Olivet Discourse Matthew 24:21

Is this the worst possible thing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For the past five verses, I think some dispensationalist readers could even look and see that it makes sense in an Orthodox Preterist viewpoint, but now there’s a shift. When we get to verse 21, it looks like we’re entering something of epic proportions. Let’s look and see what the verse says at the start.

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”

Okay. So I think the passage here is about the destruction of Jerusalem and that’s supposed to be the greatest disaster of all? That can hold a candle to 6 million Jews dying in the Holocaust? Doesn’t this just seal the deal against a first-century interpretation?

Not quite, because if you have that view throughout Scripture, you run into problems. This normally happens with a modern literalistic hermeneutic that doesn’t take into account Jewish idioms. What kinds of things am I talking about? Let’s look. We’ll start with 2 Kings looking at Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:5.

“He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.”

You go, Hezekiah! Awesome! No one like you!

But what about this Jesus guy? Wasn’t He a king who trusted in God more?

Now some might think that’s not the most valid way to look, but if you’re one of those, we don’t need to go to Jesus. We can just go to the same book in the Old Testament. Let’s look at Josiah in 2 Kings 23:25

“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”

Wow. So either the author of Kings totally forgot about Hezekiah in a few chapters, or else we’re looking at a Jewish way of speaking. Is this the only instance of this? Hardly. Look at Exodus 11:6

” There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.”

People of Egypt can rejoice. Nothing will ever be worse than the Hebrew Exodus. Of course, this will be odd for my dispensationalist friends who think the whole Earth is going to go through something far worse. Who knows? Maybe Egypt will be the exception that’s spared! How about Daniel 9:12?

“He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem.”

But Babylon was laying siege to several cities and starving them out and destroying them. What makes Jerusalem the one exception? You could say their temple was destroyed, but that’s not too unusual in a siege. Let’s also return to 1 Kings 3 and look at verse 12.

“I will do what you have asked. I will give you more wisdom and understanding than anyone has ever had before or will ever have again.”

But Jesus said that one greater than Solomon is here. Was He wrong? Was Solomon wiser than Jesus? If you use my hermeneutic to just picture this as a way of describing something intense, you don’t have a problem. Go with a literalist one and you do.

Not only that, if you look at the parallel in Luke 21:24, what do you see?

“Some will be killed by the sword, and others will be taken as prisoners to all countries; and the heathen will trample over Jerusalem until their time is up.”

Luke centralizes all of this to Jerusalem. So again, this fits with a first-century paradigm.

Now if someone doesn’t think what happened to Jerusalem in 70 A.D. counts as great suffering, just go read about it. See what you think then. If it does count, then my hermeneutic is entirely consistent and I would contend more consistent than a dispensationalist one.

We shall continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters