66. Scroll Of Destiny

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

Important note: as with the two previous posts, we need to let you know that we have changed our view of these things in the light of further revelation from God. We now see the whole of Matthew 24 as a warning about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

References to ‘the end of the age’ are always about AD 70 and not to ‘the end of the world’.

Our interpretation of the word ‘judgment’ is now more about delivering a verdict (“This is Me, and this is not”) than passing sentence; about God giving people an opportunity to change, rather than about Him handing out punishment. He really is Love, and Love really does keep no record of wrongs.

But it remains true that our work will be tested with fire.

Below is the post as originally written.

On the last day, the first people to be taken will be the unbelievers, swiftly followed by the believers. If that is news to you, it is probably best to read our previous post before embarking on this one.

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming… For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matt 24:42, 44).

Understanding Thessalonians

We have looked before at some of the misunderstandings which can arise from reading Thessalonians carelessly. When he writes to them about the last day, Paul is responding to a particular question which is vexing the church there. They understand very well what will happen to the believers who are alive when Jesus returns, but what about those who have died? Will they miss out?

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thes 4:13-18).

‘By the word of the Lord’ – this is not Paul’s interpretation, this is what he has received directly from Him. It is all going to happen in the same instant, and as I have said before, there will be lots of noise. His coming will be very obvious. The dead in Christ will be resurrected, and then the living believers will join them in meeting the Lord – and in the air, not on the earth. Paul offers comfort, says not to be frightened or concerned about all this. Alive or dead, you will be with Him in the age to come. All at the same time.

He says the same thing to the Corinthians:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Cor 15:51-52).

Some will be alive, some dead, but all will be changed in a moment. All of us will receive our eternal, immortal bodies. These are bodies like those Adam and Eve had when they were created, when they had their spirit on the outside of them. The glory of God manifested on the outside. Skin was only added later when they sinned, and not animal skins: skin. Skin was not needed before that – I can’t go into all that here, but you can ask God to show you.

Resurrection and judgment

For everyone, believers included, the last day is the day of resurrection and judgment. The day of separation: wheat from the tares, sheep from the goats (Matt 25:31-46). There will be judgment for unbelievers, and we will look at that next time. But there will also be judgment for believers.

‘For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know’ (Matt 24:44-50).

At the end of the age, what will we be found doing when He comes? The servant found doing as his master commanded was put in charge of all his possessions. Here (and in other parables) there is a scale of rewards.

But what happens to the unfaithful servant? His master will return and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 24:51). Jesus says this again in Matt 25:30 ‘Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’.

This is not ‘hell’ – you don’t get dark flames.

But there will be dimensions close to the throne, and dimensions far away. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is when we realise we have let God down. When we see how much we have missed – or done in our own strength. I have been there, in the heavenly realms, at that judgment seat. There was a good deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth for me, when I saw all that I had missed. The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we die or until Jesus comes: we can all go there now, and get this dealt with. Again, you may need to ask God about that.

Paul says, For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God… So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:10,12).

Scroll of Destiny

ScrollThis judgment is not about sin. Sin is covered by the cross and by the blood of Jesus. This is about our life. This is about our scroll of destiny. Look at Psalm 139: everything that was written, all the vast sum of the thoughts of God that are written about us. What are we going to do about that? Are we going to fulfil that or not? We are going to have to give an account of whether our scroll matches up with the scroll of our life that God has written for us.

‘But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire‘ (1 Cor 3:10-15).

Paul is writing here about that same judgment for believers. It is a fiery place, a consuming fire. The true quality of our life will be on trial. Let’s get it sorted now, and we will be able to claim our reward. That reward consists of the things we will be doing in the age to come, in the new heavens and the new earth. Awesome things. It consists of responsibilities that God will entrust to us, because we have been faithful here.

But if someone’s work is burned up when tried with fire, he will suffer loss. This is not a long darkness – he can be assured he will be saved, but ‘through fire’. Fire purifies – that is its purpose. Even if we have messed up, we are still saved. There is no fear here. If you are a believer, and you have faith, you are not going to a fiery place for eternity. But there will be a judgment.

Misunderstanding Thessalonians

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

1 and 2 Thessalonians are books which are very often misinterpreted. In the main teaching on the blog we will come back to them to see what they do have to say about the end of the age, but in this extra post I want to deal with some common misconceptions. Those commonly arise from failing to understand the original purpose of these letters, which was to encourage the believers in the midst of persecution.

