt temple leadership, but such meaning cannot be applied here. The fig tree might represent the Jewish people as an extension of "this generation" in verse 30, but there seems to be a different point here. when its branch: Grk. klados, branch in reference to a tree. In the Besekh the word occurs only in the Synoptic Narratives (Matt 13:32; 21:8; 24:32) and in Romans 11. has already become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj. See verse 6 above. tender: Grk. hapalos, adj., used of growing things that are not hard or tough, such as young shoots of a fig-tree; tender. The term occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Mark 13:28).
and puts forth: Grk. ekphuō, pres. subj., cause to come into being, used of plants putting forth leaves; sprout. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Mark 13:28). its leaves: Grk. phullon, leaf of a tree, and in the Synoptic Narratives only of a fig tree. you know: Grk. ginōskō, pres., to know, but has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value. The second meaning dominates the thought here. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada (SH-3045, 'yaw-dah'), which has a similar wide range of meaning (e.g. Gen 3:5; 4:1, 9), but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether knowing by experience, as well as learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395).
that summer: Grk. theros, from therō ("make hot"), the season of summer. Israel's summers last from May through late October and are mostly dry and hot. Summer conditions vary from region to region with the coastal plain experiencing humid weather, the hill regions experiencing little or no humidity and the Jordan Valley and Negev regions experiencing hot, dry semi-desert conditions. Rainfall is extremely rare during the summer months. is near: Grk. engus, prep., near or close to, whether in a spatial or temporal sense, here the latter.
The common fig in Israel yields two crops annually, the first one, ripe about June, growing from the midsummer sprouts of the previous year. The second crop is ripe about August that grows on the Spring shoots. The leaves that announce the nearness of summer also presage the coming harvest. By December, fig-trees in the mountainous regions of Israel have shed all their leaves, and they remain bare until about the end of March, when they commence putting forth their tender leaf buds. Just as there are two crops of figs so there are two comings of the Messiah.
Yeshua tactfully chides his disciples for knowing what to expect in the fig tree seasons, but failing to comprehend the seasons of God sovereign plan (cf. Acts 1:7). Yeshua had reproved the Pharisees and Sadducees for a similar lack of insight:
"The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 "And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?" (Matt 16:2-3)
33― so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
So: Grk. houtōs, adv., thus, so, in this manner. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person; used of disciples of Yeshua. too: Grk. kai, conj. The opening phrase is intended to emphasize a natural conclusion. when: Grk. hotan, conj.n a temporal marker indicating 'when' or 'whenever.' you see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. Both meanings have application here. all these things: This is a reference to the prophesied events in the preceding verses. Some of those things the apostles will experience and others future generations of disciples will experience. recognize: Grk. ginōskō, pres. See the previous verse. that He is near: Grk. engus, adv. See the previous verse.
"Near" could mean that Yeshua is near to his people in all the vicissitudes of life or it could mean that he is near to completing the prophetic calendar. Yeshua is also near to us in the sense that death is always immanent (cf. Php 4:5). He is on the other side of the veil that separates this life from the next. right at the door: pl. of Grk. thura, a device for opening and closing an entranceway, a door, entrance, doorway, or gateway. The noun is plural, but the NASB translates it as singular. The term is used figuratively, as a parallelism for "He is near," but whether "door" refers to death or the beginning of the age to come is difficult to say. There may be a connection between "door" here and Yeshua's promise that the gates of Hades will not overcome God's people (Matt 16:18).
In any event, Yeshua's declaration intends to interpret the parable of the fig tree in the previous verse and makes plain the meaning of the fig tree in this context. The fig tree summer alludes to prophesied events of the present age, all preparatory to the great harvest in the fall. The second harvest of the fig tree might even symbolize a time for the Second Coming in proximity to the fall feasts (Feast of Trumpets to the Feast of Booths, September to October).
34― "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Truly: Grk. amēn. See verse 2 above. I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. this generation: Grk. genea means family or descent and can mean a clan, race, kind (Luke 16:8), or nation. The noun can mean all the people alive at a given time in history or refer to an age, a span of generations (Gen 50:53; Ex 13:18; 20:5; Matt 1:17; Luke 1:48). In the context of the Olivet Discourse this generation could be interpreted in one of three ways. First, "this generation" possibly refers to the present generation of the apostles (Matt 11:16; 12:41, 42, 45; 17:17; 23:36; Mark 9:19; Luke 7:31; 9:41; 11:29-32, 50-51; 17:25; 21:32).
However, not all the events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse were fulfilled in the lifetime of the apostles. They did witness the resurrection and ascension, which served as portents of the end of the age, and they did endure much tribulation. Destruction also came upon Jerusalem during their generation, although many of the apostles had been martyred by that time. Second, "this generation" possibly refers to a future generation, the generation that sees the signs. However, this is not without problems, because it would be pointless to say that this future generation would not pass away.
