WHEN WAS THE OLIVET SERMON FULFILLED? Nov 18, 2013 9:41:22 GMT -5
Post by tomdurst on Nov 18, 2013 9:41:22 GMT -5
WHEN WAS THE OLIVET SERMON FULFILLED?
By Charles S. Meek
(This is a brief summary of information from the book Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy: Is Your Church Teaching Error about the Last Days and Second Coming? An Exposition of Evangelical Preterism.)
The largest body of prophecy outside of the book of Revelation is found in the so-called Olivet Discourse. It is contained in the parallel passages of Matthew 24/25, Mark 13, and Luke 17/21. Most Christians agree that at least some of the events prophesied by Jesus in the Discourse were fulfilled in the past, coincident with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
Many Christians pick and choose some events to have already been fulfilled and other events as yet to be fulfilled. There is little consistency among Christians as to which events may be still future to us. Interpretations are a confusing mishmash of arbitrary inferences. There are several ways that different interpreters get part of the Olivet Discourse to be fulfilled way into the future: (A) double fulfillment—that is, it was all fulfilled in AD 70 but will be fulfilled AGAIN thousands of years later, (B) Jesus may have changed course either at Matthew 24:36, or at Matthew 25:1, or at Matthew 25:31, (C) change the meaning of Jesus’ clear words such as “this generation,” or (D) skipping around to what was fulfilled in AD 70 and what was fulfilled later, based on the idea that the disciples asked 3 different questions in Matthew 24:3.
Regarding this last notion, the parallel passages of Mark 13 and Luke 21 show that there were not 3 questions, but different aspects to the same question. And regarding the other ideas, there is not a scintilla of serious evidence that the disciples understood Jesus to be talking about two different time periods—AD 70 and thousands of years later. What Jesus didn't say is just as important as what He did say. He didn't say anything like, "This-and-this will be fulfilled in our generation, but that-and-that will be fulfilled thousands of years away when Hal Lindsey writes his book of false prophecies, or when Zionist charlatan John Hagee has 17,000 people in his church."
While this can be a shock to some Christians, preterists believe that Jesus was telling the truth when He said that ALL the events He listed would be fulfilled in the literal generation of those living in the first century (Luke 21:22, 32). These were events that were ABOUT TO HAPPEN when Jesus spoke to his disciples (Luke 21:36)! (See the NASB, NIV, or Young’s Literal Translation for the correct translation of verse 36.)
We have already covered most of the major prophesied events previously in the book—the close of the age (Matthew 24:3), the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15), particular hardship for women (Matthew 24:19), and the tribulation (Matthew 24:21). We have shown that these happened in the Jewish-Roman War from AD 66-70. But the Olivet Discourse contains other prophetic details that we should consider.
One that is a major consideration for many Christians is whether the gospel has been preached over the whole world (Matthew 24:14). Jesus marked this as a distinct prerequisite to “the end.” The Greek word the Bible uses here for what Jesus stated as “world” was oikoumene. While the word can mean “the inhabited earth,” it is also means (and may be translated/rendered as) “the Roman world”—for example, Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28; Acts 17:6, and Acts 24:5.
But even more importantly—and this will come as a huge surprise to many Christians—the Bible itself, in multiple places, proclaims that the gospel had already been preached in the whole world/to every nation in the first century! See Acts 19:10; Romans 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-27; Colossians 1:6; 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:16. This specific prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled, if you believe the Bible, by the time Paul wrote his letters. Any honest reader must acknowledge this fact.
Reformed theologian, Gary DeMar, in his book Last Days Madness, does an excellent job covering in detail every aspect of Jesus’ prophecies in the Olivet Discourse. Anyone who wants to go over these things with a fine-toothed comb can do so in DeMar’s very helpful book.i In each case it can be verified that the prophecies of the Olivet Discourse were fulfilled in the first century. Below is a short summary.
· wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)—We know of wars and rumors of wars in the first century from general history, including from period historian Tacitus. Tacitus said of the period, “It was full of calamities, horrible with battles, rent with seditions, savage in peace itself.”
· famines (Matthew 24:7)—Four famines occurred during the reign of the Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). One of them was recorded in Acts 11:28.
· earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)—Notable earthquakes occurred during the reigns of Caligula and Claudius (AD 37-54). See also Matthew 27:54; Matthew 28:2, and Acts 16:26.
