How do you respond to Matthew 24:1–44?

This is Jesus’ Mount of Olives discourse in which, according to many scholars, he prophesies concerning the conditions at the end of the age. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place (vs. 6)…nation shall rise against nation…there will be famines and earthquakes (vs. 7)…many false prophets will arise and lead many astray (vs. 11)…this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world (vs. 14)…at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now (vs. 21)…Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn (vs. 30).”

Some scholars (such as N.T. Wright) argue that this passage is not about the end of the world as such, but only about the end of the Jewish world as they knew it. It is an apocalyptic (and thus heavily symbolic) description of things that were to take place within several decades after Jesus spoke of them. In support of this view, consider that the entire passage is structured as a response to the disciples’ question concerning when the temple will collapse (vs. 1–3). And Jesus tells his audience in no uncertain terms that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” (vs. 34, emphasis added). If this interpretation is accepted the passage has no bearing on the issue of God’s foreknowledge. In fact, we learn from Josephus that there were others in the early first century who were predicting that the temple was going to be destroyed, and we have no reason to think any of these people had divine foreknowledge.

Other scholars, however, argue that at least part of the passage refers to the very end of world history. Even if this latter group of scholars are right, we are reading too much into the passage if we suppose that it demonstrates that the future is exhaustively settled. Jesus prophesied that there will be wars (vs. 6), false messiahs (vs. 5, 24), famines and earthquakes (vs. 7) and persecutions (vs. 9). This simply means that the general features of how the world will end are settled and that God knows them as such. Given that the omniscient Lord knows perfectly the evil hearts of people and of fallen angels, and given that he knows that Satan and the kingdom of darkness are going to make one last all out effort to destroy God’s plan, as many other New Testament passages make clear, it should come as no surprise that God can accurately predict the turmoil the world will be in when history finally comes to a close.

Category:
Tags: ,
Topics:
Verse:

Related Reading

Last Minute Preparations

We’re all busy here at ReKnew making last minute preparations for the Open2013 conference here in St. Paul, MN. It’s our first ever event of this kind and there’s a nervous energy and anticipation. I wonder if you’ll hold this up in prayer if you weren’t able to join us? We have a last minute…

How do you respond to Galatians 3:8?

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.’” God has never wanted “any to perish”: he’s always desired “all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4). God’s goal has always been to reach…

Topics:

What is the significance of Numbers 11:1–2?

The Lord was in the process of judging Israel by fire when Moses interceded in prayer “and the fire abated.” A common sense reading of the verse suggests that the fire would have continued had Moses not prayed. Scripture is full of examples of God changing his plans in response to human prayer and repentance.…

Topics:

How can prayer change God’s mind?

You’ve argued that since God is all-good, he’s always doing the most he can do in every situation to bring about good. But you have also argued that prayer can change God’s mind. How are these two beliefs compatible?

What is the significance of Jeremiah 3:6–7?

Regarding Israel, the Lord says “I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me’; but she did not return.” If the future is exhaustively settled in God’s mind, the meaning of this verse is unclear. How could God really think that something was going to happen if he foreknew with absolute…

Topics:

In your Anabaptist view, should Christians get involved in politics at all? Do you think they should even vote?

Ultimately, each person must follow their conscience when it comes to whether or not they vote, how they vote if they decide to vote, and the extent to which they should involve themselves in the political system. But we must always remain aware of the dangers involved in participating in the political system, for it…