A Handful of Mud: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (IV)

February 22, 2010

I continue to throw mud on the wall and see what will stick (i.e., brainstorm) about how the quotations from Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10, which are cited together in Revelation 1:7, set things up for the unfolding of the Apocalypse.  In that regard, the earlier use of both passages together in Matthew 24:30-31, which words John had heard with his own ears from the mouth of Jesus, seem the most likely source from which John would have drawn his lead-off “preaching texts” for the Apocalypse.

That being the case, it makes sense to move through the earlier part of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 to see if it is possible to piece together information that might help with our understanding of Revelation.  After all, since Jesus was the “speaker” of both portions of Scripture, isn’t it logical that they would agree in content or, at least, complement each other?

The part of the Olivet Discourse (which includes all of Matt. 24-25) that extends through 24:31 clearly is answering the questions the apostles asked Jesus in 24:3, just after He had spoken of the coming destruction of the Temple, which they were just leaving (24:1-2).  Their obviously concerned, if not somewhat shell-shocked, questions were: “When will these things happen?  And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (HCSB).

An interesting point for consideration here is whether the apostles thought they were asking two questions or three.  Certainly, their concerned inquiry about the destruction of the Temple is one question.  But, it is probably not possible to determine whether they intended their follow-up regarding “the sign of your coming” and “the end of the age” to be separate or not.  Probably the wisest way to view things is to take them as two related, but distinct, aspects of the same question.  So, in my view, you could call them questions 1, 2a and 2b.

An even more interesting—at least to me—point of curiosity has to do with why the apostles asked the follow-up two-part question they did.  What is known from the earlier part of Matthew?  In 10:22, disciples are told to persevere “to the end.”  The “coming” of the Son of Man is mentioned in the very next verse.  In 12:39 and 16:4, the “sign of Jonah” (i.e., the resurrection on the third day is mentioned.  In 13:39, 40, 49, “the end of the age” is mentioned in the parables of the wheat and the tares and the net.  In 16:27, we read that “the Son of Man is going to come with His angels” and, in 16:28, of “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (HCSB).  The accumulation of that previous wording is—for me—a quite sufficient basis for why the apostles asked questions 2a and b.

As we begin to look at these questions, I must admit that I studied this part of the Olivet Discourse for many years with little more than controlled frustration.  I even wrote the study notes for the Life Recovery Bible on Matthew, which, fortunately for the readers, were more practical than theological in orientation.  However, very recently, I feel like I have found a number of textual clues, which I had previously overlooked as to their significance, which appear to pull together what had long seemed to me like a lock with a lost key.

Going back to the apostles’ questions, it appears that question 1, which, in context, has to do with the destruction of the Temple, is most likely addressed in 24:15ff., where the “abomination of desolation” is said to be in “the holy place” (i.e., in the Temple, presumably) and the urgent fleeing from Jerusalem must describe an area-wide crisis, spilling out from in and around the area of the Temple.  In one sense, this was of course fulfilled partially with the Roman destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  But, without question, it also looks ahead to what the beast (Antichrist) will do at the end of the age (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15).

I will discuss questions 2a and 2b in my next post.


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