PROPER HERMENEUTICS FOR UNDERSTANDING BIBLICAL ESCHATOLOGY - Part 2
Michael F. Blume
© 2009 Michael F. Blume
We claim Matthew 24's Olivet Discourse contains phrases and statements in Christ's prophecy that are metaphors commonly known to the Jewish believers of the first century in Israel. This claim has been mocked and derided, since its conclusions refute futurist claims that Matt 24 speaks of a coming not yet fulfilled. We noted earlier that proper hermeneutics understands that the plain and obvious understanding taken from the reading of any writing is the best interpretation. But we also noted that if a writing involved use of a metaphor and intended us to understand it was a metaphor, then we would be violating proper hermeneutics to claim it is not a metaphor. We claim this is the case with futurists who deride our claims.
Before we continue, let me also say that any given book of the Bible is not going to mention anything that cannot be understood adequately inside that same single book's pages. We can certainly derive more perfect understanding of any given issue in a book of the Bible by looking for the same issue in other books of the bible. However, we will not be left in the dark about anything mentioned in a single book if we had no other books of the bible available to us. No writer would insert something that is not explained nor understood by the information already provided for us before that point in the writing. What point would there be in writing about any given issue, otherwise? Proper hermeneutics takes that into consideration.
Let us observe all the various passages in Matthew 24 that are interpreted completely differently by people like myself and futurists.
The first one would obviously be the reference to the Lord's coming in the questions the disciples asked Jesus in verse 3.
Matthew 24:3 KJV And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?Although I propose the Lord shall come again in our future, I believe this reference in verse 3 is not referring to that future coming. Verse 3 includes a question asked that involves the localized coming of the Lord in AD70 when Jerusalem was destroyed and razed to the ground. Futurists claim this coming is the future second coming of Jesus Christ. So how would proper hermeneutics prove who is correct?
I have been challenged with the explanation of one particular futurist on this forum who claimed this verse contains questions that actually were responses to things Jesus said that are not contained in Matthew's gospel. In other words, there is a gap in the discussion of Jesus and the disciples that we do have printed in Matthew 24. I was told by one person that between the time Jesus mentioned the destruction of "these things" in reference to the temple stones being completely thrown down in verse 2, and the time the disciples asked the three questions in verse 3, that there is a missing bit of Christ's words Matthew simply did not record for us. He claimed something must have been said that we do not have written in Matthew 24 wherein Jesus spoke about events other than the temple destruction. So, by the time the disciples asked the questions in verse 3, they heard many words we do not have in our bibles, and asked questions about those missing words. This means I cannot say the questions of verse involved a phrase that is found in verse 2 that explains what they were asking.
Which of us has used proper Hermeneutics? Look more carefully at the hermeneutics used by each of us:
My hermeneutic required me to take nothing more than what is recorded in the bible. My response to my friend's assertion is that the record of the three questions in verse 3 demands us to understand that Matthew also wrote down the words of Jesus that inspired those disciples to ask those questions. Any writer knows that he must include vital elements in a record that are required to understand what something else he wrote means. As in the case with the three questions posed by the disciples, the reader cannot be led offtrack by the writer's neglect to write down the words that inspired those questions!
I informed my brother that the three questions included the phrase, "Tell us, when shall these things be?" I said, "these things" is a phrase found immediately before verse 3 in the words of Jesus. That is all we need to know in order to determine what those questions mean. And the same phrase is found in Luke 21 and Mark 13 where these two other writers speak of the "sign" as "the sign when these things shall come to pass".
Luke 21:7 KJV And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?In all three cases of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the only time anything was mentioned using the words "these things" before they asked Jesus their questions is found in Christ's words that exclusively referred to the temple destruction. Jesus said, "See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matt 24:2)"
If "these things" in verse 3's questions refers to nothing more than the temple destruction mentioned in verse 2, then comparison of Matt 24:3 with Luke 21:7 and Mark 13:4 demands we believe the statement of "the sign of thy coming" in Matt 24:3 have one and the same meaning as "the sign when these things shall come to pass" in Mark and Luke. But, of course, this defeats the futurist claim that Jesus did not "come" in judgment in AD70 when the temple was in fact destroyed.
Did Mark and Luke also exclude words of the Lord's conversation from their records before writing of the disciples' questions to Him? I highly doubt proper hermeneutics will allow us to think so.
Why would my brother claim there is a missing gap of discussion? What reasoning would there be to propose such an argument? I can think of only one reason -- EISEGESIS. My brother seemed to have wanted the question to refer to something other than the temple destruction, because he knows that if I am correct, the disciples asked about the time of the coming of Jesus in temple destruction. What other hermeneutic could there be that my brother used in order to arrive at his conclusion?
Jesus used the words "these things" in verse 2 in reference to the temple destruction, and the disciples use the same terms and ask when "these things" shall come to pass in the very next verse 3. What hermeneutic best interprets this situation?
