Lecture 9: Cleansing the Temple
Course: Life of Christ
Lecture: Cleansing the Temple
This is the 9th lecture in the online series of lectures on the Life of Christ by Dr. Darrell Bock. Recommended Reading includes: Jesus According to Scripture: restoring the Portrait from the Gospels by Bock, Baker, 2002 and Jesus in Context by Darrel Bock and Greg Herrick, eds., Baker, 2005 and Jesus Under Fire by Mike Wilkins and J.P. Moreland, Zondervan, 1995.
Jesus Enters as King
This is a very key section on Jesus’ life and ministry. It’s out of these events you will come to appreciate what was going on with Jesus. These represent less disputed events where people talk about the life of Jesus. It is probably the earliest portion of Jesus’ life that has been reordered in a more structured way. But the passages are filled with controversy about Jesus’ authority. Where did he get the right to do the things he was doing. And for Mark, this is almost half his Gospel which has been described as a passion with a long prologue. The events start with the entry into the temple area with the first major incident being the cleansing of the temple by Jesus. However, before this there is the triumphal entry in Luke 19:28 at a place called the Mount of Olives near Bethphage and Bethany; Jesus sent two of the disciples ahead to get a colt that was tied up. Jesus told them if anyone questioned what they were doing, they were just to say, the Lord needs it.’ In going down from the Mount of Olives, his disciples began to rejoice and praise God. They began to spread their cloaks on the road before Jesus. And the next scene is where Jesus weeps for Jerusalem under Judgment. Then the incident at the temple happens, of which two major views are often heard; one is the prediction of the destruction of the temple by which we mean the permanent destruction of the temple. The other is the temple cleansing which is calling for the reformation of the temple practice, but not the destruction of the temple. N.T. Wright holds this view.
By Whose Authority?
So Jesus drives out the people selling things at the temple and quoting, ‘my house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into ‘a den of robbers!’ As Jesus was teaching daily in the temple courts, the chief priests, the experts and leaders were trying to find a reason to kill him. Notice how the language of the text seems to suggest reform rather than destruction. It’s only when you put this text next to the picture of the fig tree withering that you think about destruction, but it’s the idea of cleansing is slightly more likely here. The money changers had been placed in the court of the gentiles fairly recently from a location farther away. Note that money changing was required as the temple tax was supposed to be paid in a certain way and also the sacrifices were supposed to be spotless. Thus for those who brought animals for sacrifice off from a distance, it was a risk that they would become blemished. So, this was a place to buy spotless and unblemished sacrificial animals. All of this was required so that the demands of the law could be met. But it could be the moving of this into the temple was what Jesus was protesting or whether he was protesting the way in which the charges were arranged on how to do this. But the practice was something that the law required. So how it was being done was probably the issue.
It was to be in the end times that God was to renew the worship in the temple. This is covered in the history of the Jewish war with Josephus to Tobit which is in the Apocrypha in the Book of 2nd Maccabees. It’s also in 1st Enoch and Jubilees which is in the Pseudepigrapha. (These were falsely attributed collections written between 300 BC – 300 AD and the afore mentioned Book of Enoch and Book of Jubilees were categorized as pseudepigraph from the point of view of Chalcedonian Christianity. These documents were assigned to authors from the past which were in some cases perfectly acceptable by standards of the time.) This also shows up in the expectations tied to the Qumran documents. Interestingly, Israel had a prayer that was considered a sort of state prayer called the eighteen benedictions. It was a prayer for the hope of the nation and benediction 14 juxtaposed two ideas: the renewal of the Davidic House, the prayer for a king and renewal of the temple. So when Jesus walks in and cleanses the temple, having just ridden on a donkey, thus declaring himself to be king; this combination is screaming eschaton and Messiah, coming in on the back of a donkey in language that reflects Zechariah 9 and moving immediately to the temple to cleanse it. Thus, this is a cultural script, not just a prophetic act. He was not a prophet acting in the temple, but was a Messiah acting in the temple. In addition, this event becomes a key to the trial in Mark. It triggers a question about who gives you the authority to do these things.