Third, "this generation" most likely refers to the continuation of the Jewish people. In the Tanakh the concept of generation is always of the nation, the Hebrew people. The whole history of Israel is often included in speaking of a generation (cf. Matt 23:34-36). Considering what Yeshua says in verse 35 he must be alluding to the word of Jeremiah:
"Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done," declares the LORD." (Jer 31:35-37)
The promise of Israel’s continuance occurs immediately after the promise of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34). will not pass away: Grk. parerchomai, aor. subj., may mean (1) to move spatially from one position to another or (2) to come to an end and so no longer be on the scene, thus to go away, depart or pass away. The second meaning is in view here. Heaven and earth will pass away, cease to exist (Rev 21:1), but this people will not pass away and Yeshua's words will not pass away. An incredible contrast. All these things: The natural meaning is all the events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse. In Peter’s Pentecost sermon it seems he took it to mean the prophecy of Joel.
Additional Note on Generation: Dispensational speculation about a biblical generation being 40 years is no better than a guess and not relevant to Yeshua's teaching about the Second Coming. As a population term a generation means the period of time from the birth of parents to the birth of their offspring. To determine the length of a societal generation requires statistical information. Biblical family genealogies focus mainly on the Messianic family tree and indicate extreme variance in the timing of births. For example, Isaac and Rebecca may have been 35-40 when Jacob and Esau were born, but Abraham and Sarah were 98-100 when Isaac was born. Those were miracle births and atypical of normal youthful marriages in ancient times and childbearing at a very young age.
35― "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
Heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 29 above. The first and second heavens would be intended here. and earth: Grk. gē. See verse 30 above. Here the focus is on the entire earth and emphasizes Yeshua's authority over all governments, regardless of political type. will pass away: Grk. parerchomai, fut. mid. See the previous verse. Peter echoed Yeshua's prophecy when he said,
"But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men…. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." (2Pet 3:7, 10)
The prophecy will be fulfilled as recorded by John, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea was not any longer" (Rev 21:1 BR). "Passed away" refers the reader back to Revelation 20:11 where the heaven and earth "fled away" from God’s presence immediately before the great white throne judgment takes place. Scripture indicates that the heavens can be torn (Isa 64:1), worn out (Ps 102:26), shaken (Hag 2:6; Isa 13:13; Heb 12:26), burnt up (2Pet 3:12), and rolled up (Isa 34:4; Heb 1:12). This means that "interstellar space" is not just an empty nothing, but is a real something (Humphreys 67f).
but My: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person; i.e., Yeshua. words: pl. of Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In Greek philosophical writings logos took on the meaning of a common universal law or truth and that which gives order in the universe. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). Yeshua refers directly to his words, that is, his message spoken to the disciples, primarily that of the prophecies of this chapter. The expression could by extension refer to the words that he as YHVH had given to the Hebrew prophets to convey to Israel (Deut 8:3; 18:18; Isa 1:20; Jer 1:9; Ezek 2:7; Zech 1:6; Luke 24:44).
will not pass away: Grk. parerchomai, aor. subj. See the previous verse. The verb combined with the negative particle indicates a condition that simply will not happen. Yeshua's words have been authentically preserved by the apostles, in spite of the efforts of modern liberals to diminish their written record. Yeshua promised during the last supper that the Spirit would "bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26 mine). The words of the divine Logos are eternal.
36― "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
But: Grk. de, conj. that generally indicates either a slight contrast or a transition in presentation of subject matter. of that: Grk. ekeinos, personal pronoun, that person or that thing. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 19 above. "That day" is used in Scripture of the particular day of the week connected to the religious calendar. The date of Jewish feasts, though scheduled, fell on a different day of the week each year because of the lunar calendar. Since there were no printed calendars in ancient times the average man couldn’t have known what day a feast fell on in the next year until it was announced ahead by the priests.
Significant for this context is "that day" often occurs in the context of catastrophe or God's judgment, specifically the Day of the Lord (Matt 7:22; 2Th 1:9-10; 2Tim 1:18). By combining Daniel’s prophecy of the Son of Man coming on the clouds and Joel's prophecy of the signs announcing the Day of the Lord, then the Second Coming of Yeshua occurs on the Day of the Lord. Often the concept of God coming (in the Tanakh) and Yeshua coming (in the Besekh) is connected to pouring out judgment in present circumstances (e.g., Ps 96:13; 98:9; Isa 19:1; 26:21; Micah 1:3; Matt 16:28; 24:50; Jas 5:8-9; Rev 2:5, 16; 3:3). and hour: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day (e.g., hour) and figuratively as a point of time as occasion for action or for an event.
"That hour" does not necessarily mean an exact point in a 24-hour day as "hour" means today. Hōra was used in secular Greek literature for year, season, stage of life, day or moment. A precise division of time into hours and minutes as displayed on modern clocks was not known in ancient times. People only used general designations such as "third hour," etc. (Matt 20:3-6) or portions of the day, such as morning, midday, or evening. If Yeshua was referring to a part of a day then he may have been referring to a watch of the night (cf. Mark 13:35). See verse 35. Yeshua may also have been referring to the season of the year since he had already mentioned summer in verse 28.
no one: Grk. oudeis, used here as a noun to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, not one, nobody, none. The adjective admits no exceptions other than what is stated. knows: Grk. oida, perf., to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The perfect tense refers to action in the past that is complete with continuing results to the present. The verb is used for experiential knowledge. In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045), to know, (e.g., Gen 3:5; 4:1), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, primarily by experience but also by learning (DNTT 2:395). Contrary to other events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse, this event cannot be predicted. not even: Grk. oude, adv., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; nor.
the angels: pl. of Grk. angelos. See verse 31 above. In this verse angelos refers to a divine messenger. of heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 29 above. Being "in heaven" could distinguish these angels from those who serve on earth as guardian angels of individuals or congregations. nor the Son: Grk. huios. The designation of "Son" is probably shorthand for "Son of Man" (verse 27 above), whom Daniel saw coming to bring deliverance to Israel. Why wouldn’t the Son know the date of his own coming to earth? Does that mean it’s not scheduled or Yeshua is not omniscient? He certainly demonstrated divine knowledge while on earth, so this is not a statement about the limits of his knowledge. He obviously knows what will happen before the Second Coming and what will happen on "that day," because he just told his disciples.
