These chapters are on Jesus’s discourse about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (AD 70) and then the Second Coming, which has not happened yet, 2000 years later (and counting). Looking at the chapters side by side clarifies what he really taught.
They are now much clearer to me (at least).
Let’s place these chapters in parallel columns, unit by unit. Sometimes the omissions clarify what this long section of Scripture really teaches, and so do additions. Sometimes Matthew guides us, and in other verses, Luke does.
It is time we closely look at the actual quoted verses (and not just the references).
Then I write a commentary below the tables, unit by unit.
The translations are mine, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
This post has four sections:
THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND TEMPLE
THE SECOND COMING
THE ARCH OF TITUS
THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND TEMPLE
In Units 1-19 (but not Unit 12), Jesus reveals many time markers before the destruction (“then,” “in those days,” “beginning of birth pangs,” “at that time,” the leafing fig and other trees, and so on). Jesus even said the destruction would happen before his generation had passed away, the clearest and most emphatic time marker of all (Unit 18). Further, Luke is clearest of either Matthew or Mark that Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman army; Jesus was not predicting the Second Coming (parousia) (but see Unit 12). Finally, Luke has two clarifying additions (Units 7 and 9) and two clarifying omissions (Units 6 and 15).
|Unit||Mt. 24:1-35||Mk 13:1-31||Lk 21:5-33|
|1||1 And Jesus, leaving the temple, was departing, and his disciples came up to him, to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But in reply, he said to them, “You see all these things, don’t you? I tell you the truth: a stone will in no way be left here on another stone which shall not be thrown down!”||1 And as he was leaving the temple, one of the disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at such stones and such buildings!” 2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? In no way will one stone be left on another stone which will not be thrown down!”||5 Further, while some were speaking about the temple that it had been decorated beautifully with stones and votive offerings, he said: 6 “The things you see here—the days shall come when not one stone shall be left on another stone which shall not be torn down!”
|2||3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came up to him privately, saying, “Tell us. When will these things be? And what will be the sign of your visitation [parousia] and the close [synteleia] of the age?”||3 While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately: 4 “Tell us: When will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things are to be completed [synteleō]?”||7 So they asked him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things be, and what is the sign when these things will happen?”|
|3||4 And in reply, Jesus said to them, “See to it that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ!’ and will lead many astray. 6 You will hear of wars and reports of wars. Watch that you do not be alarmed, for this must happen. However, this is not yet the end [telos]. 7 For nations will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 But all these things are the beginning of birth pangs.||5 Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ And they will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars or reports of wars, do not be troubled; these things must be, but the end [telos] is not yet, 8 for nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines. These things are the beginning of birth pangs.||8 And he said, “Watch that you are not deceived, for many shall come in my name, saying, ‘I am the one!’ and ‘The time is near!’ Don’t go after them. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be terrified, for these things must happen first. However, the end [telos] is not immediate.”
10 Then he proceeded to tell them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be powerful earthquakes and famines and pestilences everywhere. [For 11b see unit 13]
|4||9 Then they will hand you over to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10 Then many will be caused to stumble and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and deceive many. 12 Because lawlessness multiplies, the love of many will grow cold.||9 “You see to yourselves! They will hand you over to local courts, and you will be beaten in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings, for my sake, for a testimony to them.
[…… see unit 6]
11 And when they arrest you to hand you over, do not worry ahead of time about what you should say, but speak that which is given you at that time, for you are not the ones speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death and father a child and children will rise up defiantly against parents and have them put to death. 13a You will be hated by everyone because of my name,
|12 “But before all these things, they will arrest you with their hands and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors because of my name. 13 The result will be your testimony. 14 Put it in your heart not to prepare ahead to defend yourselves, 15 for I will give you speaking ability with words and wisdom which your opponents will not be able to withstand or contradict. 16 Indeed, you will be handed over even by parents and siblings and relatives and friends, and they will execute some of you. 17 You shall be hated by everyone because of my name. 18 Not even a hair on your head will be lost.|
|5||13 But he who endures to the end [telos]—this one will be saved.||13b but the one who endures to the end [telos] —this one will be saved.||19 By your endurance you shall gain your lives.”|
|6||14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a witness to every nation, and then the end [telos] will come.||………….
[See unit 4]
10 And the gospel of the kingdom must first be proclaimed to all nations.
|7||15 Then, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place”—let the reader understand!—||14 “When you see the abomination of desolation standing where it must not”—let the reader understand!—||20 When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you know that its desolation is near. [See unit 9]|
|8||16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, 17 and let the one on the roof not go down and take things from his house, 18 and let the one in the field not turn back to get his cloak. 19 Woe to those who are pregnant and are nursing in those days! 20 Pray that your flight might not happen in the winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For at that time there will be great tribulation which has never happened from the beginning of the world until now, and nor will surely ever happen again.||“then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 And the one on the housetop must not go back down nor go back in to pick up anything from his house! 16 And the one in the field should not return to the things behind, to pick up his cloak! 17 But woe to pregnant women and to the ones nursing in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in the winter, 19 for there will be tribulation in those days such as has not happened from the beginning of creation which God created until now and will never be.||21 Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains and those inside it must get out and those in the countryside must not enter it, 22 because these are the days of judgment, fulfilling everything that has been written. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and are nursing in those days! For there will be great distress upon the country and wrath upon this people.
[See Unit 24, below]
|9||24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken captive into all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations until the times of the nations will be completed.