· persecution of Christ’s disciples (Matthew 24:9)—This is a well-documented fact in the Bible (Acts 4:3; Acts 4:17; Acts 5:40; Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1; Acts 11:19; Acts 12:1-3; Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24-26; Revelation 1:9) as well as general history (Josephus, Tacitus, etc.).
· a great apostasy (Matthew 24:10)—Paul, John, and Peter’s letters all refer to this fact during their lifetimes. As put by Don Preston, “The unbroken testimony of the epistles is one of the inspired writers attempting to stem the tide of apostasy and encouraging faithfulness! The Great Apostasy happened in the first-century generation as Jesus said it would! How much clearer could the Bible tell us it had already happened? Since the apostasy occurred as Jesus predicted and it was to be a sign of the coming of the Lord, then the coming of the Lord was to happen in that generation as well. If not, why not?”
· flee to the mountains (Matthew 24:16)—According to the early church historian Eusebius, the Christians did in fact flee Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War. History does not record any Christians having perished in the siege of Jerusalem. So those who followed Jesus’ instructions and fled were saved from the slaughter (Matthew 24:13). This passage, by the way, further confirms that the tribulation was to be a regional event rather than global. It makes little sense if this prescribed way of escaping the tribulation given by Jesus was an instruction for us 2,000 years later.
· false prophets (Matthew 24:24)—Josephus mentions many false prophets and false messiahs. See also Acts 5:36-37; Acts 13:6; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Timothy 4:1 (note reference to the “latter times”); 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18-19; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 1:7.
· astronomical signs (Matthew 24:29)—In this verse we see Jesus coming on clouds, the sun and moon being darkened, the stars falling, and the heavens being shaken. It is difficult for many people to get over the idea that this language is not about the end of the physical universe. We have already covered this topic and have shown that such language in the Old Testament is often symbolic language about literal events. This cosmic language about disruptions of the created order is standard Hebraic apocalyptic symbology about God's judgment. Consider such passage as these, most of which are widely acknowledged to have already been fulfilled: Isaiah 13:9-13 (against Babylon); Isaiah 19:1-22 (against Egypt); Isaiah 29:3-6 (against Jerusalem); Isaiah 34:1-17 (against Edom); Jeremiah 4:1-28 (against Judah and Jerusalem); Ezekiel 32:7-8 (against Pharaoh and Egypt); Joel 2:1-10 (against Israel, see Acts 2:14-20); Joel 3:15-16 (against the nations); Amos 8:9 (against Israel); Micah 1:2-16 (against
Israel and Judah); Nahum 1:2-6 (against Nineveh); Zephaniah 1:2-18 (against Judah, Jerusalem, and Judah's enemies). In these judgments, no one actually saw God literally, but certainly witnessed his effectual presence. But indeed, literal astronomical signs were reported by various historians in AD 66-70, including Josephus. And some have been confirmed by modern astronomy. Nevertheless, this was familiar language to those to whom Jesus was speaking and they would have understood Him to be speaking about national judgment rather than the end of the universe. Note specifically Acts 2:14-21 where Peter quotes the astronomical language of the prophet Joel, and placed the fulfillment of that prophecy in his own day.
How do we know that the "this generation" language of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:34) was about the generation of Jesus and not some future generation? First of all, every other time we find “this generation” in the New Testament, it always is understood to mean the group of people alive in the first century (Matthew 11:16; 12:38-45; Mark 8:12; Luke 7:31; 11:29-32; etc.) It is also confirmed by over 100 imminence passages in the New Testament. There is no question that Jesus' disciples, as well Jesus' opponents, understood that THEY would witness these things. Take time to look up such passages as Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 23:29-39; 26:64; Mark 8:38-9:1; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:2; 10:37; James 5:3-9; 1 Peter 1:20; 4:7, 17; etc. (There are many, many more.)
James Stuart Russell had some poignant thoughts about those who pick and choose items in the Olivet Discourse, making some past and some future. He said:
“The disciples came to their Master with a plain, straight-forward inquiry, and it is incredible that he would mock them with an unintelligible riddle for a reply. In such a view, our Lord, in answering the question of his disciples respecting the destruction of Jerusalem mixes up different events—now to Jerusalem and now to the human race; now to events close at hand and now to events indefinitely remote—that to distinguish and allocate the several references and topics, is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. Is this the manner in which the Savior taught his disciples, leaving them to grope their way through intricate labyrinths? There are no words too strong to repudiate such a suggestion.” ii