1 Thess 1:6 ‘You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit’. So even as they were birthed, the gospel was received with tribulation, that is to say persecution from the Jews and Romans.

1 Thess 1:10 ‘and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come’. ‘Wrath’ is a covenant word, expressing a consequence of breaking covenant. It was to be manifested in judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70.

1 Thess 2:2 ‘but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition’. Every place Paul went, the Jews opposed him, stirred up opposition, incited the crowd to stone him or got him thrown into prison.

1 Thess 2:14 ‘For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews’. The bottom line is, intense persecution was going on.

If you were a believer, wouldn’t you be asking why? Asking when it would end? Whether you would survive? The Gentile churches did not have the underlying knowledge of the Old Testament which Jewish believers enjoyed, so they did not understand covenant, or what the consequences would be for the perpetrators of their sufferings. Paul fills them in:

1 Thess 2:15-16 ‘who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost’. Paul is saying, ‘hang on in there, judgment is coming on those who are persecuting you. It will not go on for ever’.

1 Thess 3:4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know’. So right from the first they were already telling them this was coming – this was no gospel preaching through rose-coloured spectacles.

2 Thess 1:4, 6-7: ‘therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire’. God is going to repay, and relieve your sufferings. Not at the end of the world: this is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem – remember what we have said about the sign of Jesus in heaven.

2 Thess 2:1-2 ‘Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come’. Still not the end of the world, still the judgment on the persecutors. If the church is still living under persecution from the Jews, Paul argues, then covenant judgment hasn’t come yet – but it is coming.

2 Thess 2:3 ‘Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction’. Apostasy came before the destruction of Jerusalem. This is what Jesus talked about in Matt 24:9. It was a tough time:

Matt 24:9-12 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

1 Thess 5:1-3 ‘Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly’. They had no need of anything to be written (but Paul still wrote it). We live in a different age, and have been badly instructed and taught, so maybe we do!

1 Thess 5:9 ‘For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’. As we said earlier in this post, believers were not destined for wrath, which was why they were told to flee when they saw the ‘abomination of desolation‘ in the holy place. The historian Josephus tells us that all the Christians did exactly that, so that although 1.1 million people died in the siege and fall of Jerusalem, none of them were Christians.

1 Thess 5:23 ‘Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’. We cannot take that as His coming at the end of the age: after all, many who have read that scripture (indeed all of those to whom it was originally written) have since died, so their body was certainly not preserved until the end of the age. Paul is talking to that same generation which Jesus prophesied to, between AD30 and AD70, and the coming is His coming in covenant judgment upon Jerusalem.

I hope that is all clear for you – or even better, that it raises some questions that prompt you to begin looking into these things for yourself.

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63. Grafted Back In

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Grafted in

tree-357583_640I mentioned a couple of posts back that Romans 11 tells us what it will be like when the ‘times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24) have been fulfilled. It speaks of an olive tree which represents God’s covenant and that Abrahamic covenant people. Israel was cut off, and Gentiles were grafted in – to that same olive tree – and then Israel will be grafted back in. But they will only be grafted back into that olive tree the same way the rest of us are: by faith in Christ.

Being part of the covenant people is not automatic for all Jews. It never was. It never will be. Scripture is absolutely clear about that:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants’ (Rom 9:6-8).

The covenant promise for the people of God to fill the earth has not failed. It has been fulfilled. Just being naturally descended from Israel did not make anyone an inheritor of the promises. You always had to come through the promise made to Abraham. We are all God’s children through faith, like Abraham. You have to have faith to be classed as sons of Abraham.

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7).

All one in Christ

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal 3:28-29).

That is the New Covenant. We are all one in Christ. There is no separation or division of anything anymore: we are one in Christ. We are heirs according to the promise. We are the fulfilment of that promise. Everyone can come into that promise: Jew or Gentile. We come by faith in Christ; to be the people of God; to see the kingdom of God fill the earth. We are going to be part of that filling the earth. ‘But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD’ (Num 14:21).

Daniel says, “I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints…” (the horn is a symbol of authority again) “…and overpowering them…” (Dan 7:21).This is not going to happen at the end. We are not going to be overpowered by anything or anyone.