But first, a question: what is the holiest place on earth for a Jew? It’s the temple. And in the 1st century the Sadducees were in charge of it. It was run by the Sanhedrin and the high priest family. The Romans even let them police the area. Gentiles were not allowed into certain parts of the temple as was seen on signs dug up from archeological digs around the area. And the Roman built a fortress, a place called Antonio that overlooked the temple. So Jesus comes into the most sacred spot, run by the Sadducees and overturns the tables and in a symbolic act declares the temple to be corrupt. How do you think the Sadducees would have felt about this? There a German expression that summarizes this, ‘not happy’. They would not have been happy about this. This was a direct challenge to their authority. In Mark, we are told that the temple is not a place of prayer for the nations as it should have been, but a place of robbery. This was a complaint about the spiritual condition of the temple. The nation had corrupted the worship in intense disobedience. The language used here echoes Jeramiah 7 which is one of the Old Testament’s strongest rebuke of the nation of Israel. And Jesus isn’t alone in thinking that the temple worship is corrupt. Remember the Dead Sea School community that is out in the wilderness, the Essene community. The whole reason they withdrew from Jerusalem, they thought that the city was corrupt along with the worship at the temple. Remember the cursing of the fig tree. We have a contrast between Jesus’ healing work and praise as the Son of David, accepted by the disciples and the cleansing of the temple, followed by the cursing of the fig tree which pictures judgement of the nation. Jesus curses the fig tree being a picture of the nation of Israel and thus it withers and dies.
With the cursing of the fig tree as back ground, some think he is predicting the destruction of the temple, but his remarks in the temple indicate what the temple should be rather than pronouncing a word of judgement over it. In thinking that it is all about the destruction of the temple, one might think in terms that this is permanent. And that is indeed part of the view, whether or not we have a prediction of a permanent destruction. Judaism has the hope of a rebuilt or reformed temple and Jesus appears to also have this view as well. So Jesus states that the temple is a house of prayer, spiritualizes it and turns it into the church. So the chief priests and scribes are against Jesus. In Matthew and Mark there’s a comment about the importance of faith in regards to the fig tree in the context of prayer. This is where the mulberry bush in Luke 17 shows up in Matthew and Mark and where Mark talks about the offer of forgiveness as well. A reference to a mountain in Matthew may be a reference to judgement on Jerusalem.
From this point, we enter into six controversies within the last week that come one after another. Matthew, who likes to work in threes, has two parables to make another triad unit like Matthew 8 and 9. So we get multiple parables in Matthew in a way we don’t in the other Gospels. This becomes a ‘battle royal’ on who speaks for God. We have Jesus and the leadership dueling on a variety of different things where Jesus comes out ahead in all of them. So from the standpoint of the narrative, it wants you to ask the question, ‘who would you rather follow’, the Jewish leadership or Jesus. The unit begins with the question, by whose authority do you do these things? This is stated as a plural. Jesus’ acts in the temple have precipitated the question because Jesus views himself as having the right to do this. Another question is raise as to who has the right to do anything with God’s temple? Not just be in charge of it, but to do anything with it. Who gives you the right to do these things? The text, ‘tell us by what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ There is the question and then there is what motivates the question. However, what they are really saying, ‘we didn’t give you this authority.’ Jesus asked them whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from people. Jesus knew that they wouldn’t answer such a question because the people would have come against them. In the movement of this narrative, this scene is ironic; of course Jesus knew it came from God but the leaders of the temple would not answer but instead said that they didn’t know. So, another question, did the leadership appoint John the Baptist? No! John the Baptist was the same kind of authoritative position as Jesus. They didn’t appoint him, God did. The answer to Jesus’ question about John is in some degree obvious. So Jesus would not tell them but yet at the same time, he did tell them. It was very obvious.