However, the event may be scheduled, but the Son will not execute it until he is expressly given the "Go Order" from the Father (cf. Acts 1:6-7). Think of D-Day in World War II. The invasion was scheduled and all the commanders and troops were prepared. They only launched when the order came from General Eisenhower. but the Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes His activity as creator, ruler and sustainer (BAG). In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which occurs about 1180 times, generally in the human sense, but also of God as father (DNTT 1:616f). In the Hebrew vernacular Yeshua and the apostles would have used the Heb. word aba, as occurs in (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).
In the Tanakh God's identity as a parent is first mentioned in reference to His covenantal relationship with Israel (Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Ps 103:13; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6). Israel is specifically identified as God's son (Ex 4:22; Hos 11:1). While Jews recognized the God of Israel as the "father" of mankind in the sense of creator (Acts 17:28; Josephus, Ant. IV, 8:24), the capitalized "Father" in the Besekh continues the meaning found in the Tanakh. Yeshua acknowledged this covenantal relationship when he taught his Jewish disciples to pray "our Father" (Matt 6:9). Yeshua also spoke to his Jewish disciples of "your Father" (Matt 5:45, 48; 6:14, 26, 32; Mark 7:11; Luke 6:36). Thus, for the Body of Messiah the God of Israel becomes "our Father" (Rom 1:7; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2).
alone: Grk. monos, adj., signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only. The important message of this verse is that that no man knows or can know with any certainty of the specific date or day of the week. The Son will not execute it until he is expressly given the "Go Order" from the Father (cf. Acts 1:6-7). Think of D-Day in World War II. The invasion was scheduled and all the commanders and troops were prepared. They only launched when the order came from General Eisenhower. Therefore vigilance is required on the part of the disciple to not be caught unprepared. Trying to predict the date of the Second Coming is the height of folly and anyone who actually sets a date for the Second Coming (or even the Rapture) is a false prophet.
A 1999 article by George Lyons recounted the following list of "false alarms":
· In 1970, Hal Lindsay's Late Great Planet Earth predicted that the Second Coming would occur within a generation – "forty years or so" – after the founding of the modern state of Israel on May 14, 1948. His particular understanding of the Second Coming as a two-phase event presumed that there would be a secret Rapture of believers in 1981 and the Second Coming proper in 1988. One false alarm did not cure Lindsay of date-setting. He next predicted 2007 as the likely year for the Second Coming--40 years after the 1967 Arab-Israeli "Six-Day War." Thus, he expected the Rapture in 2000.
· In the mid-1970s, Cyril Hutchinson suggested that the so-called "Jupiter Effect"- a rare alignment of the nine planets of our solar system on the same side of the sun expected in 1982 – just might be a good time for the Second Coming.
· In 1988, Edgar C. Whisenant gave the most precise predictions of the Lord's return: actually a three-phase Second Coming – September 1988, March 1992, and September 1995.
· In 1992, "Missions for the Coming Days" published ads in several United States newspapers predicting the Rapture on October 28, 1992.
· In 1994, Harold Camping announced that he was "99 percent sure" that the end of the world would occur on September 6, 1994.
· Also in 1994 Gary L. Cutler suggested a date between 1995 and 1997 as a good possibility for the Second Coming.
· In 1992, Marilyn J. Agee set the date for the Rapture as May 31, 1998.
George Lyons, "False Alarms: The End is Near…Again,” Illustrated Bible Life, (Word Action Publishers: July 25, 1999), p. 32.
Even though no one can predict just when Yeshua will return, anticipation may be increased as prophecy is fulfilled. There is good reason to believe that the last of the last days are upon us. This is another reason to keep on the alert as Yeshua exhorted in verse 33 above.
For the coming: Grk. parousia. See verse 3 above. of the Son of Man: See verse 27 above. Yeshua refers to his appearing as described in verse 30 above. Often the concept of God coming (in the Tanakh) and Yeshua coming in the Besekh is connected to pouring out judgment in present circumstances (Ps 96:13; 98:9; Isa 19:1; 26:21; Micah 1:3; Matt 16:28; 24:50; Jas 5:8-9; Rev 2:5, 16; 3:3). will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 3 above. just like: Grk. hōsper, adv. of manner relating events and conditions, just as. the days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 19 above.
of Noah: Grk. Nōe, which attempts to transliterate the Heb. Noach (from the verb nuach, meaning "to rest"). Noah was the son of Lamech, six generations after Adam in the line of Seth, and he fathered three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth who were born when he was 500 years old (Gen 5:32). Noah is described as a good and righteous man (Gen 6:9) and a proclaimer of righteousness (2Pet 2:5). God warned Noah that He was going to wipe mankind from the face of the earth and gave him specific instructions for building the ark by which Noah and his family would survive the coming deluge (Gen 6:12-17).