[See unit 7]
|10||22 And unless those days were shortened, nobody would be saved. But because of the elect, those days will be shortened.||20 And unless the Lord shorten the days, no flesh will be saved, but because of the elect who has been elected, he will shorten the days.|
|11||23 At that time if someone says to you, ‘Look!’ Here is the christ!’ or ‘Here he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and produce great signs and wonders in order to deceive many, and if possible, even the elect. 25 See! I have told you in advance.||21 And then if anyone says, ‘Look! The christ is over here! Look! There!’ Do not believe him, 22 for false christs and false prophets will arise and produce signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect. 23 But you watch! I have told you all these things in advance.|
|12||26 If therefore they tell you, ‘Look, he is in the desert!’ do not go out. ‘Look! He is in the storeroom!’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out from the east and shines to the west, in this way will the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man be. 28 For where the carcass is, the vultures also gather.||See Luke 17:22-25, 37, below in the commentary on Unit 12|
|13||29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days,
The sun shall darken
And the moon shall not give off its light [Is. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15]
And the stars shall fall from the heaven,
And the powers of the heaven shall be shaken. [Is. 34:4; Haggai 2:6; 21]
|24 But in those days, after that tribulation,
The sun shall be darkened,
And the moon shall not give its light
25 And stars shall fall from the sky
And the powers in the sky shall be shaken. [Is. 13:10; 34:4; Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15]
|11b There will be both frightening events and great signs in the heaven.
[or keep 11b in unit 3]
25 Further, there will be great signs in the sun and moon and stars and upon the earth distress of the nations and in the perplexity of the noise of the sea and rough waves, 26 so that people will faint from fear and the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
|14||30 And at that time the sign of the son of Man will appear in the heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn and ‘see the son of Man coming on clouds of heaven’ [Dan. 7:13-14]||26 And then they will see ‘the son of Man coming in clouds’ [Dan. 7:13-14] with much power and glory.||27 And then they will see the son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. [Dan. 7:13-14]|
|15||31 And he will send out his angels with a great trumpet and gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Deut. 30:4; Zech. 2:6, 10]||27 And then he will send the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the end of heaven. [Deut. 30:4; Zech. 2:6, 10]|
|16||28 When these things begin to happen, stand up straight and lift up your head because your redemption is near!|
|17||32 From the fig tree, learn the parable: when its branch becomes already tender and produces leaves, you recognize that summer is near. 33 In this way, you also, when you see all these things, recognize that it is near, at the doors.||28 From the fig tree, learn this illustration: when its branch has become tender and it is sprouting leaves, you know that summer is near, at the door.||29 Further, he spoke an illustration to them: “Look at the fig and all the trees. 30 When they have already grown leaves, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 Likewise, you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.|
|18||34 I tell you the truth: this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.||30 I tell you the truth: This generation will not pay away until all these things take place.||32 I tell you the truth: This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.|
|19||35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.”||31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”||33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.”
Unit 1 (Temple is awesome! say disciples; it shall be destroyed! replies Jesus.
The disciples intend for Jesus to admire the temple, but he predicts its destruction. All three Synoptics agree.
Unit 2 (Two questions: When? And what sign?)
Let’s allow Matthew to guide us in this unit, since he has a more detailed plan.
(1). When will these things be? In context, this refers to the question in vv. 1-2 about the destruction of the temple.
(2) And what is the sign of the parousia and synteleia (close) of the age?
Jesus answers the first question in vv. 4-35, and he answers the second question in 24:36-25:46 (and in Unit 12).
Matthew employs a different Greek noun for the end of the temple: telos (pronounced teh-loss). It is much broader in his Gospel; it can mean a duty tax (17:25) and the outcome of Jesus’s trial (26:58). In contrast, synteleia (pronounced sin-teh-lay-ah) clearly and only means the end of the age. Synteleia is used throughout the entire NT six times, five times in Matthew’s Gospel (13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20) and once in the epistle to the Hebrews (9:26). It seems to have taken on a specialized sense in Matthew’s Gospel to close out our age, though it is also used in Heb. 9:26 as the end of the age. And synteleia makes a fitting ending of his Gospel: “And remember this: I am with you every day, until the end [synteleia] of the age” (Matt. 28:20b). But we are not there yet.
Mark employs the verb synteleō (pronounced sin-teh-leh-oh), and it looks like it means the same thing as Matthew’s noun–or it may mean the same thing. But Matthew refines Mark’s less specific verb into a significant noun.
We will look at the other appearances about the telos end times a little later (24:6, 13, 14). Telos also appears in Matt. 10:22. If we endure to the end, we will be saved. What does telos mean in 10:22? The end probably refers to the trials of persecution that last throughout the disciples’ ministry. Or it could mean the time when the son of Man comes, but this coming refers to his resurrection and ascension and vindication, or it could imply the end of the temple, which coincides perfectly with its use in 24:6, 13, 14. In fact, see v. 13 where it again appears as the end of the temple. (Yes, the telos-end can sometimes also denote the end of the age [e.g. 1 Cor. 15:24], but not in Matthew’s Gospel.) In Mark 13:7 and Luke 21:9, below, telos seems to mean the same thing as it does in Matthew.
In sum, the telos end happens to the temple, not to the entire age, while the close-out or wrap-up of this Age is denoted by synteleia, in Matthew’s Gospel and synteleō in Mark.
There will be plenty of signs in this major section about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, but no “the sign” before the parousia or Second Coming, in the next major section. The only “sign” (of sorts) before the Second Coming is the moral degradation, as in the days of Noah and Lot.
Unit 3 (Don’t be deceived or frightened; nations will rise against nation; wars and reports of war)
All three Synoptics agree on this. In my comments on Matt. 24:4-35, I have examples of these rivalries and wars and reports of war (with secondary sources):
Matthew 24:4-35 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple (scroll down to vv. 4-8)
For now, here’s a summary passage in the Roman historian Tacitus (lived A.D. 56-120) Histories:
The history which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, hostile even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword, there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time … Italy was distressed by disasters unknown before or returning after the lapse of the ages … Beside the manifold misfortunes that befell mankind there were prodigies in the sky and on the earth, warnings given by thunderbolts, and prophecies of the future, both joyful and gloomy, uncertain and clear (Histories, 1.2, 3, qtd. in David E. Garland, Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary, [Smyth and Helwys, 2001], p. 242)
Unit 4 (you will be betrayed to local authorities and put on trial)
Matthew uses the Greek noun thlipsis, which is usually translated as “tribulation” or “hardship,” but Mark and Luke clarify it: court trials. Matthew again mentions the emergence of false prophets. This can happen at any time, but particularly during monumental events, like before the destruction of the temple. Jeremiah had to put up with them, just before the first destruction (e.g. Jer. 23:9-39).