In Matthew 21:28, we get three parables at this point: of the two sons, of the wicked tenants which is also in Mark and Luke and we get the parable of the king’s marriage feast. In the parable of the two sons, a man asked his son to go to the vineyard and work. At first he refused but then decided to obey his father. The second son immediately said that he would go but never did. Out of these, Jesus was showing that tax collectors and prostitutes would go ahead of religious leaders into the kingdom of God. They believed in John the Baptist but even though they saw this, they wouldn’t change their minds. This builds off the picture of John the Baptist having the authority which in turn shows how Jesus should be viewed. The parable of the wicked tenants is seen as one of the clearest allegorical parables Jesus tells. Note that Jesus did teach allegorical parables. This is not the same as allegorical interpretation. Allegories are a genre of literature that someone can use. An allegorical interpretation is a way of reading the text that is not intended by the person writing it. This is two different things. This is clearly allegorical because there are many features that have corresponding events in history. In this parable, a landowner developed a vineyard with fences, winepress and watchtower. He leased it out and sent his slaves to collect his portion. But they were beaten up and killed and stoned. He sent others and they were treated the same way. Then he sent his son, thinking that they would respect him, but no, they killed him also. So the question is posed, what will the land owner do to these wicked people? Often times, Israel is pictured as a vineyard as stated in Isaiah 5. Obviously here, the father represents God, the vineyard represents Israel, the tenets represent Israel’s leadership, the slaves represent the prophets and the son represents Jesus. This parable also shows how blind and crazy sin can be. What makes you think that if you kill the heir that you will be the heir? However, they are thinking that if they kill the heir, they will get the land. Jesus continues and says to them that the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to those who produce fruit. This is confrontation between them and Jesus where Jesus is telling them what God is going to do to them and they don’t like it. Jesus tells them that they have lost their right to be in charge. He is answering their question of who gave Jesus the right to do this. Look to John the Baptist and how he came to be appointed and you will understand Jesus’ appointment. There is a proverb in Judaism that goes like this; a stone falls on a pot, the pot falls on a stone; it’s bad for the pot either way. In verse 44, ‘the one who falls on this tone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.’ There is a judgement coming. When the religious leaders heard this, they wanted to arrest him but feared the crowds around Jesus.
The third parable is comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet with those invited not coming. They were indifferent and gave excuses why they couldn’t come, while others who were also invited actually kills the slaves that had been sent out with the invitation. This is a picture of killing the prophets. The king killed them all and set the city on fire and then invited others, both bad and good; they were all dressed in wedding clothes except for one. And that one was taken and thrown into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen. Setting the city on fire is alluding to AD 70. This is a variation of what we saw earlier in Luke. In verse 11, we have an Odd Man out where a person was not dressed in wedding clothes. The Odd Man out is a person in the community but is not really a part of it. So we have three parables stressing the need for obedience to the Father’s will and the allegory of Israel leaders who refused the invitation to the Kingdom of God.
There is more confrontation in regards to paying taxes to Caesar and Jesus answers by turning an either or question into answer and question. Do we pay taxes to Caesar or not? This is a political question that is designed to get Jesus into trouble, no matter how he answers. If he says to pay taxes, it is perceived that he is siding with Rome and if he says not to pay taxes, he is going against Rome directly. Of course Jesus sees their evilness and turns the question around showing that the denarius had already belonged to Caesar seeing as his image was imprinted on it and thus Jesus says, ‘give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are god’s. Then the Sadducees took their turn and tried to trap him with a question about resurrection and marriage in heaven. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection. Jesus simply tells them that they don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God, as none are given in marriage in the resurrection. But Jesus goes farther assuring them that there is a resurrection by quoting Old Testament Scripture, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob and they all live, they are not dead. This story shows you the problem the resurrection presents for a lot of people. Of course the supposed dilemma is how can this woman end up in heaven with seven husbands? But their assumption is all wrong; life in heaven will not be like life on earth. This answer comes out of Exodus; it leads to an implication about the resurrection even though it’s not a specific resurrection text. The point seems to be, if God has made certain promises for the patriarchs and they are dead, then those promises are not realized to the patriarchs, but if God has made these promises and they are going to receive the benefits of those promises, then they are going to be resurrected one day in order to receive these benefits. God is not a God of the dead; he is a God of the living. Jesus thus answers both a theological question and also a political question.