Then a week before the flood (Gen 7:4), Noah led his family and all of the animals into the ark just as God directed. Noah and his family were in the ark over a year (7:11; 8:14). Once out of the ark, God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants, promising never again to destroy the earth with water and sealed that covenant with a rainbow. Noah was 600 years old at the time of the deluge and lived another 350 years afterwards (9:28-29). His descendants formed seventy nations or people groups listed in Genesis 10.
Yeshua's analogy draws the reader’s attention to the social conditions of the time in order to drive home his point. Noah was told 120 years before the fact that God would destroy the world and he did his best to warn his neighbors (Gen 6:3; Heb 11:7; 2Pet 2:5). Noah must have appeared to be an eccentric, because for years, he preached about God’s intention to destroy the world with water and worked to build a means of escape, but life was too good to pay serious attention to a crazy preacher.
38― "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
For as in those days before the flood: Grk. kataklusmos, deluge, used only of Noah's flood (Luke 17:27; 2Pet 2:5). The Hebrew text of Genesis has mabbul, which likewise applies only to Noah’s flood (Gen 7:10; 9:11). The Genesis narrative describes a global cataclysm, not a local flood. The great deluge happened when the "fountains of the deep" and the "floodgates of heaven" opened in one day (Gen 7:11). Then rain poured for 40 days and nights (Gen 7:12). Waters covered all mountains and 15 cubits above the highest mountains (Gen 7:19-20). All with breath (humans and animals) outside the ark died (Gen 6:17; 7:21-23; 8:21). Only Noah and his family were saved (Gen 7:23). The waters receded for two months before peaks were seen (Gen 8:5).
Yeshua does not repeat the indictment recorded in Genesis of antediluvian society being filled with evil, corruption and violence (Gen 6:5, 11-13). What he notes are ordinary activities. they were eating: Grk. trōgō, pres. part., to chew vigorously, to eat. and drinking: Grk. pinō, pres. part., to take in a liquid, and in the physical sense usually water or wine. These two verbs in combination may refer to feasting, whether accompanying religious festivals, family gatherings, or wedding celebrations.
marrying: Grk. gameō, pres., taking a woman as a wife. and giving in marriage: Grk. gamizō, pres. pass., to give a woman in marriage, such as when a father conveys his daughter to the bridegroom, whether for betrothal or consummation. Both verbs are plural, which may indicate either the widespread nature of the activity or the continuation of polygamy that at least began with Lamech (Gen 4:19). The only reference in Genesis that possibly means marriage before the flood is the statement that "the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them" (Gen 6:4). The "sons of God" is probably an idiomatic expression referring to descendants of Shem, since his line remained faithful to God.
until the day: The reference to the activities of that time stresses the preoccupation of people to the things of this world to the neglect of their relationship with God. The antediluvian world was probably a time of prosperity in spite of social chaos. People carried on with their normal activities of married life and feasting and had no inkling life could change. Thus, the people of Noah’s day were spiritually unprepared to meet their Creator.
that Noah entered the ark: Grk. kibōtos, "box or chest." The word refers to a seafaring vessel. Given the dimensions of 300 cubits long (437 ft.), 50 cubits wide (73 ft.) and 30 cubits high (44 ft.) (Gen 6:15), the ark was more like a barge or a floating box with no means of propulsion. That would give a volume of 1,396,000 cubic feet and a gross tonnage of 13,960 tons. Noah followed the building instructions down to every detail. The size of the ark was clearly too large for regional fauna. The volumetric capacity was more than enough to carry two of every known kind of land animal, living or extinct. Noah entered the ark 120 years after being given the commission and the occupants were in the ark for over a year (Gen 7:11; 8:14). Thanks to the ark Noah and his family were saved (Gen 7:23). After 5 months the ark finally rested on the mountains of Ararat, not Mt. Ararat as commonly supposed (Gen 8:4).
39― and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
and they did not understand: Grk. ginōskō, aor. See verse 32 above. The verb is used here for drawing a conclusion. The people had information, because of Noah's preaching, but Noah's warning seemed a scientific impossibility. They just could not understand the mechanics of how the earth could be flooded. And, because they couldn't comprehend the certainty in a rational sense, they refused to believe and repent. until the flood: Grk. kataklusmos. See the previous verse. After Noah and his family disappeared inside the ark and the floodgates" opened from beneath and over the earth, unbelief became a horrifying nightmare.
and took them all: Grk. hapas, adj., refers to a totality, but also of every item or person in an aggregate, i.e., everybody and everything. away: Grk. airō, aor., take away. See verse 17 above. The verb graphically depicts the flooding waters carrying away people, animals and structures. All with breath outside the ark died (Gen 6:17; 7:21-23; 8:21). The death toll from the global deluge may have been as many as 3 billion people. So thoroughly did the roiling waters purge the earth of sinful mankind that no fossils of human beings of Noah's generation have ever been found. On the other hand, thousands of animal fossils have been discovered, all mute testimony of divine judgment.
so will the coming: Grk. parousia. See verse 3 above. of the Son of Man be: See verse 27 above. Yeshua's coming will be an event of terrible destruction and judgment, just as Noah's flood. The obvious fact that has a direct bearing on the Second Coming is that on the same day that everyone else in the world drowned only Noah and his family were left alive (Gen 6:11, 13; Matt 24:38). The reference to the activities of that time is not a prophecy that the same conditions will exist when Yeshua comes to rescue His followers, but to stress the unexpected nature of God’s judgment.