F.. F. Bruce, in his 1990 commentary on the book of Acts, writes of Jewish messianism and nationalism: “There were outbreaks of Jewish unrest around this time [AD 40-50s] not only in Judaea where the national resistance movement gathered force under the governors who held office after the death of Herod Agrippa I in AD 44, but throughout the empire–at Alexandria early in Claudius’ principate–[Bruce now cites a reference] and at Rome both then and more recently …. Now, it was implied, the same troublemakers had turned up in Thessalonica. The authorities could not be expected to distinguish the militant messianism of the Jewish nationalists from the messianism proclaimed by Paul and Silas” (The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary, 3rd, ed. Eerdmans, 1990), p. 371.
In other words false messiahs emerged around the Roman empire.
Unit 5 (he who endures to the end will be saved)
Luke mentions endurance and gaining their lives. What does “end” (telos) mean here in this unit in Matthew and Mark? To combine them with Luke, the noun telos means possible martyrdom—the end of one’s life. But it can also mean to stand true and not apostatize during extreme hardship, without martyrdom, until the hardship stops or ends.
Unit 6 (this gospel must first be preached to all nations of whole world)
Matthew has “whole world,” while Mark has “all nations.” They mean the same thing in this context (for my purposes here).
Revealingly and significantly, Luke does not include this verse. He eliminates it as a time and event marker.
But since Matthew and Mark have this time and event marker, let’s look at it. The standard interpretation is that this unit must be lifted out of its textual and historical context and applied to the global missionary effort. Some teach that bringing the gospel to the world will cause the “end.” Or the proclamation does not cause the end but is a preliminary to it.
First, in reply, however, in its textual and historical context, the end means the telos (end), not synteleia or the close of the age. In contrast, in Matt. 28:20, Jesus promises the synteleia or the closing out of the age, which, as noted, is a fitting capstone on Matthew’s Gospel. “And remember this: I am with you every day, until the end [synteleia] of the age” (Matt. 28:20b). So the commission to preach goes on even to our day, in that verse. (And it is a sure thing that Jesus, in his ascended state, when he commissioned his disciples at the end of Matthew, knew about Australia and North America, but let’s not push too hard or far about this deeper theology in this post.) This is not the end of the age, but in Unit 6, the telos end means the end of the temple and the religious Old Order.
Second, as the first-century Christians understood it, “the whole world” did not include North and South America or Australia, about which the first-century Christian communities knew nothing. The whole world encompassed the Romans Empire and the surrounding Mediterranean world and some points east of Israel. The Greek term world, oikoumenē (pronounced oi-koo-meh-nay), means the inhabited world. The term can describe the famine that impacted the oikoumenē or the world (Acts 11:28). The worship of Artemis is said to have spread around the oikoumenē (Acts 19:27). Col. 1:6 says the gospel is bearing fruit around the whole world (see also Col. 1:23). Rom. 16:26 says the gospel has been known to all the nations (see Rom. 10:18). Paul was planning to go to Spain (Rom. 15:18-24). All the way back to Homer (a Greek poet, whose poems were composed in late 8th to early 7th centuries, BC), Ethiopia was considered the end of the world. The gospel reached the Ethiopian eunuch, and later tradition says the nation was powerfully influenced by the gospel (Acts 8:26-40). So let’s not insist on a clunky, wooden interpretation of oikoumenē or all nations in Unit 6. The point is that the Gospel will go outside Jerusalem and Judea, where Jesus was speaking.
Boiled down: Matthew and Mark knew nothing of North and South America and Australia, but in their minds, the gospel was going around the whole (known) world.
In any case, Luke’s omission clearly means that Jesus had in mind the destruction of the temple, not his Second Coming, in these nineteen units (except Unit 12).
Unit 7 (abomination of desolation)
Luke interprets this event as the Roman armies encircling Jerusalem, which they did in A.D. 66, and they finally conquered it in A.D. 70 and stomped all over the temple. The sacrilege or abomination was actually committed. See Unit 9. Also see photos of the Arch of Titus, below.
Clearly, these nineteen units speak of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, not his Second Coming (except Unit 12).
Unit 8 (flee to the mountains and don’t return to pack)
Matthew uses the phrase “great tribulation,” which has been interpreted by certain Bible teachers today as the “Great Tribulation.” However, this interpretation lifts the phrase out of context. With the destruction of the temple, Judaism was never the same, from the religion Moses set up and to the destruction. Jews today don’t sacrifice animals at the temple, for example.
This unit has to speak of the destruction of the temple, because people can flee from it; no one can run and hide from the Second Coming and judgment.
Jewish Christians did flee up north to Pella, church historian Eusebius tells us.
Luke connects the destruction to the wrath / judgment of God because the Jerusalem establishment rejected the Messiah and his Son whom God had sent to them, though many individual Jews did accept him (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:7 [priests]; 21:20).
Unit 9 (Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot until time of Gentiles)
Luke is the only one that has this unit, and it connects with Unit 7. Some interpreters say that this verse corresponds to Rom. 11:25:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in (Rom. 11:25, NIV)
This means that Gentiles will dominate Jerusalem, and the temple would never be the same ever since, until God intervenes and says otherwise.
Clearly, Luke’s version is about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and he guides us in interpreting Matthew and Mark—and sometimes Matthew guides us in interpreting Mark and Luke, as we saw in Unit 1.
Unit 10 (the days will be shortened for the elect)
The days were shortened. The Roman conquest of Jerusalem did not eliminate all Jews (and converted Jews or Messianic Jews).
Unit 11 (prediction of false Messiahs and prophets, who may deceive even the elect, if possible)
This danger emerges in every generation, but particularly in tense times, as it happened before the destruction of Jerusalem. Matthew and Mark include it, while Luke omits this verse.
Unit 12 (see the verses in the table, below)
Luke 17:20-37 is clearly about the Second Coming, and Matt. 24:27 confirms it. The parousia means arrival and remaining at the destination, particularly in Matthew and the early Christian communities (though Mark and Luke do not use the term parousia; Luke uses another term in 17:30; see Unit 23, below).