1) There is no gap in the discussion and the disciples asked Jesus when the temple would be destroyed.I think the choice is obvious. If we were to insert gaps of discussions into scripture because the alternative of accepting only what is written for our interpretation of any given passage would prove our doctrine in error, then not only is that horrendously using EISEGESIS, but we would never know what amount of doctrine we hold that is missing some vital understanding! And it makes somewhat of a fool out of Matthew for writing questions to statements Jesus made that we do not have and that we require in order to properly exegete the questions and form proper understanding of doctrine!
Every time an interpretation of a specific verse is required, the most obvious and plain conclusion is to read all the passages before such a verse and learn the context in which that information of the verse was provided. It is especially necessary that we look for identical terms used that are specifically explained beforehand, such as how the phrase "these things" in verse 3 was used by Jesus just one verse previous, and directly referred to the temple destruction.
Not only do I insist we take only what is written in scripture before verse 3 in order to understand the nature of the questions in verse 3, but the other verses preceding verse 2 must be taken into consideration as well.
Matthew 23 begins with Jesus rebuking the Pharisees and Scribes. He attacks their hypocrisy and hindering force against souls entering the Kingdom. And He then He lowers the boom with these words:
Matthew 23:34-39 KJV Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (35) That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (36) Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (38) Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (39) For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.There were no chapter divisions originally in the bible, so we are meant to continue reading into chapter 24.
Matthew 24:1-3 KJV And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. (2) And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (3) And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?Chapter 24 shows Him leaving the temple where He spoke His words to the pharisees and scribes in Matthew 23, thus ending his conversation with them. Meanwhile the disciples heard all those words. As they leave, Jesus foretells the temple destruction to the disciples alone. Then they ascend the mount of Olives and it is there that they ask Him the three questions posed in verse 3.
Matthew obviously recorded everything we need to know in order to understand the inspiration behind the three questions in verse 3. In other words, if you had no other book of the Bible except Matthew, you would know everything you need to know about the things Matthew wrote. You might gain more information about what Matthew wrote from other books of the bible, but you will have enough information provided for you to have a good understanding about by sheer virtue of the fact that a writer supplies the information Some might claim the last verse of Chapter 23 refers to that second coming.
Matthew 23:39 KJV For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.Which reference would the disciples' question of His coming and "these things" refer to? Would 23:39 be the inspiration for their questions, or 24:2? 24:2 uses the same words from their question saying "these things" and restricts the phrase to the temple destruction. However, Jesus indicated those pharisees and scribes would not see Him again until they cried, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Why did Jesus say this? We find a reference in Matthew 21 that matches this cry, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem the day He was rejected, and gives us an answer.
Matthew 21:7-9 KJV And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. (8) And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. (9) And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.Did Jesus not have this former reference in mind when He spoke the words at the end of Matt 23?
Just as we must find a point of reference for every statement written in the passage, as with what "these things" in verse 3 might refer to, we may have to go back the length of entire chapters in order to understand any given point mentioned. The writer of any given book of the Bible depends upon us to realize that we have read everything in that book up to a certain point where we might be seeking understanding for a certain issue. Although Mark's and Luke's records show the disciples asking Jesus for the sign when "these things" of temple destruction would occur, Matthew uses the phrase, "Sign of thy coming." In order to understand what "thy coming" refers to in Matt 24:3, Matthew must have mentioned something beforehand that identifies that coming. Regardless of how badly one might want to maintain "thy coming" can only refer to one thing, Matthew's book will have dictated to us what "thy coming" refers to before 24:3. If the choice a person might want to believe is not found before Matthew 24:3, then their choice is simply incorrect. Although the entire overall Bible record is meant to be read as one volume, it is ridiculous to think that Matthew's Gospel would mention something very specific and is not explained in a particular verse without having mentioned the same element earlier in the writing where it is explained. Matthew wrote about a coming of Jesus before chapter 24:3 that we are intended to keep in mind by the time we reach chapter 24 and verse 3 in order to understand what that coming refers to. This alone is using proper hermeneutics to understand verse 3.
We already went back to 23:39, but that verse does not explain what the nature of that coming is. But when we notice the phrase, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," we realize we have something more to help us determine the nature of that coming. Matt. 21:9 uses that same phrase when people cried out to Jesus in praise the very day he was rejected as King by Israel.
This explains the reason Jesus said they would not see Him again until they cried "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." In other words, if the reference in Matt 21 uses those same terms of praise the day he was rejected, then 23:39 was simply saying the Pharisees were intended to repent and do what the worshipers in the day of His triumphal entry did -- praise Him and say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Israel got off track after that praise went forth and the pharisees urged the people to stop worshiping and instead reject Jesus. They must get back on track and accept Him instead.
We must ask ourselves, "What was said before Matthew 24:3 that Matthew wrote in order for us to understand what the 'coming' of the Lord in that verse refers to?"