40― "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
Then: The transitional word "then" extends the thought of verses 36-39, so that what follows is parallel to the point of the Noah analogy. there will be two men in the field: Grk. agros normally refers to a plot of ground used mainly for agriculture (Matt 13:24), i.e., a field, and occasionally as the countryside outside a city or village (Mark 15:21; 16:15; Luke 23:26). The scenario envisioned seems to be that of men laboring in a field engaged in such activities of sowing, weeding and reaping.
one will be taken: Grk. paralambanō, pres. pass., may mean (1) to receive to one's side; take, receive; or (2) to cause to go along; take. It's not immediately clear which meaning is in view, but probably the second. The force of "taken" in verses 40-41 is probably the same as "took them all away" in verse 39. one will be left: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. pass., to release or let go with several applications: (1) to release from one's presence; (2) release from an obligation; (3) let remain behind; (4) leave standing or lying; or (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The last meaning probably has application here.
41― "Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding: Grk. alēthō, pres. part., to grind grain into flour. at the mill: Grk. mulos, mill or mill-stone, either the small version consisting of two flat stones operated by hand or a larger version typically worked by donkey power. Millstones were flat stones on which grain was placed and crushed as other stones rolled over the grain. The description here is of the hand-operated type. one will be taken: Grk. paralambanō, pres. pass. See the previous verse. and one will be left: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. pass. See the previous verse.
The obvious significance of "left" is its contrast to "taken." There are no clarifying comments describing any of the individuals as anticipating the event, as do the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, nor meeting the anticipated Son or being transformed by resurrection. It may be easier to affirm what Yeshua did not say. Yeshua did not say that half of all the people on the earth will be saved, when He had already said in His sermon on the mount that "few" would be saved (Matt 7:14). Yeshua did not say that the ones "taken" are taken to heaven or that the ones "left" are left to be at the mercy of the Antichrist.
To the hypothetical scenarios of two people Luke adds, "I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left." (Luke 17:34). All three scenarios illustrate that the Day of the Lord will find many people engaged in ordinary activities The fact that the "taking" in Luke's version occurs at night does not conflict with the Second Coming occurring in conjunction with the daytime activities in this passage. See Mark 13:35 which mentions the four watches of the evening hours. For some the event will occur in the daytime and others at night due to the rotation of the earth.
The brief vignette of people being taken and left connected with the story of Noah is remarkably parallel to the harvest or gathering parables found in Matthew 3:12 and 13:24-50. All of the stories start with a group that is then divided, with one part of the group being removed from the rest of the group. It seems reasonable that the pattern established in the harvest parables would hold true in the Olivet Discourse, including the timing of the event. The context of the Olivet Discourse clearly places the "taking" and "leaving" after the great tribulation. If the "taking" refers to rapturing God's people, then it must be a restatement of the gathering described in verse 31 (cf. Mark 13:27).
Admonition for Readiness, 24:42-51
42― "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
Therefore be on the alert: Grk. grēgoreō, pres. imp., be fully awake, to be on he alert, be watchful. In the LXX it renders Heb. amad ("to take one's stand," "stand" BDB 763) in Nehemiah 7:3 and for shaqad ("watch," "wake" BDB 1052) in Jeremiah 5:6 (DNTT 2:136). The Greek word used here simply means to be awake as a sentry who keeps his eyes open while he is on duty. you do not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 36 above. "You have not seen enough to know." which: Grk. poios, interrogative pronoun ("of what kind?"), but used here as equivalent of the indefinite pronoun tis; which, what. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 19 above. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person, i.e., the disciples.
Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. Both meanings can apply here. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority to stand in for the name YHVH. Kurios also occurs a number of times to identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511). Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity.
Unbelieving Jews would have called Yeshua kurios out of respect. For disciples who followed Yeshua kurios would be equivalent of the Heb. Rhabbi, since the Hebrew word means "my Master." Speaking in Hebrew expectant Jews would call Yeshua adōn because the Messiah would rule over Israel. Peter declared on Pentecost, "Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him - this Yeshua whom you had crucified - both Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:36 TLV). Then at the house of Cornelius the same message was repeated, "You know the message He sent to Bnei-Yisrael [sons of Israel], proclaiming shalom through Messiah Yeshua - He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36 TLV).
is coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or arrive. See verse 5 above. The present tense is used here to indicate an anticipated future event or an action purposed. The verb is used of the appearance of the Messiah, the "first advent" (Mark 10:45; Luke 3:16; John 1:9; 4:25; 6:14; 7:27, 31; 11:27; 16:28). The verb is also used of the return of Yeshua from heaven to earth, the "second advent" (verse 30 above; Matt 10:23; 25:31; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62; Luke 9:27; 21:27; Acts 1:11; 1Cor 4:5; 11:26; 2Th 1:10; Rev 1:7; 16:15; 22:7, 20). Thus, in context erchomai is equivalent to parousia in verse 27 above. If Yeshua could come at any moment how can one be alert? However, we should be aware of the signs of the time. Yeshua is saying that the knowledge of the disciples is so limited that they would not be able to answer anyone who might ask, "what day is the Lord coming?"