And so Matthew 24:26-28 is an interlude, telling the disciples that the parousia ≠ the coming in judgment on Jerusalem. (It is possible to move v. 26 into Unit 11.)
Matthew 24:26-28 and Luke 17:22-25, 37 are mutually confirmative.
Incidentally, Luke 17:25 is simply a clarification for his disciples. He had already predicted his suffering and death in Luke 9:22, 44. Now he tells them that his arrival in Jerusalem is not the Grand and Glorious Coming of the Conquering Hero. He must first fulfill the prophecy about the Suffering Servant. The Second Coming will happen long afterwards.
|12||26 If therefore they tell you, ‘Look, he is in the desert!’ do not go out. ‘Look! He is in the storeroom!’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out from the east and shines to the west, in this way will the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man be. 28 For where the carcass is, the vultures also gather.||Luke 17:22-25, 37
22 He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will yearn to see one of the days of the Son of man, but you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or “Look here!’ But don’t leave, nor pursue it. 24 For just as flashing lightning shines from one end of the sky to the other end of the sky, so will be the Son of man in his day.
25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
…… [see Unit 22]
37 And in reply, they said to him, “Where, Lord?” And he said to them, “Where the body will be, there the vultures will also gather.
To repeat, Matt. 24:26-28 is an interlude that teaches what the coming-in-judgment on Jerusalem is not like. Verses 26-28 describe the Second Coming. Luke 15:22-24, 27 confirm this. (Matt. 24:26 could be moved to Unit 11, but I left it here in Unit 12 because it parallels Luke 17:33.)
With this clarifying interlude completed, Matthew will resume the events that will happen before his generation passes away in Units 13-17.
Unit 13 (cosmic disasters)
These signs are not to be taken literally; otherwise the cosmos (earth, moon, sun, stars and so on) would have been shredded millennia ago.
To illustrate the symbolism in apocalyptic pronouncements, this verse refers to the overthrow of ancient Babylon:
For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light. (Is. 13:10, ESV)
And this verse refers to the judgment on Edom:
All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall …. (Is. 34:4. ESV)
Since those verses in both Unit 13 and the OT are about judgment on a nation, it is natural to conclude that Jesus’s words likewise refer to judgment on Jerusalem and on Israel by extension. Those cosmic disasters symbolize political and national disasters here on earth. As noted, if those cosmic disasters happened literally, then nature would not be the same from then to now. Jesus’s words about these cosmic reactions are not literal, either.
See my post for many other OT Scriptures about cosmic disasters in the context of national judgment:
In Luke 21:26, Luke uses the Greek noun world, oikoumenē, which means the “inhabited world.” See Unit 6 for the use of the word. Once again, from a biblical perspective the whole world is the one the first-century writers (and OT writers) knew about. When judgment hit Jerusalem and the temple, it is easy to imagine that the whole inhabited world, particularly wherever Jewish communities settled, was shaken and fearful. Jerusalem was a major city, their major holy city, after all.
Unit 14 (the Son of Man coming in clouds of glory)
What is this coming? Jesus “coming” to his Father and is enthroned after his resurrection, and this fits Dan. 7:13-14.
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14, NIV, emphasis added)
The Ancient of Days is God. Jesus was about to ascend and be enthroned on high, sitting next to God. So his “coming” here in this long passage refers to his ascension and then coming back (invisibly) in judgment over Jerusalem (see my photos, below). The coming here is not the parousia (Second Coming).
Unit 15 (he will send out angels to gather elect)
Luke omits these verses, thus removing another time and event marker. His omission brings clarity.
However, let’s discuss Matthew and Mark’s longer versions, in their historical and generic (genre) context.
“The tribes of the land”: most translations have “earth” because of the noun gē (pronounced gay), but the word is versatile and can mean “country,” region,” “land,” or even “ground” or “soil” (BDAG).
The allusion is to Zech. 12:10-14:
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11 On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. (Zech. 12:10-14 ESV, emphasis added).
In those verses the mourners are the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The Septuagint (pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent) is the third to second century B.C translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The noun gē often means “the land of Israel” and not “the earth.” The noun tribes clearly means the tribes of Israel who inhabit the land. This translation makes the most sense in the context. The tribes in the NT most often means the tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28; Luke 2:36; Acts 13:21; Rom. 11:1; Heb. 7:13-14, and so on). Therefore “the tribes of the land” means that the tribes of Israel will look on him and mourn, if they have eyes to see and wisdom to connect the events.
Or “tribes” could refer to the Jewish communities beyond the “land” of Israel, wherever they were found (Paul reached out to them as far as Rome and probably in Spain). However, the passage in Zechariah seems decisive. So the term means the tribes of the land [gē] of Israel.
Unit 15 also says that the Son of Man will send out his angels to gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another. How can this mean a local judgment on Jerusalem?
This verse refers back to Deut. 30:4, which speaks of the ingathering of the scattered people:
If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. (Deut. 30:4, ESV)
For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the Lord. (Zech 2:6, ESV; LXX 2:10).
The angels denote heavenly beings and refers to the supernatural power undergirding evangelism, under the heavenly authority of the son of Man. The trumpet blast reflects Is. 27:13:
And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem. (Is. 27:13, ESV)
Is it too much to claim that the trumpet could have been literally fulfilled by the Roman trumpets as the army conquered Jerusalem, much like the trumpet blast about Assyria and Egypt? Probably, so let’s move on, but it is worth exploring further in another post.
Further, the trumpet blast, which Matthew alone includes, has to happen before Jesus’s generation passes away, the “stubborn” verse (see Unit 18), which does not allow an end-time scenario in our days (unless certain general themes carry forward). So interpreting the trumpet in light of Is. 27:13 is reasonable and solves the problem that the “stubborn” verse (Unit 18) poses.
And so the great trumpet blast also suits a more supernatural dimension to this ingathering. See this post for the secondary sources:
Thus, the interpretation of Matthew’s and Mark’s versions depend on the OT, which is always a wise move, in apocalyptical passages, and depends on their historical context, another wise interpretive move. Jesus will gather a new and inclusive people through the evangelization of the (known) world with the power of angels behind the scenes or undergirding the whole gospel witness (Heb. 1:14).
This is not the gathering in of everyone from Australia and New Zealand to North and South America, but the mission of the gospels and the angelic help in carrying out the mission to the first-century Christians’ known world.
For more information, click on this article and scroll down to vv. 29-31:
Unit 16 (Stand up straight and lift up your head; your redemption draws near)
Luke alone includes this verse simply to encourage his community. Don’t fear; your rescue is coming closer.
Unit 17 (the illustration of the fig tree and other trees)
Some interpreters say that the fig tree represents Israel, but Luke says all other trees. This illustration simply means that the trees produce leaves, and you can draw the conclusion that summer is near. In the same way, look out for these signs, because the end of Jerusalem is near. Luke adds the kingdom is near, which simply teaches, in context, that the kingdom coming in judgment is almost upon this first generation of Christians, as the next unit confirms.
Unit 18 (this generation will not pass away until all these things take place)
I have called this the most “stubborn” verse in the synoptic Gospels, because it is the clearest time marker and event of all the other time markers in Units 1-17 (“then,” “in those days,” “at that time,” “beginning of birth pangs,” and so on). Everything Jesus taught before this “stubborn” verse had to be done before his generation passed away (except Unit 12). And they did. Jerusalem was conquered and the temple destroyed. His prediction came true.
Unit 19 (heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away)
Jesus is saying you can absolutely trust his prediction. He was right; we can indeed absolutely trust his prediction, because it happened in AD 70.
The most “stubborn” verse in the synoptic Gospels, repeated in each one, teaches us that everything that he predicted was going to take place before Jesus’s generation passed away, and they did happen. Luke removes the time and event markers in Unit 6 (this gospel must first be preached to all nations) and in Unit 15 (angels will be sent out to gather elect from four winds). Now all interpretive stumbling blocks have been eliminated. And those verses in Matthew and Mark can also be interpreted more clearly in their historical, original contexts. Luke also inserts two clarifying verses about armies surrounding Jerusalem and committing the great sacrilege (Units 7 and 9).
Therefore, when we combine all synoptic Gospels, Units 1-11 and 13-19 are clearly about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, not the Second Coming (parousia). Further, Unit 12 (Matt. 24:26-28) is an interlude, teaching the disciples what his coming in judgment on Jerusalem will not be like, and Luke 17:22-25, 37 confirms Matt. 24:26-28 because Luke’s parallel verses do not teach the coming-in-judgment on Jerusalem and its temple, but the Second Coming; he covers the Second Coming in his Chapter 17.
THE SECOND COMING
Beginning in this major section, in Matthew and Mark, with Luke following along in Chapter 21, but also in Chapter 17 and some verses in Chapter 12, Jesus said he did not know the day or the hour of his parousia or Second Coming. In contrast, in the section about the destruction of Jerusalem (the previous major section), Jesus left behind many time markers. Now they drop out, in this section. Clearly, we have rounded a corner and begin a new vision, way beyond the destruction in AD 70, and we are now looking at his Second Coming (see Matt. 24:37, 39 and his use of parousia). This has not happened for the last 2000 years (and counting).
|Unit||Mt. 24:36-44||Mk 13:32-37||Lk 21:34-36|
|20||36 But concerning that Day and hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone.||32 “But concerning that day or hour—no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, except the Father.|
|21||34 Watch yourselves that your hearts are not weighed down with partying, drunkenness, and the anxieties of ordinary life. Yes, that day will come upon you suddenly 35 like a trap. For it shall come on everyone inhabiting the face of the whole earth. 36 Stay awake in every season, asking that you can prevail to escape all these things that will happen and to stand before the son of Man.|
26 If therefore they tell you, ‘Look, he is in the desert!’ do not go out. ‘Look! He is in the storeroom!’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out from the east and shines to the west, in this way will the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man be. 28 For where the carcass is, the vultures also gather.
Luke 17:22-25, 37
22 He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will yearn to see one of the days of the Son of man, but you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or “Look here!’ But don’t leave, nor pursue it. 24 For just as flashing lightning shines from one end of the sky to the other end of the sky, so will be the Son of man in his day.
25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
37 And in reply, they said to him, “Where, Lord?” And he said to them, “Where the body will be, there the vultures will also gather.
|22||37 For just as the days of Noah were, in this way the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man will be. 38 For as just as they were in the days were before the flood, munching and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the days Noah entered the ark, 39 they also did not know until the flood came and took everyone away, and in this way will the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man be.||26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of man: 27 They were eating, drinking, marrying, and married off, until the day Noah went into the ark and the flood came and destroyed everyone.|
|23||28 Likewise, just as it happened in days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building. 29 And one day Lot left Sodom, and fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed everyone. 30 And in accordance with those things it will be on the day when the Son of man will be revealed [apokalyptō].|
|24||31 In that day, whoever will be on the roof and his equipment is in the house, let him not come down to get them; and the one who is in the field let him likewise not turn back to the things behind him. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; whoever would lose his life will preserve it.|
|25||40 Then two men will be in the field, and one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding grain at the mill, and one will be taken and one left.||34 I say to you: On that night two will be in one bed, and the one will be taken, and the other will be left behind. 35 Two women will be grinding at the same place, and one will be taken, and the other will be left.”|
|26||42 Watch therefore because you don’t know which day your Lord comes. 43 But this you do know that if the head of household knew at which watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and not permitted his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason, you also be prepared because at the hour you don’t expect, the son of Man is coming.||33 Watch! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like man away on a journey who had left his house and given to his servants, each one, authority for his task and commanded the doorkeeper that he keep awake. 35 Keep awake therefore! For you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or in the middle of the night or at the crowing of the rooster or in the morning, 36 so that when he comes he does not find you sleeping. 37 But what I tell you I tell everyone: Keep awake!”||35 “Tighten your belt around your waist and keep your lamps burning. 36 Indeed, you are like people waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that when he comes and knocks, they might open the door to him immediately. 37 Those servants are blessed, when the master comes and finds them watching. I tell you the truth: he will tighten his belt and have them recline at table and come and serve them! 38 If he should come either in the second hour or third hour of the watch and find them doing thus, those servants are blessed.