I propose that Matthew 23:39 is not speaking about the pharisees and scribes crying out "blessed is that cometh in the name of the Lord" 2,000 years after they died in a yet future coming of the Lord. Matt. 21 recorded His rejection by those same people when others were making this cry of acceptance. Obviously Jesus had that in mind when he spoke these words to the Pharisees. In other words, he told them that they would not see Him again until they ACCEPT HIM AS KING. What other hermeneutic would lead us to a better conclusion? Matthew 23 is all about Christ's rebuke to the Pharisees for things they would not have done had they accepted Him as Messiah and King. Proper hermeneutics tell us to take that context in mind and involve the same statement of praise from Matthew 21, where they publicly rejected Him, in order to realize what He meant.
With the fact that no other reference to His yet future coming (which I believe will occur) is made in Matthew before chapter 24, and by realizing it is bad hermeneutics to think He mentioned words Matthew did not record, the only "coming" about which Jesus was asked was a coming related to the time of the temple destruction that occurred in AD70.
In speaking of the same temple destruction, we read words from Matthew 21 as well. Jesus spoke a parable from 21:33 to verse 39. A man rented a vineyard to some husbandmen who refused to provide the lord with fruit, when asked for them by servants whom the lord sent. In fact, the husbandmen stoned and even killed some of the servants. Finally the lord sent his son to retrieve the fruit, feeling the son would not dare be rejected. But they killed the son!
The parable was understood by the pharisees as referring to themselves as the husbandmen.
Matthew 21:45 KJV And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.Jerusalem was obviously the vineyard and the fruit the pharisees were supposed to provide the lord were obviously glory and honour to God, justice, true judgment, righteousness and holiness. Already Jerusalem was likened to a vineyard in the Old Testament, and the Pharisees were well aware of that.
Isaiah 5:1-7 KJV Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: (2) And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. (3) And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. (4) What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? (5) And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: (6) And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. (7) For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.Proper hermeneutics would require us to reference this passage in Isaiah and realize the Lord was speaking a very similar warning in His day.
Jesus actually foretold His own death when He spoke of the husbandmen slaying the Lord's son.
Finally He asked them,
Matthew 21:40 KJV When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?As much as Isaiah foretold a judgment of God upon Israel in his parable of the vineyard, all knew that Jesus implied a judgment of God upon the religious leaders of Israel in His parable. The pharisees uttered forth their own doom in answer to Christ's question about what should be done.
Jesus used the term "cometh" in reference to that judgment. "When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh..."
I have been accused of being overly literal by resorting to this explanation in order to explain what the coming of the Lord in Matt 24:3 referred to. However, this is the only reference to a coming of the Lord we find before Matthew 24:3 and 23:39. And it is included in the same chapter where Matthew 23:39's words, "blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" is found. If one were to read from the start of Matthew to Matthew 24:3, and ask oneself, "Where was anything said about the Lord's coming before verse 3 that would cause the disciples to ask about it," one might be surprised at the result.
As believers who seek truth in the Word of God, we are familiar with the rest of the bible, and know about other references that do indeed speak of a yet future coming of Jesus. We tend to read about "thy coming" in Matthew 24 and immediately apply these other other passages to Matthew 24:3. It is easy to not stop to think that Matthew's writing must include a reference to that coming in order for Matt 24:3 to refer to it, though. We cannot just claim the bible speaks of a future coming of Jesus, therefore any reference to Him coming must be that future coming. Matthew's writing must have referred to that coming before Matt 24:3 in order for Matt 24:3 to refer to it. Many people assume that passages of scripture outside Matthew that refer to His future coming explain Matt 24's coming to be future. That is not good hermeneutics. No, the bible does nor contradict itself, and, yes, we do need to cross reference scriptures from one instance to another. But Matthew must have written about a coming of the Lord in the immediate context before 24:3 in order for the disciples to ask about a yet future coming. Let's go back through Matthew and find any references that mention the Lord's coming.
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus spoke about His "coming" to fulfill the Law. We readily agree that is not a reference to the future second coming. Matthew 8:1 shows Him "coming" down from a mountain with many people following Him. Jesus told a centurion he would "come" and heal his servant.
Matthew 10:23 KJV But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.Here, Jesus said the disciples would not have ministered across Israel before the Son of man would come. This was obviously referring to the time period within their lifetimes. What sort of coming was this? Some claim it is not a coming of judgment in AD70 but rather a simple meeting up with the disciples as he usually did. However, look at the information provided all around this verse, as I highlight this verse to keep us focused upon it.
Matthew 10:17-25 KJV But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; (18) And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. (19) But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. (20) For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (21) And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. (22) And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (23) But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. (24) The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. (25) It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?From verse 17 onward, we are reading words that are found in other passages and are associated directly with what futurists claim is the second coming including Matthew 24!
Matthew 24:9-13 KJV Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. (10) And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (11) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. (12) And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (13) But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.So, clearly whatever coming of the Lord Matthew 10:23 is referring to, it is the same coming of the Lord that Matt 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 are speaking about. And that is interpreted as the yet future second coming of Jesus by futurists. But Matt 10:23 clearly makes it a coming in the lifetimes of the disciples!
Continued... (click here).
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