43― "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
But: Grk. de, conj. used here to introduce a contrast to the preceding verse. be sure: Grk. ginōskō, pres. imp., to know. See verse 32 above. The disciples have the knowledge of what Yeshua has prophesied. of this: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun; that, that one there. Yeshua uses the pronoun to introduce a parabolic saying. that if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used to introduce a circumstance or assumption considered factual or valid for the sake of argument. the head of the house: Grk. oikodespotēs (from oikos, house + despotēs, master), master of a house, whether owner or steward. Here the noun is masculine, and in the Hebrew idiom would mean the head of the household or family. Paul uses the verb form of the word, oikodespoteō, of a wife as mistress of a household (1Tim 5:4.)
had known: Grk. oida, plperf. See verse 36 above. The verb is used here of inside knowledge. at what: Grk. poios. See the previous verse. time of the night: Grk. phulakē may mean (1) a place for detaining a lawbreaker; (2) a sentry station with a contingent of guards; or (3) a period of time for mounting guard. The third meaning is intended here, alluding to the watches of the night at the Temple. The Jews had adopted the Roman system of dividing the night time into four periods. Since clocks didn't exist in ancient times, there's no way to know for certain when the watches began and ended. The watch period ran approximately 6:00 pm to 6:00 am with three hours per watch.
the thief: Grk. kleptēs, thief, one who steals, one who violates the eighth commandment (Ex 20:15; Deut 5:19). In the LXX the noun kleptēs translates the Heb. gannab (SH-1590), which like the Greek word includes the sense of stealth (DNTT 3:377). The word first appears in Exodus 22:2 in the context of instruction on property rights. Stolen items included objects of value, animals, and men. Even when theft was motivated by need or poverty, stealing was still regarded as dishonoring to God (Prov 30:9) and deserving of punishment. The Torah set the penalty for sheep stealing as payment to the owner of four sheep for the one taken (Ex 22:1). Thievery was a pervasive problem in the ancient world (Matt 6:19; 24:43; Luke 12:33; Eph 4:28; 1Pet 4:15).
A thief comes to cause harm, not good (John 10:10; cf. Job 24:14; Hos 7:1). A thief is dreaded, not hoped for and welcomed. A thief comes when least expected. A thief often comes at night, but not exclusively. The text is not talking about a simple cat burglar or a pickpocket, but a criminal that usually had accomplices and would stop at nothing to take what he wanted. Ancient thieves were bandits and murderers. Satan is a thief because he tries to destroy those who serve God (1Pet 5:8). When Yeshua returns he will play the part of thief to destroy ungodliness and all that oppose his reign (2Th 1:6-10; 1Jn 3:8).
The thief metaphor represents both temporal judgment (1Cor 5:5; Rev 3:3) and the Day of the Lord (1Th 5:1-6; 2Pet 3:10-12; Rev 16:15). The Day of the Lord, not the Rapture, comes as a thief in the night. The Day of the Lord will not overtake the righteous as a thief, because we walk in the light and expect the Day of the Lord to come. A thief is not invisible and neither will Yeshua be when he comes. When Yeshua comes he will kill and destroy. He will not steal because he is just taking what belongs to him.
was coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See verse 5 above and the previous verse. he would have been on the alert: Grk. grēgoreō, aor. See the previous verse. and would: Grk. an, disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might. not: Grk. ou, adv. have allowed: Grk. eaō, aor., the basic idea is removal of a real or perceived impediment to a desired action, let something happen or take place; permit, allow. his house: Grk. oikia (from oikeō, engage in housing) is used primarily to mean (1) a habitable structure; house, abode, private residence (Matt 2:11; John 11:31); (2) fig. of a group within a house; household or family (Matt 10:13; John 4:53); or (3) fig. of goods, property or means (Matt 23:13).
In Classical Greek oikia had a more narrow meaning than the related noun oikos (house, dwelling-place). Both words meant a dwelling place and by extension the household of that dwelling. The nouns were distinguished by oikia denoting the actual dwelling space and oikos denoting the whole house, the family property and even the inheritance (DNTT 2:247). to be broken into: Grk. diorussō, aor. pass. inf., to "dig through" in reference to a burglar's activity. The verb alludes to the the sun-dried brick construction of walls. The implication is that the head of the household is inside the house, most likely asleep. So, he would naturally be surprised when thieves dig through the wall of his house to get at his valuable possessions (Matt 6:19).
If the head of household knew in advance when the thief (and his gang) would come then he could be ready and thwart the attempt. Breaking in or digging through indicates that the thief is overcoming resistance. If the thief in the night is supposed to be a secret rapture, then why use the analogy of breaking into a house? While it may be tempting to allegorize this saying by making the head of household Satan (cf. Matt 12:25-29), Yeshua does not do so. He explains the point of his parabolic saying in the next verse.