We are going to win: look at the end of the book, it is we who overcome; we are more than conquerors. And so Daniel goes on:

“Until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favour of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom” (Dan 7:22).

The judgment on Jerusalem and the Old Covenant system was when the saints took full possession of the kingdom. And Jesus is going to stay in heaven until we get the job done (Acts 3:21), fulfilling all the promises of God and outworking it.

Chief of the mountains

Look at this scripture; it is the same promise as we have seen before in Isaiah 2, this time in Micah:

And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains.  It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD…” (Micah 4:1-2).

They will come because we have the answers. When the world’s systems fail, the church will rise up in authority and power. We will have the answers that bring salvation, healing, protection, provision, deliverance and blessing. We will operate the kingdom of God. As we seek first the kingdom of God, everything else will be added to us. That is our inheritance as God’s people: to fulfil the promises made to Adam, Noah and Abraham.

Through Jesus, we are that people. That is why it is so critical that we preach the gospel, so that everyone can come and be part of that people, through faith in Christ.

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61. The Sun Will Be Darkened

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

Salvation and judgment

Look at what the Jewish crowd said when Pilate was trying to get them to release Jesus instead of Barabbas: “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” (Matt 27:25). Now that is a very serious thing to say; and it is what happened. As we have seen, the counterpart of salvation is judgment. The blood of Jesus brings salvation for us but judgment upon those who did not accept Him.

The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was the culmination of God’s judgment upon that generation. “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand” (Deut 28:49). We have been looking at that over the past couple of weeks, and seeing what scripture really has to say about it.

Darkened Sun

eclipse-32823_640Here is another much misunderstood verse: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt 24:29). You can already guess what I am about to say about that: it is covenant language and needs to be understood in terms of covenant judgment. People look to see this literally fulfilled. It was not, will not be, and was never intended to be. Let the Bible interpret itself.

And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come’ (Acts 2:19).

Even here, in the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled, an amazing time of blessing, associated with it was judgment.

Government

To get insight into what sun, moon and stars mean, let us look at Genesis. The sun and moon were created by God for a specific purpose, stated in this scripture: to govern.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;  God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night’ (Gen 1:14, 16). They were signs representing government.

“I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me…” (Gen 37:9).

Joseph’s family understood that the sun, moon and stars spoke of government:  He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” (Gen 37:10).

Egypt, Babylon, Jerusalem

Nor is this prophecy about darkened sun, moon and stars unique in the Bible, as you might suppose:

And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land,” declares the Lord GOD.  “I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples when I bring your destruction among the nations, into lands which you have not known (Ezekiel 32:7-9).  

That is a prophecy about the fall of the Egyptian civilisation, about the end of a system of government.  Although it might sound like the end of the world, it is not. It is just the end for them.

The same language is used of the fall of Babylon:

Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:9-10).

And here in Matthew 24:29, it is the fall of Jerusalem and of the old covenant system. This was prophesied in Zechariah 14:2-9:

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered… In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle… In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD… And the LORD will be king over all the earth.

Not also a literal splitting of the Mount of Olives: this is all about the destruction of Jerusalem and Jesus coming in judgment. The mountain speaks of authority. Remember, in all this we have to let the Bible interpret itself, and not project onto it what we think could happen in our own time.

The light of Israel was to be extinguished, the old covenant nation would cease to exist, and the old covenant system would come to an end. The partition wall between Jews and Gentiles would be removed: the mountains of Jerusalem and its walls which symbolise this division between the old and the new were to come down. This is what Paul had to say about it:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross (Eph 2:14-16).

This was the end of the ‘one nation, one city, one temple’ wineskin. Today, there is one people of God: those who have faith in Christ Jesus.

60. The Abomination of Desolation

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

‘Has not… until now, nor ever will’

Can we put aside everything we may have been taught and read afresh what Jesus actually said?

For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matt 24:21).

Until when? Until ‘now’. That is to say, until the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. The Great Tribulation was about to begin right then. So if you are looking for a Great Tribulation still to come, you are going to be disappointed. At least, ‘disappointed’ is not really the right word; in fact you are going to be blessed, because it is not going to happen. Jesus was quite categorical about that: ‘nor ever will’. The Great Tribulation culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, and its like will never occur again. It is history.

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather (Matt 24:27-28). Again, this is covenant language. These things are not literal: corpses and vultures are the language of judgment. It is Jerusalem being described as a corpse where the vultures gathered for the pickings. Flashes of lightning are also covenant language, speaking of the Son of Man coming in judgment.