Another test comes this time from the Pharisees asking which of the commandments are the greatest. Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your mind and the second, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. So Jesus declares the ethical center, the relational center of the Scripture by answering in this way and so he defends himself by presenting a theological comeback to the Pharisees. Note that the question about taxes was asked by the Herodian party, the question about resurrection was asked by the Sadducees and the question about the greatest commandment was asked by the Pharisees. So Jesus is working his way through all the key groups. I don’t think these questions were traps as such but instead were tests, if I can make that distinction. The answers were in line with what the prophets would have recognized and the rabbinic schools would have accepted. So he has been asked a question by all three of the main parties. Now Jesus asks them a question in turn. ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? They replied, the Son of David. How then David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. If David then calls him Lord, how can he be his son? No one was able to answer him and from that day on, no one dared to question him any longer.’ This was an important question because as the society was patriarchal and ancestral, thus your ancestor has the greater honor. So there a problem in that the father is calling his son Lord; this is not just any father, this is David and David ranks among the top as far as the kings are concerned. So David is the ancestor. How can the one at the top in terms of kingship end up calling the son, Lord? This is from Psalm 1:10 which becomes one of the most important passages from the Old Testament for the New Testament. Jesus is creating a dilemma. Jesus is not intending to communicate that the Christ is not David’s son. The challenge is that David’s son is not the most important description of the Christ in question. The Lord is the important description; being called Lord by the one who is responsible for the line. If the Messiah outranks David, what does that say about the Messiah?
This answers the authority question; it also makes it clear that if Jesus outranks the king who is at the top or in a category above that. It’s not specified but the title Lord is a hint. This finishes up the unit in terms of authority; it suggests that the Messiah, as a position, is greater than the ancestor of the kingly line. And that Lord is the appropriate title and if this is so, then how should he be treated? How should he be responded to? Psalm 1:10 is called a rabbinic antinomy where you go to A or B and isn’t so much not A but B, but not A so much as B. Lord is a more important title than simply being David’s son. If he is Lord over David what does that mean for everyone else in Israel? And of course, there is an allusion of him to being at the right hand of God. This is the last controversy in Luke and it finishes up the section.
Woes of the Scribes and Pharisees: In Matthew 23 at this point, we get the woes to the Scribes and the Pharisees. This is similar to the section in Luke 11. Mark and Luke merely note the exchange in a very short form. Marks says, ‘in his teaching, Jesus also said watch out for the experts of the Law, they walk around in long robes in the market places and take the best seats in the synagogue and places of honor at banquets. They devout widow’s property and as a show make long prayers. These men will receive a more severe punishment. Whereas in Matthew, we get a very long sequence of judgements; Matthew focuses on the judgement against the leadership. The exhortation is, do not follow them and do not be like them. Jesus urges what is being taught but not what they are modeling. No hypocrisy, no exalting the human teacher, humility; they block access to heaven, even for converts. The call is rather to make genuine oaths, to avoid hypocrisy and to live with justice, mercy and faith. The Pharisees are dirty inside, like unmarked graves; the irony is they care for the prophet’s graves, thinking that they are honoring them but in fact they are indorsing the fact that their fathers killed the prophets. They will slay God’s new messengers as well and be accountable for all the righteous from Able to Zechariah. This is not anti-Semitic but rather purely prophetic. It is one Jew talking to a group of Jews, saying that they are being unfaithful.
Jesus laments over Jerusalem at this point in Matthew 37 only. This is equal to Luke 13:35-35. It is an exilic type of judgement that comes for a forsaken house and the language of it is from the exile and the prophet Jeramiah. But Psalm 118:26 tells you that the door is open, ‘May the one who comes in the name of the Lord be blessed.’ In Mark and Luke we get the widow’s copper coins or two mites in contrast to all this. The gift comes out of her very life (or bios from Greek and the study of biology, study of life). It is a gift given in faith and that’s an example to the disciples.
The Olivet Discourse
In a pattern prophecy that is like the day of the Lord. This discourse was brought on by a remark about the destruction of the temple that happened around AD 70 and the return of the Lord. The disciples asked when was these to happen? So Jesus starts in the middle of this and then works backwards. There is confusion here and dispensationists like to use the outline they see in Matthew in trying to decide what happens next. Reformed theologians like to use the outline they see in Luke and the two don’t exactly match. The discourse in Matthew emphasizes what is coming in the future while the discourse in Luke emphasizes what is coming in the near future or present. So we have one present and the other future. Each side picks that model and imposes it on the other version. What we have in Mark is the most ambiguous form of the text. We have some mirrored events here; the short term events are like the events in the end. It is a pattern prophecy, just like the day of the Lord. The locus plague can be like the end. The version of Mark is perhaps the closest version to what Jesus said. When you pick either one of these versions and impose it as the model, you lose the ambiguity of the pattern. First in Mark, ‘tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?’ Remember what Jesus predicted about one stone not be left on top of another in regards to the temple. Note that the temple mount area covered some thirty five acers, a very large public area that Herold had on. So there are two questions, when and what’s the sign. Basically Luke has the same question Mark had. For Matthew, what will be the sign of your coming and the completion of the age? I think the Olivet Discourse was only taught once by Jesus as shown by the same wording. A question; how is it that the disciples can talk about Jesus’ coming, if they haven’t really processed his death and resurrection yet? There could have been an additional question that was added or it was an additional question that replaced the question of when. This may be referred to a coming to delivery Jerusalem at the end of the age. They obviously understand that whatever Jesus says about the destruction of the temple; they don’t see a future in which the city gets abandoned by God. So they think that this has something to do with the end times and Jesus must resolve it somehow.
Another option here, it could be a classic example of the evangelist redacting or doing some editorial work. So this wording doesn’t reflect so much what the disciples ask but what the implications were. So the coming is not so different than what is being discussed in the disciple’s minds. The redaction is a paraphrase here of what they really ask. The disciples asked something without realizing what they were asking. This is how the Bible handles itself and you need to understand the dynamics of this handling process. Thus, the dynamics are the words that are uttered at the time, and the significance of those words that were uttered might be different. The evangelist has the choice of giving the words uttered at the time or explaining the significance of those words given. In other words, what’s entailed in what is being said? The hard part to understand is Jesus’ coming which would imply a second coming. It’s the language of Jesus’ return that is hard to understand. This isn’t a creation of wording out of nothing; it is an explanation of wording that was there. So Jesus is predicting an eschatological event that has something to do with the Messiah and the program of God. They didn’t understand what they were asking; so Matthew rephrases it. And Jesus answers that question and they understood it once Jesus was crucified and rose and went into heaven and of course Matthew understood as he wrote this Gospel. Some say that this discourse was written looking back but that is not necessarily true because anyone in the late 60’s who sees Rome coming would understand that Rome will beat Israel and this is how they will do it. And within the context of understanding unfaithfulness; when Israel is unfaithful, what does God say will happen? It will be over taken by the nations; so covenant unfaithfulness can lead to a judgement like this. This is not allegory, it is a simple explanation of what is happening; there is Jesus and the end of the age. If you read this literally, what is being asked is what will be your sign in the second coming at the end of the age? Two things are driving a person in thinking about this: one is the nature of the detail of what is understood here and secondly, the difference between these two.
A Hermeneutical Move Vs a Refraction Move
Note that an allegory is a two level statement; on the surface a story is about something completely different. The story of the wicked tenants is an allegory; there’s the story and then there is what each part of the story represents. But what is happening here is strictly a hermeneutical move in which you say, ‘this author has edited this question in light what he sees really being asked.’ Other examples: when we say certain texts in the Old Testament are millennial texts. When does the term millennial come into the Biblical language? What texts had to be written before you even talked about a millennium? That’s Revelation 20; you could not have done it before then. But we have all these millennial texts in the Old Testament. So, we refract the language of Revelation 20 back unto these Old Testament passages in order to talk about the kingdom periods which we are discussing. This is perfectly legitimate hermeneutical moves. But it’s a refraction move where the presence of a later passage is helping you understand the context of an earlier passage. But a pattern text shows the pattern in the short term pictures what the long term is like. But back to the passage above; the problem focuses around whether we were talking about AD 70 or at the end of the age in regards to interpretation and this forces you to choose between the two. The other question: when is God going to deal with Jerusalem? When is the temple going to be at risk? The answer to this; Jerusalem will be at risk at the end of both periods of time. Note that AD 70 actually patterns the end of time. And in the destruction of the temple in AD 70, they did not want the temple to come back. Remember that the temple has always stood, especially when we talk about God’s Shekinah (Shekinah is God’s presence in the world as seen by Jewish theology) residing in the temple. But the destruction of the temple means that Jesus is coming back. The destruction of the temple is a picture of the judgement of the nation for having rejected their Messiah and the nation being in covenantal unfaithfulness. But they thought that the destruction of the temple would immediately cause the Messiah to return.
Symbols in the Church
This is a picture of God’s presence in the creation and God dwelling in the mist of his people. It is not to say that God’s presence is exhausted by his presence in the Shekinah. That was never believed; even when Solomon had the temple and he uttered his prayer, he makes it clear that man cannot create a building that can contain and confine God. So in this sense the temple has always been assembled for God’s presence. Next, when the consummation comes and Christ rules again from Israel, we are going to get the finishing up symbolism that we’ve had theologically. We have basically two symbols in the church today that we work with regularly, the Lord’s Supper and baptism. So I think what a rebuilt temple will represent is a picture of God dwelling in the mist of his people in the end times. The judgement that came in the interim has been completely reversed. So Jesus sits down at the Last Supper and says, ‘I’ve longed to eat this meal with you and I shall not eat of it again until all is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ He is alluding to a Passover meal in the future, which strictly speaking requires a sacrifice in the temple. First there is no doubt that Jesus’ presence in the world transcends what the temple has been. Today, the Jews celebrate what represents a Passover meal without having the temple and therefore it is really not the Passover meal. Note that Jews go to the Wailing Wall and pray for the restoration of the temple, the day that God finishes what he promised. They understand that their Passover Meal is not complete. Now reformed theologians have pictured it as retrogression back to the Old Testament, but that is not what it is. It is designed to picture the completion and realization of fullness of promise with the fullness of the symbolism that comes with it. Note that strict Jews believe that they still need to repent as a nation. So is Jesus going to rule from Jerusalem in the future? Is this a symbol by which the kings functioned in Israel in the past? Yes, absolutely.
And the above remark about the Passover meal assumes that there will be sacrifices which will mean more than what they meant in the Old Testament; because now they will represent and picture the completion of God’s promise. There will not be a complete reinstatement of the sacrificial system but we must understand that the Cross represents the bringing together both Jews and Gentiles and we will see certain symbolic aspects of the Old Testament reinstated because of both a Jewish identity and Gentile identity. And the banquet table will be a complete completion of everything that God has promised. The language of these passages seems to suggest these things as you see references of the Jew and Gentile being united; so we need to keep the point of view of Jew and Christians brought together as ethnicities as the people of God. Isaiah says that the world will come together and come to Jerusalem to worship God. This goes against dispensational thought as dispensationists think of the church and Israel as not being the same thing. We keep this at a structural level, not at a comprehensive level. Also for the dispensationists, there are the earthly people and the heavenly people who have been translated by the rapture. So to summarize, when you see the destruction of the temple, you can be assured that the program of God is still online.
The Olivet Discourse Continued
Watch how this works in different parallel passages. Let’s go with Mark first as I think he is the most neutral while the other two Gospels play off of him. In Mark 13:5; ‘Jesus began to say to them, watch out that no one misleads you. Many will come in my name, saying, I am he, and they will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come.’ So the end is still future at this point. Notice how Luke words this in 21:9. ‘And when you hear of wars and rebellions, do not be afraid. For these things must happen first, but the end will not come at once.’ So the end is still to come. We are not to the end yet. Mark 13: 8 continues, ‘nation will rise up against nation, kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines. These are but the beginning of birth pains.’ In Luke, ‘there will be great earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven.’ But Luke says before this, other things are going to happen. Now watch how this makes sense. ‘They will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses. Therefore be resolved not to rehearse ahead of time how to make your defense. For I will give you the words along with the wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.’ This was fulfilled in the Book of Acts. All of this happened in the Book of Acts. These are technical terms used within Acts. This is the future but it’s running backwards and has already been covered in the New Testament. First, the Gospel must be preached to all nations. The end is not coming until the Gospel goes out to the entire world. This is what is happening when all this witnessing is going on. This happens before AD 70; it’s also beyond Acts. The end is not coming until the Word has been spread.