39 Know this: if the master of the house knew which hour the thief would come, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You also be prepared because you don’t know which hour the Son of man comes.”
Unit 20 (No one knows the day of hour)
“But concerning”: This phrase is translated as follows: concerning is peri and it is often used to introduce a new topic, when peri begins the sentence or clause (Matt. 22:31; Mark 12:26; 13:32; John 16:9, 10, 11; 17:20; Acts 21:25; 25:18, 26; 1 Cor. 7:25; 8:1, 4; 12:1; 16:1, 12; 2 Cor. 9:1; 1 Thess. 4:9; 5:1; Heb. 5:11; 1 Pet. 1:10). This use of peri is also reinforced with the tiny connector de (pronounced deh). It is an elusive particle, but in this case, “but” is used to contrast this topic with the previous long one.
Here’s Paul using peri de in 1 Cor. 8:1, in his change of subject from marriage in 1 Cor. 7 to food sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor. 8:1 “Now about [peri de] food sacrificed to idols … (NIV). Similarly, using peri de, Jesus is shifting topics from the destruction of Jerusalem to his Second Coming–two distinct events at widely different times.
Bottom line: clearly in Unit 20, Matthew and Mark are changing the topic from the coming-in-judgment on the temple to the parousia or Second Coming or visitation to judge the world and put things right (cf. Matt. 24:36-25:46). In Units 1-19 (except Unit 12), the temporal connections were clear: “then,” “in those days,” “immediately after,” and “it is near” (and so on). In contrast, in this second eschatological section there is no such temporal connections. In fact, Jesus said the disciples would not know when the time of his return was going to happen. It will come when people don’t expect it. This absence of time markers in Unit 20 stands in stark contrast to the conspicuous time markers in Units 1-19 (except Unit 12).
Not even the Son knew when his return would happen, but he predicted when the destruction would happen–within his generation.
For an answer to the question of why Jesus did not know the day or the hour, click on this post:
“that day”: it is often used in both the OT and NT of the final day leading to judgment: you can look up the verses online but here are some references: Is. 10:20; Joel 1:15; 3:18; Amos 8:9; 9:11; Zeph. 1:10, 14; Zech. 14:4; Mal. 3:17-18. This is the first mention of a singular day or hour, in contrast to “those days” (vv. 17, 19, and 24) or the timeframe of the Roman war.
I go into a longer treatment / analysis / exegesis of the Second Coming by Matthew’s Gospel, since he greatly expands on Mark’s short finish to his thirteenth chapter and Luke’s short finish in his twenty-first chapter. Once again, please see this post:
Unit 21 (Watch yourselves, for that day will come on you like a trap)
This unit appears only in Luke, but the concepts are found elsewhere: partying and drinking until that day comes. Luke uses “that day” (see the comments just above, in Unit 20). “Like a trap” feels like the phrase “like a thief.” But see Unit 26, where Luke does use “like a thief.” In any case, in this unit we are covering the Second Coming and the day of judgment, afterwards.
Incidentally, the phrase “whole earth” in context could be understood as their whole earth as they understood it (not North or South America or Australia). But the Second Coming, as we now know, will be planet-shattering and people-shaking (so to speak).
Unit 12 (Repeated from above; see comments there)
We have now entered Luke 17:22-37. I repeat this unit because it is Luke’s turn to take the lead.
Incidentally, Luke 17:36 is omitted in many manuscripts, but if you insist on it, here is a translation: “Two people will be in the field, and one will be taken and the other left.” Once again this claim is true: omissions or inclusions of verses or words in the thousands of manuscripts do not affect or deny important doctrines.
In any case, Unit 12 is talking about the parousia or Second Coming, since Matthew’s Gospel says that very word. And Luke 17 is not about the destruction of Jerusalem; he covers this in Chapter 21. Rather, Chapter 17 is about the Second Coming. So Matthew and Luke in Unit 12 are mutually confirmative.
Unit 22 (Comparison with the days of Noah)
Luke and Matthew make this comparison. Here Matthew uses the Greek noun parousia twice. This means the arrival and remaining of an important visitor. Once again, this large section is about the Second Coming.
The days of Noah are one “sign” that the Second Coming is near—social and moral degradation. Apart from this “sign,” there is no “Big Event” that will herald in the Second Coming, in Matthew, Mark or Luke. Instead, the “sign” is the low-grade moral climate. Incidentally, however, Units 1-11 and 13-19 do not teach “the sign,” but many signs of the destruction of Jerusalem. And as for the parousia, there is no “the sign” except for the moral climate during the times of Noah and Lot.
Unit 23 (comparison to the days of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah)
Only Luke has this unit. It is of the same theme as the days of Noah: moral degradation. Luke uses the verb “reveal,” which probably is a synonym for parousia or the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Titus 2:13).
Unit 24 (don’t bother packing your belongings or going back to get them)
He says on “that day,” which again refers to the day of judgment, after the Second Coming.
Here Luke applies the saying to not packing or going back to get your belongings because at the Second Coming, you will have no need of those worldly things. He is talking about people wistfully longing for one’s old way of life: Remember Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt. When judgment happens, looking back on the old days will be useless and too late.
Unit 25 (Two men, two women, one in each pair taken, the other left)
This unit follows right after Units 22-24, which are about the parousia. Over the decades, many Bible interpreters have said this taking and leaving refers to the separate rapture distinct from the Second Coming. However, this taking and leaving refers to the some who are taken or hauled off to judgment, while the others who are left behind remain down here on earth and welcome the king.
Luke 17:22-37: Taken Away = Rapture? (it also looks at Matthew’s version)
This taking and being left happens after the parousia, while those who teach a separate rapture say the taking away in a rapture happens before the Second Coming (parousia). So these interpreters are wrong.
Unit 26 (watch, because the thief comes when no one expects)
I combined these three passages from Matthew, Mark, and Luke because of the common theme of the servants of the house watching or not watching for the return or coming of the master. It could happen at any hour—which brings more focus than the usual term day.
Maybe Luke’s version does not fit exactly, and I thought of including only vv. 39-40 because of the thief imagery, but I supplied the whole pericope for the context.
Anyway, the warning is clear: the servants have to be watchful for the coming of their lord—the coming of our Lord–at an hour least expected
Matthew and Mark clearly round the corner from the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to the glorious Second Coming. They round the corner by dropping the time markers (e.g. “in those days” and “the beginning of birth pangs,” “at that time,” and leafing fig and other trees), and especially the ultimate time marker (“this generation will not pass away until all these things take place”). And then they show the change of topic by the phrase peri de. Finally, all three Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—often use the phrase “the day” or “the hour,” and this specificity refers to the day of the Lord or judgment. Judgment happens after the Second Coming.
There is no warning “sign” (or “signs”) of his parousia or Second Coming; rather, his parousia could happen at any time, and we all have to watch carefully. The one possible “sign” is the moral degradation during the times of Noah and Lot, but it is not the sign, which the disciples had asked for (Unit 2).
Finally, Matthew spends the rest of Chapter 24 and all of Chapter 25 discussing the Second Coming and the necessity of being watchful, because the Lord delays. In 25:31-46, a majestic and stark passage, he then talks about the aftermath of the Second Coming: judgment. We don’t have the space to cover it here. You can click on this post to read more:
ARCH OF TITUS
Luke 21:20, 24 clearly connects the abomination of desolation prophesied in Daniel 9:21, 11:31, 12:11 with the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem and stomping all over the temple, which they did.
The Arch of Titus was built in A.D. 81 by Domitian (ruled 81-96), to honor his deceased brother Titus and their father Vespasian’s victory over the Jews and Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
I took these photos on my trip to Rome in June 2001.
The Roman army really did stand in the Holy Place in the temple, where the Menorah and other tools were kept. The abomination of desolation already happened within Jesus’s generation, just as he had predicted.
Placing all of the important verses side finally brought clarity (to me at least). It would be unrealistic to expect that Jesus would not make a major prediction about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. There were many signs of this nation-shattering event. After he is done with this prediction, he then turns to the Second Coming. Here, the only “sign” is the moral climate.
However, some of the bad people and events are repeated throughout history, like false prophets and messiahs and earthquakes and famines. But these are not the signs of the parousia. Bad things happen, from then to now (e.g. 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and worldwide Covid in 2020-2021; bubonic plague in Europe in the mid-1300’s, which wiped out one-fourth to one-third of Europe in a few years). Rather, we are back to the moral climate: as it was in the days of Noah and Sodom, so it will be right before the Lord returns. We are called to be watchful. The temptation will be to fall asleep, both morally and spiritually. We have to be watchful of our souls and bodies. We must not let that day, the return of the Lord, the parousia, catch us like a trap or a thief.
As I have concluded in other posts:
In Units 1 and 2, the disciples ask two questions (let’s follow Matthew here).
(1). “When will these things be?” The context indicates that this question pertains to the destruction of the temple, which they had just admired. But he predicts its destruction.
(2). “And what will be the sign of your visitation [parousia] and the close [synteleia] of the age?”
In Units 3-19 (except Unit 12), Jesus answered the first question, and his second answer will go from Units 20-26.
As for the timing (“when”) and signs before the destruction of Jerusalem and temple (the first question), Jesus gave them many. He also revealed many time markers, notably his generation.
As to the sign of his parousia (the second question), there is no one major warning sign; rather, it could happen at any time, when we least expect it. So we really have to be on our guard and watch. The one possible “sign,” which is really not the sign, is the moral degradation before the parousia, as it was in the days of Noah and Lot. The disciples had asked for the sign of his parousia and synteleia, but Jesus gave them none.
Here’s a short diagram to illustrate the first question and answer in Units 2-19 (except Unit 12):
First Coming → Resurrection → Coming to His Throne and then Judgment →Telos (End) of the Old Temple
The telos end happened in A.D. 70, the generation that was living when Jesus taught in Units 1-19. His prediction came true.
Here’s a diagram of the second question and answer in Units 20-26:
________________← This Age ⸻→| Synteleia of
First Coming ⸻⸻⸻⸻→ Parousia → New Messianic Age
In the second diagram, representing Units 20-26, the First Coming begins the movement towards the parousia or Second Coming. At the parousia, the synteleia (closing) of This Age occurs and the New Messianic or Kingdom Age begins in full manifestation. After the synteleia, a New Messianic Age begins, and you can certainly insert the judgment on the temple in This Age. But that is not the synteleia end. It’s the telos end. In Matt. 28:20b, Jesus promises the synteleia, the closing out of the age, which is a fitting capstone on Matthew’s Gospel in this verse: “And remember this: I am with you every day, until the end [synteleia] of the age” (Matt. 28:20b).
For a fuller perspective from the beginning of the three synoptic Gospels (and John’s Gospel), here’s a diagram that lays out the Second Coming:
________________← This Age ⸻→| End of
First Coming ⸻⸻⸻⸻→ Second Coming → New Messianic Age
In the second diagram, the First Coming (Jesus’s birth and ministry and crucifixion and resurrection begins the movement towards the Parousia or Second Coming. At the Second Coming the end of This Age occurs and the New Messianic or Kingdom Age begins in full manifestation. And you can certainly insert the judgment on the temple in This Age, shortly after the First Coming.
Now let’s fill out the picture.
In the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, particularly Matt. 13:39-43, and Matt. 16:27, in Matt. 25:31-46, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus clearly teaches that the New Messianic Age is ushered in right after the Second Coming and the judgment of the righteous and the wicked happen at the same time.
We can depict things in this flow chart:
___________← This Age ⸻→| End of
First Coming —————————→ Second Coming → Judgment → Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come
The Second Coming (Parousia) stops This Age. Then there is one big judgment, in which the righteous and wicked are judged together. One can even say that the final judgment happens during the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come. Finally, the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming will have been fully realized and accomplished at his Second Coming (Parousia), after judgment. And so after God sweeps aside the wicked and Satan and demons, the New Age can begin in true and pure rulership.
