Sermon notes

Sermon notes July 27, 2009


Jesus has condemned the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, and warns that Jerusalem ’s house is going to be left desolate (Matthew 23:37 -39). Just as Yahweh destroyed the abominable sanctuary at Shiloh (1 Samuel 4-6) and Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 24-25), so Jesus will return to take vengeance against Herod’s temple (Matthew 24:1-3).


“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem , the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate . . . .” (Matthew 23:37-24:14 ).


Matthew 24 has been widely misinterpreted over the centuries, largely because Jesus’ predictions have been detached from their context in Matthew and in His ministry. Jesus the Great High Priest has just finished inspecting the temple, and condemns it (Matthew 21-23; cf. Leviticus 14). He says that the blood of the prophets will be charged to “this generation” ( 23:36 ), the generation that has misused the temple and rejected its Lord. All the things He predicts happen within that very same generation (24:34). This chapter is not about the end of the universe; it’s the climax of the prophecies of judgment that have been accumulating throughout Matthew’s gospel (cf. 3:7-10; 11:16 -24; 16:27 -28; 21:33 -46).


Jesus’ disciples ask him to describe the signs that will help them know when He is coming to take vengeance against the house (v. 3). Jesus eventually answers that question (v. 15), but first he describes events that are not signs of His coming but only the “beginning of birth pangs” (v. 8). False prophets appeared during the last days of Judah , before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Solomon’s temple (cf. Jeremiah), and they will be back to mislead the people (Matthew 24:4-5, 11-12). Wars, especially conflicts among Christians and between Jews and Romans, will occur before Jesus returns, but these are not signs of the end (v. 6). Nor are famines and earthquakes (v. 7).


The period between Jesus’ departure and the destruction of the temple will also be a time of tribulation. This does not refer to the sufferings of the Jews at the hands of Romans, but rather to the sufferings of Christians (“you,” v. 9; v. 21 speaks of the same tribulation). Christians will be under great pressure to renounce Christ, and many will fall away – there will be a great apostasy during the first century, many who play Judas and betray other Christians (v. 10).


When the gospel is proclaimed throughout the “ oikoumene ,” it is a sign that the end has come (v. 14). In the New Testament, oikoumene does not mean “inhabited earth,” which would include China , India , and Chile ; it refers to the imperial system that Yahweh set up during Israel ’s Babylonian exile (cf. Daniel 2, 7). Before the end comes, Jesus’ kingdom will be preached from one end of the Mediterranean to another.

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