Desolation

Luke 21:20-22 is the parallel passage to this:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.

"Siege of JerusalemfiMap" by User:Barosaurus Lentus - self-made based on[1]. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Siege_of_JerusalemfiMap.PNG#mediaviewer/File:Siege_of_JerusalemfiMap.PNG
“Siege of JerusalemfiMap” by User:Barosaurus Lentus – self-made based on[1]. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Armies, desolation (the house being left desolate, Matt 23:38). When believers saw these things, they were to flee to the mountains. Christians actually did do this. If you read Josephus, the Jewish historian, and his account of the Roman-Jewish wars, he says that all the Christians left Jerusalem when they saw the ‘abomination of desolation’ come.  That was because they understood exactly what Jesus was talking about in these warnings, and they did what He said to do. These were days of vengeance that God was bringing on those who rejected Jesus, on those who rejected the Stone. It was not intended to fall upon those who believed in Him, so they were warned to get out of Jerusalem, and stay out. It was good advice. The ‘things which are written’ (Luke 21:22) about God’s vengeance were all to be fulfilled at that time.

Abomination

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains (Matt 24:15-16).

That refers to a passage in Daniel which said, ‘and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate…’ (Dan 9:27). That took place in AD 68, when the Idumeans (Edomites) broke into Jerusalem and cut the throats of 7000 priests in the Temple. Blood ran out of the Temple in rivers. This is when the Christians fled, because Jesus had warned them to expect to witness an abomination in the holy place, and to run when they saw it.

I know I am laying out lots of scripture here. Firstly I know we might have lots of questions so I want to give a really firm scriptural basis for seeing things this way. And secondly, believe me, we will need to know the scriptures because if we talk to other Christians about this it will be a challenge for many of them. We will need to be really clear in explaining what we believe and why we believe it, not only so that they can be persuaded, but so that we cannot be led astray.

Times of the Gentiles

So finally for today, let’s go back to Luke 21:23-24 (the parallel passage again). Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Are we living in the times of the Gentiles now? Yes we are. So Jerusalem is still being trampled underfoot by Gentiles? Yes. That may be a bit of a theological struggle for some. Romans chapter 11 is where we can read about what will happen when the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled, but it is not yet.

57. This Generation Will Not Pass Away

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

It is important to understand the covenant background to Matthew, chapters 21-25, and please do take a moment to read that here if you missed it, before we get into what Jesus said. Because this is quite a challenge.

Woe

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people… Woe to you, blind guides… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!… You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of Gehenna? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city…” (Matt 23:13, 16, 29, 33-34).

‘Woe’ is a covenant word which we are not really familiar with, but which they understood very well, and they were very offended by it. In fact it got them so mad that they began plotting to kill Jesus in earnest. In saying ‘woe’, He was prophesying that judgment was coming to them under the terms of the covenant. ‘Serpents, vipers’… He was calling them children of the devil, as they also understood very well. ‘Gehenna’ is often mistranslated ‘hell’, but what Jesus was referring to was the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Then, the bodies of thousands of the city’s inhabitants, including all the priests and other religious leaders, would be piled up in the valley called Gehenna (i.e. the valley of Hinnom), the rubbish tip outside the city.

He refers to that time again as He goes on to explain in more detail what the consequences would be for them: “so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth from Abel to Zechariah… Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! (Matt 23:35-38).

“On this generation” – there it is again. He was speaking of that generation living between the years AD 30 and AD 70, and warning that all the righteous blood ever shed upon the earth was going to come upon them.

‘This evil generation’

El Greco“Your house is being left to you desolate”. This again is covenant language that we really need to understand. Remember how Jesus came into the Temple and drove out the moneychangers and traders with a whip?  You can read Matthew’s account of that incident in this same section of his gospel, in chapter 21. And when Jesus left the Temple, swept clean and put in order, they had the opportunity to follow Him.

But what did happen? Well, Jesus had already described what would happen. You can find it in Matthew 12:43-45. “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.

Did you notice that last sentence? Maybe because we are so familiar with it, we have just skipped over it. Jesus specifically says that this has an application for the generation of which He was part. And indeed, that is what happened to them and their Temple. Their last state was worse than the first. That is why the unbelieving Jews persecuted the church – they were demonised. Literally, the whole house was full of demonic influence.