Bottom line: All of the New Testament (outside of a few contested verses in the Revelation) fully and clearly and consistently teach this flow chart:
___________← This Age ———⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom —→ Second Coming → Judgment → Fully Realized Kingdom Age
What about the Church? The Father and the resurrected and ascended Son and the outpoured Spirit, by means of the inaugurated kingdom, created the church at Pentecost (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:1-4). It exists in This Age and preaches the gospel of the kingdom. It will be snatched up or raptured at the Second Coming, meet Jesus in the air, descend with him, go through judgment, and then finally will last forever in the Fully Realized Kingdom Age.
Until and before the Second Coming, we now live in the conflict and battle between This Age and the Inaugurated Kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus during his ministry. (They are not the same things but are at war with each other!) We are in the process of binding Satan and his demonic hordes, by expelling demons from people’s lives but mainly by preaching the gospel, so people surrender to the Son’s Lordship, and then Satan is pushed back and people experience victory in their lives. The gospel and life in the Spirit, coming after Jesus’s ascension in This Age, though happening during the inaugurated Kingdom, are so powerful that saved and redeemed kingdom citizens can experience victory over the power of sin in their lives in This Age. The presence of sin in their lives is not removed until they get their new resurrected and transformed bodies and minds in The Age to Come. The Second Coming stops This Age, which is replaced and displaced with the fully realized Messianic or Kingdom Age or The Age to Come.
There is no word on a literal thousand-year reign with two comings and “several first” resurrections. And there is no separate rapture that makes the church disappear, before the Second Coming. If Jesus believed in a separate rapture, he would have taught it here; he missed his chance. However, he did not miss his chance and he did not teach it. Therefore, he did not believe in a separate rapture. All of it is too convoluted. Instead, the Gospels (and Epistles) present a streamlined picture of salvation history and God’s dealing with his human creation and the return of Christ.
An amillennialist believes that the millennium begins with the Inaugurated Kingdom, but apparently it is quiet and behind the scenes (note, for example, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and its slow growth in Matt. 13:31-32); Satan is not literally bound with chains (as if a spirit being could be), even though Jesus did teach that he bound the strongman (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22). So what this binding means is that Satan cannot now fully stop the advance of the kingdom (as Satan did to the ancient Israelites, except a remnant). Before Jesus came, every nation was bound by satanic deception. However, after Jesus inaugurated the kingdom, even under Islamic and communist regimes, the gospel has a way of infiltrating societies, even if underground. Satan can no longer deceive the nations as he did before Jesus came. Instead, kingdom citizens, surrendered to the Kingship of the King and following him, are plundering Satan’s domain of This Age and rescuing people out of it and transferring them to the inaugurated kingdom of God. The final victory over Satan will be fully manifested at his Second Coming.
In contrast, based on his interpretation of a few verses in Rev. 20, one chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible, a premillennialist believes that a literal thousand years of Christ (not shown in flow charts) is ushered in at the Second Coming, where there will be peace and harmony. And Satan is literally bound in chains until the end of the thousand years. During the literal millennium, people will still die, so the last enemy (death) is not defeated after all, at the Second Coming (even though Paul said death would be defeated, in 1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-56). However, the theory of a literal thousand years says that death and Satan are defeated at the end of the millennium, when another resurrection and another judgment will take place.
Never mind, however, that in John 5:28-29 and Matt. 13:41-43 and 25:31-46, Jesus teaches that the wicked and righteous are judged together at the end of This Age, as indicated in the above flow charts.
So then where does the rapture fit in? When all peoples are called out of their tombs and those who are alive also respond to Christ descending from heaven at the Second Coming, they will be “caught up” (the rapture) and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17). Then they will descend with Jesus to a new heaven and new earth, which will have been recreated, renewed, renovated or reconstituted. They will be judged, and the wicked will be sent away to punishment, and the righteous will be welcomed into the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come (as distinct from This Age). In other words, the rapture and the Second Coming happen at the same time and are the same event.
Please see my post:
There is no reason, biblically, to over-think and complicate these verses and insert a separate rapture that happens before the Second Coming. Just because a teaching is popular does not make it right.
Personally, in my study of the Gospels and Epistles, I have now accepted amillennialism because it is streamlined, and I don’t believe the NT teaches convoluted theories. The entire NT fits together if we adopt amillenialism. I cannot allow, in my own Bible interpretation, a few contested verses in Rev. 20 to confuse the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospels and the apostolic teaching in the Epistles. That is, I don’t believe we should allow Rev. 20 (the only few verses where one thousand years are mentioned) or the entire book of the Revelation, the most symbolic book of the Bible (after Chapter 3), to guide our interpretation of these clear teachings in the Gospels and the Epistles. Instead, we should allow the clear, straightforward, nonsymbolic teachings in the Gospels and Epistles to guide our interpretations of the most symbolic book in the Bible, in which even the numbers may be symbolic and probably are. To see everything fit together, all we have to do is turn the kaleidoscope one notch or click and adopt amillennialism. I am willing to do that. And I have now done that.
Clarity guides the unclear portions. My main point: keep the plain thing the main thing in hermeneutics (science of interpretation), and let the clear verses guide the unclear ones.
This interpretation enjoys the beauty of simplicity by eliminating all the complications that popular end-time Bible prophecy teachers have been imposing on the Gospels and Epistles for decades—over a century. Since this tradition has deep roots—not to say entrenched—in the conservative sectors of American Evangelicalism (broadly defined to incorporate the Renewal Movements), these teachers won’t give up their interpretation easily. So I hope to reach and teach the younger generations and all other openminded people of all generations. They need to prepare for tough times ahead. I’m not a pastor, but I can still have a teacher’s pastoral heart.
But in these eschatological (end-time) discussions:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
We should not break fellowship with those with whom we differ in eschatological matters.
Luke 21:5-33 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple (Luke is by far the clearest on this topic)
Three Options for Interpreting Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 (I discuss two other interpretations)
Luke 17:22-37: Taken Away = Rapture? (I also briefly look at Matthew’s version)