44― "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
For this reason: lit. "because of this." you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person, i.e., the disciples. also must be: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp., to become. See verse 6 above. The present tense command emphasizes to start and keep on performing the action. ready: Grk. hetoimos, adj., being prepared; waiting in readiness. We might say "spiritual bags packed." for the Son of Man: See verse 27 above. is coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See verse 5 and 42 above. at an hour: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day; hour, time. when you do not think He will: Grk. dokeō, pres., the basic idea of receptivity and hence attractiveness to the intellect appears throughout the verb's usage, which may mean to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion; think, opine, regard. Many interpreters suggest that the "unexpected hour" means that Yeshua may come at any moment, even without regard to unfulfilled prophecies. Such an assumption impugns the integrity of God.
45― "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?
Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. then is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. the faithful: Grk. pistos, adj., characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy. and sensible: Grk. phronimos, adj., using one's wits effectively; prudent, judicious. slave: Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. generally used of a male slave, who is viewed as owned property totally and unquestioningly at the behest of the owner. The economies of ancient empires were based on slave labor and slavery typically occurred as a result of being captured in war and then sold. Legally a slave had no rights. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. ebed, which did include the meaning of doulos but with a much broader application.
In the Tanakh ebed is especially used of household servants (first in Gen 20:14), those who worked for the King and those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593). Hebrew culture was different from pagan nations in that slavery was generally a form of indentured servitude. Hebrew slaves were either purchased outright (Ex 12:44; 21:2, 7; Lev 19:20) or acquired as a result of having to pay a debt (Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 47; Matt 5:25-26). All slaves were considered property, but Hebrew slaves were treated more as trusted employees (Lev 25:40). The Torah specifically required Israelites to remember how they were treated as slaves in Egypt (Deut 5:15; 15:15) and treat their slaves justly (Deut 5:14; Lev 25:43). Yeshua uses the term "servant" here as an employee with significant stewardship responsibility, as he does elsewhere (Matt 10:24; 13:27; 18:23; 20:27; 21:34; 22:3; 25:14).
whom his master: Grk. kurios. See verse 42 above. put in charge: Grk. kathistēmi, aor., may mean (1) bring down to a location; (2) put into a position of responsibility; or (3) cause to become. The second meaning applies here, to appoint. of his household: Grk. oiketēs, slave belonging to a householder; (house) slave. The description is of a servant being given supervisory responsibility over other servants. to give: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf. See the note on "show" in verse 24 above. them their food: Grk. trophē, that which is needed to nourish or sustain physical life; food, victuals, diet. at the proper time: Grk. kairos may refer to (1) an appropriate or set temporal segment of time; or (2) a period, definite or approximate, in which an event takes place; time, period. In context kairos may refer to predesignated meal times.
46― "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
Blessed is: Grk. makarios, enjoying special advantage; blessed, privileged, fortunate, happy, in the sense of being in a special condition and thereby realizing happiness. The structure of this verse is similar to the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. that slave: Grk. doulos. See the previous verse. whom his master: Grk. kurios. See verse 42 above. finds: Grk. heuriskō, fut., to come upon by seeking, to find or locate that which has eluded the one seeking. so doing: Grk. poieō, pres. part. See verse 25 above. when he comes: Grk. erchomai, aor. part. See verse 5 above.
The duty of the servant mentioned in the previous verse was to serve food, to nourish the household of the Master. When the Lord comes he expects to find his servants to be faithfully engaged in their responsibilities. Peter was given a similar charge to "feed my sheep" (John 21:17 NIV). God expects His faithful servants to show their faithfulness by discharging their duties to others while we await "that day."
47― "Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
Truly: Grk. amēn. See verse 2 above. I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person; i.e., the disciples. that he will put him in charge: Grk. kathistēmi, fut. See verse 45 above. of all his possessions: Grk. huparchō, pres. part., may mean (1) be present in a functional manner; or (2) to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance. The use of the participle here denotes property or holdings. The reward of faithfulness is more responsibility, which is graphically illustrated in the parable of the talents in the next chapter.
48― "But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,'
But: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. if: Grk. ean, conj. See verse 23 above. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun. evil: Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible, something that violates community standards, thus bad, wrong or evil; or (2) causing harm with focus on personal or physical injury, bad, injurious or harmful. In the LXX kakos is used to render Heb. ra, which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Kakos here refers to evil as a moral quality. slave: Grk. doulos. a better translation would be "servant." See verse 45 above. In the context of the parable the evil servant is acting in the capacity of a "fiduciary," which in modern law refers to a person holding the character of a trustee charged to act primarily for another's benefit. Typically a fiduciary manages the money or property of another. A breach of that responsibility would be a serious offense.
says: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See verse 2 above. in his heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia renders Heb. lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (DNTT 2:181). My master: Grk. kurios. See verse 42 above. is not coming for a long time: Grk. chronizō, pres., take time longer than expected to do or accomplish something; take time, linger, delay.
This seems almost like a contradiction. Surely no one could call himself a servant of Yeshua unless he were truly born again and living a faithful life. Yet, Judas had all the appearance of a faithful disciple, but was a thief and traitor (Mark 3:19; John 12:6). Ananias and Sapphira lied to the apostles (Acts 5:4). A man in the Corinthian congregation slept with his father's wife (1Cor 5:1). Paul recognized that there could be so-called brothers in the congregation (cf. 1Cor 5:11).
49― and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;
and: Grk. kai, conj. begins: Grk. archō, aor. mid. subj., can mean either to rule or to begin something. The second meaning applies here, but the following actions derives from the first meaning. Yeshua then identifies two breaches of fiduciary responsibility. to beat: Grk. tuptō, pres. inf., can range in meaning from multiple blows as in 'pummel' to a single strike; beat up. his fellow slaves: Grk. sundoulos, a person who along with others is someone's property; fellow slave/servant. The abuse of the head servant in this scenario is contrary to his authority. The fellow servants belong to the master, who is the only one with the authority to discipline.
and: Grk. de, conj. A better translation would be "moreover," due to the rest of the charge. eat: Grk. esthiō, pres. subj., to consume food, whether derived from grain, vegetables, fruits or meat of animals. and drink: Grk. pinō, pres. subj., to take in a liquid, to drink, usually of water or wine. The phrase "eat and drink" denotes social behavior, probably at a wild party. with drunkards: Grk. methuō, pres. part., imbibing to excess an intoxicating beverage, such as wine or other strong drink. Wine was a regular beverage of ancient Israelites, being considered a blessing of God (Deut 7:13; 11:14; 14:26; Ps 104:14-15).
Scripture identifies definite benefits of wine (Deut 7:13; 14:26; 16:13; Ps 104:15; Prov 3:10; Matt 9:17; Luke 7:33-34; John 2:3-11; 1Tim 5:23). By the same token Scripture contains many warnings against drunkenness because wine as a fermented beverage was quite potent and some people overindulged (Gen 9:21; Prov 20:1; 23:20; Isa 5:22; 28:1, 7). Paul frequently denounced drunkenness (Rom 13:13; 1Cor 5:11; 6:10; 11:20-22; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:18; 1Th 5:7-8). It's clear that the Lord will judge those who consort with drunkards.
50― the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know,
the master: Grk. kurios. See verse 42 above. of that slave: Grk. doulos. See verse 45 above. will come: Grk. hēkō, fut. See verse 14 above. on a day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 19 above. when he does not expect him: Grk. prosdokaō, pres., be on the alert for; expect, wait for, look for. and at an hour: Grk. hōra. See verse 36 above. which he does not know: Grk. ginōskō, pres. See verse 32 above. The master does not inform his servants in advance of the day of his return. (Anyone who predicts a date for the rapture or Second Coming is a false prophet.) The bad servant is contrasted with the good servant. The bad servant's lack of expectation has the effect of his not being prepared, that is, he doesn't have time to remedy his unfaithfulness.
51― and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
and will cut him in pieces: Grk. dichotomeō, fut., cut in two, dismember. The verb is idiomatic of extreme punishment. and assign: Grk. tithēmi, fut., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site; place, put, set out, serve, lay down; or (2) to arrange for creation of role or status, make, appoint. The second meaning applies here. him a place: Grk. meros, a piece or segment of a whole. of: Grk. meta, prep., lit. "with." hypocrites: Grk. hupokritēs, one who claims to be what one is not; play actor, pretender. Mounce adds "a moral or religious counterfeit." Appearing to be a believer is only a role. He has the form of godliness but his life denies the power of God (2Tim 3:5). Rabbis spoke of God’s reward and punishment as being "measure for measure." You get to spend eternity with people like yourself.
in that place: Grk. ekei, adv. there will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 3 above. weeping: Grk. klauthmos, crying. and gnashing: Grk. brugmos, grinding or gnashing. of teeth: pl. of Grk. odous, a tooth. Weeping and gnashing of teeth is a particular characteristic of outer darkness and hell (cf. Matt 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 25:30; Luke 13:28). The idiomatic expression denotes extreme torment. It might indicate remorse and pangs of conscience, because the sinner must now face the truth of his self-deceit and disobedience. This warning makes no sense within the framework of a secret pre-trib rapture. Two elements argue against two second comings seven years apart. First, both servants are engaged in their activities when the Master comes; and second, reward and punishment are both rendered when the Master comes.
In this parable the bad slave wastes the owner's property in riotous living and mistreats fellow slaves. The description of the landowner’s actions upon his return is critical to understanding the meaning of the unexpected hour. When the landowner arrives he does not secretly gather the good slaves and leave for the country where he had been doing business in order to have a party while the bad slaves are left to continue mismanaging his property. What happens? The landowner rewards the good slaves and punishes the bad slaves.
The fact that the landowner is delayed means that the unexpected hour cannot be taken in any literalistic sense or the message would become an absurdity. Yeshua had already given the disciples a chronology of last days events immediately preceding in this chapter, so "any moment" could not have applied to any time before A.D. 70. Yeshua would not mock his disciples by implying he might return any moment when he knew for a fact that it wouldn't occur in their lifetimes. He warned his disciples before the Ascension that there are times and seasons in God's planning that still lay in the future (Acts 1:7), so there was no need to sit around with their eyes on the horizon. However, the disciples needed the message to be ready at all times for accountability, because they (and we) could die at any time. Death is an appointment we shall all keep (Heb 9:27) and based on history a far greater certainty than being alive when he returns. Yeshua never said he might come at any time, only that he will come at a time when he isn't expected (verse 36 above).
Works Cited and Consulted
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1. Zondervan Pub. House, 1976.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Wilson: Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1989.
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