Babylon

Rev 18:2 speaks of this: And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird”.

The book of Revelation is talking about the persecution of the church and the judgments that came upon Israel. And it is Israel who are described here as ‘Babylon the great’. Jesus said that the guilt of all the righteous blood was upon that unbelieving generation. In Revelation 17:6 and 18:20,24, we can see that same blood-guilt is assigned to this ‘Babylon’. Here is the Bible interpreting itself; and we need to know it, because accepting this is going to be a major difficulty for some as God begins to challenge the church.

Three questions

And so we arrive at Matthew 24. Jesus came out of the Temple, and was going away from there, with His disciples; leaving it desolate, because the Holy Spirit left with Him. That was the last time He went there. “Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matt 24:1-2).

So He was prophesying physical destruction of the Temple. The disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3). So they were asking 3 things: ‘When will be the destruction of the Temple?’, ‘What will be the sign of Your coming?’ (to bring about this judgment, not His last coming), and ‘What will be the signs of the end of the age?’.

The next 30 verses, up to verse 33, are the answers to the first two questions. We will see that very clearly as we look at it in a little more depth in coming posts. For now let’s skip ahead to verses 33-34. “So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door”. So they, His disciples, would see all the things mentioned in the previous 32 verses. And when they did, they were to know that He – Jesus – would be ‘at the door’ (that is, ready to come in judgment).

And then He goes on, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place”. I think that is clear enough, isn’t it? Everything in the previous 32 verses was to take place before that generation passed away. It was not to come upon a future generation, as so many of us have been taught, but upon that generation. It was on them that the curses of the covenant were to be outpoured.

Jesus was coming in covenant judgment.

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56. Covenant Blessings, Covenant Judgments.

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

In looking at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 21-25, we saw last time that we need to understand covenant blessings and judgments. So today let’s consider Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (blessings) and 15-68 (judgments, or ‘curses’).

Above all the nations

Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth… But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… (Deut 28:1, 15).

‘High above all the nations of the earth’ – doesn’t that sound like the mountain of the house of the Lord being lifted high above the other mountains? All the other nations were supposed to stream to them. They had a kingdom mandate. If they kept covenant and were obedient, they could expect blessings. But if they were disobedient, judgment would come.

Peace?

What would it be like when that judgment came? Deuteronomy 29:19-21 tells us:

It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.’ The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.  Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.’

‘Peace’. The first time this covenant judgment came upon Israel was when they were exiled to Babylon. At that time their prophets were prophesying peace and blessing, when they should have been prophesying judgment. ‘Stubbornness’: that sums up the attitude of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the rulers of Israel, who didn’t expect Jesus and didn’t accept His coming. There were bound to be covenant consequences (variously called ‘wrath’, ‘doom’ and ‘woe’).

As the eagle swoops down

Not so for us. Let’s be clear on this. God’s ‘wrath’ is not aimed at us, ever. It is an expression of His burning passion for us, not against us. But we will see where that wrath did fall.

“All the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’ Then men will say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land’” (Deut 29:24-28).

Initially this judgment was fulfilled in the exile to Babylon, but with a prophetic promise of return. After a time, God restored them to the land and gave them another opportunity to be obedient. If they continued to be disobedient, then further consequences were inevitable, and this is what Jesus is warning them about. He is referring to passages like these in Deuteronomy:

A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labours, and you will never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually… The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand … It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the LORD your God has given you (Deut 28:33, 49, 52).

legion-444126_640The final fulfilment of this prophecy was that Jerusalem was indeed besieged and subsequently destroyed. That happened at the end of the generation to which Jesus was speaking, in AD 70. And look at the phrase ‘as the eagle swoops down’: you can also see how that could speak of the Roman armies, which carried an eagle as a standard.

This was to be followed by spiritual restoration. There was a promise of physical restoration after Babylon, which was totally fulfilled, and they were brought back into the land. But afterwards, all the promises relating to the new covenant were of a spiritual restoration in Christ.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer 31:31-33).

Restoration? Yes, for everyone, in Christ. This is new covenant language, and we see it again in Ezekiel. There would be a physical manifestation of this restoration, but it would be the kingdom of God filling the earth.

So much for the covenant background. Next time I want to consider in detail what Jesus said about all this, back in Matthew 21-25.

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