The Abomination of Desolation
‘But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.’ We have the abomination of desolation and the readers are told to understand but I’m not telling anything more. Look in Matthew 14:15 where it is much more specific. ‘So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place (let the reader understand). Now watch what Luke does with this. In Luke 21:20, ‘but when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.’ Note that we have not referred to the temple anywhere up to this point. So what does the words: ‘its desolation’ mean? Also the abomination of desolation in the Daniel is when Antiochus Epiphanies stood in the Holy of Holies in the temple. This led to the Maccabean War. Titus, the Roman General, did the same thing in AD 70. Jerusalem’s desolation; so Luke pictures Jerusalem in trouble; Mark says that there is an abomination of desolation standing where it should not be; and Matthew says that the abomination of desolation is the one from Daniel standing in the Holy Place. There is a different focus here and those in Judea must flee, those who are pregnant have to be careful and pray that it will not come in winter or on a Sabbath. The Abomination of Desolation will be the same as above in the future. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved. ‘Immediately after the suffering of those days (Matthew 24:29), the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. There is no temple indicator in Luke. ‘But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise you heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ This is only in Luke. For Luke AD 70 is a picture that the program of God is moving on; he’s thinking primarily short term. Matthew just presents the picture in the pattern and doesn’t sort it out. Matthew has the abomination of desolation mentioned above in a second coming context. He keeps an eye on the return of the Lord and thus emphasizing more of the future aspect. There is temporal ambiguity built into this and each writer is doing their own thing with this temporal ambiguity. Luke is focused very much on the destruction of Jerusalem and its destruction in AD 70. He winds the clock back to AD 70 and then leaps all the way to the return of the Son of Man. It’s another passage where some theologians tries to force us choose between the two, but the choice is both.
Times of the Gentiles
There is a time before the times of the gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 13:34 & 35, your house is desolate until he says blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. That is anticipating a Jewish embrace of Jesus and restoration. When Israel was destroyed, everybody had a problem with everything saying, well, how is that going to work? There emerged alternate ways of eschatology, but this was during a period where Israel was being discussed. Long before the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917 and reaffirmed on May 14, 1948. As a sideline, I think what really motivated people wanted to give Israel a homeland; it would be a place to send the Jews. It wasn’t only religiously motivated. It was socially motivated; this is the dark side of what this was all about. We will give them their own homeland, they will move out of Europe, they will have a place to live and we will no longer have to deal with them. So the times of the gentiles will be fulfilled when the Lord comes back. That when we get the restoration and when Israel will come back to the Lord; just as the gentiles were graphed in, so Israel will be graphed back in again.
The times of the gentiles will be fulfilled when there is a Messiah in Israel. Note that you can’t talk about Israel as a nation without there being a political dimension to it and the reconciliation that Jesus brings between Jews and Gentiles makes this political dimension almost meaningless. When Jesus comes back and reconciles everyone, Israel’s borders will have no meaning. This is why I think the New Testament talks so little about the land of Israel. Ultimately, the ruling Messiah will rule over the entire earth and in return national boundaries will have no meaning. The tension that Roman 9-11 introduces tells us that God will keep his promises to Israel and therefore he will keep his promises to us.
The discourse covered the temple’s destruction in AD 70, the interim period in between and the return of the Son of Man. Events in the early part of the discourse are not yet the end; the divided nations, famines, natural disasters, all must come first and are the beginnings only, according to Matthew and Mark. Luke has more temporal notes, but what follows is what is before the end. So it’s going backwards in time. In the interim, there is intense persecution, but the Spirit of God is there to aid his people. The call is to believe until the end, until Jesus actually returns. There will be lawlessness and betrayal and the disciples must be prepared to meet with rejection. This will be true all the way until Jesus returns, not just to AD 70. The desolation in Matthew and Mark is long term; it’s the temple desolation of the holy place. In Luke we look at the short term with the desolation of the temple and the city. If the Lord had not cut short those days, even the elect would have died. The tribulation will be like nothing seen before; this is not in Luke. Matthew and Mark show a period of false Messianic claims.