28 April 2007

Matthew 24 Part 9

The Sun, Moon and Stars

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken... Matthew 24:29.

Again we briefly allude to the controlling exegetical factor of the passage - a factor which absolutely precludes the imposition of the apriori literalism. Just five verses after the verse before us, Jesus unambiguously asserts: "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled." (Matthew 24:34). (Ken Gentry, Dispensationalism in Transition, ICE, February, 1992.)

As we begin this portion of our study, we revert back to the crucial argument of context.. Verse 34, as Gentry points out above, is our time indicator. Dispensationalists, in their usual literalistic fashion teach that this verse conveys a catastrophic change in the universe. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we shall see, this verse, like the entire passage, refers to a sequence of events in the near future for those who heard Christ's words.

We must interpret the Bible with the Bible. David Chilton, in his classic commentary on the book of Revelation, Days of Vengeance, reminds us that, (T)he Bible uses evocative imagery to call up to our minds various associations which have been established by the Bible's own literary art. (page 33). So, as with Revelation, it is the same with Matthew 24 or any other passage in Scripture. If we desire to know the meaning of a symbol we must search out the Scriptures for understanding.

The prophetic language of vss. 29-31 is often misunderstood to be the literal end of the world. But, as was discussed in vs. 21 it should be understood as the end of Old Covenant Judaism - the true disaster.

The prophet Isaiah used the same language that is in the verse before us in chapter 13, vs. 10 in reference to the city of Babylon. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. The language is identical. similar expressions of doom in the Old Testament can be found in Is. 34:4-5; Ezek. 32:7-8; and Joel 2:28-32. We now Joel's prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. These passages reflect God's anger and judgment on a nation. Certainly, Christ intended for the same meaning when He spoke these words to Israel as the nation that would receive God's wrath for their apostasy. A literal interpretation need not be employed if the use of figurative language in the Bible is understood. To apply a literal translation in this case is to blatantly ignore the Old Testament usage of the same type of figurative language.

The Sign

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew 24:30.

Take notice of the wording of the above verse. The sign of the Son of Man shall appear, not the Son of Man Himself. This verse is often misread that the sign will appear in the heavens however, that is not the case. The sign is the destruction of Jerusalem. the Son of Man is now in heaven ready to bestow grace to all people.

A word study of the Greek words that are translated tribes and earth reveal that the phrase then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn could easily be understood as saying all the tribes of Israel in the land will mourn. This is conceivable after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. It would be understandable that a devout Jew would mourn the ruin of his place of worship.

As discussed in vs. 27, coming in the clouds is a reference to judgment. To reiterate, the Old Testament uses this phrase and similar phrases to symbolically represent the Lord's coming in judgment.

more to come...

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