It is my purpose in this article to put something together so that when I meet and interact with Jehovah’s Witnesses in person and or on the Internet, I can give them something concrete and personal as to why I reject their view of the parousia taking place in 1874/1914 and their views on Jesus being a created being and not God.
By way of outlining this article – first, I will define Full Preterism Scripturally and explain how it organically emerged from two orthodox views of the church (Amillennialism and Partial Preterism). Secondly, I will point out the false prophecies and contradictions I have found within the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In other words explain from the words of their own “prophet” why I can’t accept this teaching. And lastly, give a positive exegesis of Matthew 16:27-28 and Matthew 24 (and other related texts specifically designed to interact with this group) which I believe will further support my position and the truth of God’s Word.
What is Full Preterism? — A Biblical and Historical Answer
You may be asking yourself “what is Full Preterism, I’ve never heard of this view?”
Full Preterism is defined properly in two areas — time and nature [spiritual] of fulfillment.
1) Time of fulfillment.
Full Preterism is the belief that the Bible teaches the Second Coming, judgment and resurrection of the living and dead took place at the end of the Old Covenant age in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and her Temple in AD 70 (cf. Matt. 3:7-12; Matt. 10:22-23; Matt. 13:39-43, 49; Matt. 16:27-28; Matt. 24:34; Matt. 26:62-64; Acts 17:31YLT; Acts 24:15YLT; Rom. 8:18-23YLT/AV; Rom. 13:11-12; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor.7:29-31; 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Cor. 15:51; Phil. 4:5; 1 Thess. 4:15ff–5:1-10; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Tim. 4:1YLT; Heb. 8:13–10:37; Heb. 13:14YLT; James 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 1:4-12; 1 Pet. 4:5-7, 17; 1 John 2:17-18; Rev. 1:1–22:6-7, 10-12, 20). Since these imminent time texts point to and determine the nature of fulfillment, this too must be worked into a proper definition of the term.
2) Spiritual nature of fulfillment.
Jesus taught that His “kingdom is not of this world” and that when it would come (at His return) it would not be discerned by our physical eyes, because the realm of fulfillment would be “within” (Luke 17:20-21; Luke 21:27-32; John 18:36). The Father and Son made their home/abode “in” the Church when the heavenly Temple/New Jerusalem descended from heaven and clothed the Church while on and upon the earth (John 14:2-3, 23; 2 Cor. 4:18–5:1-10–6:16; Rev. 21:2ff.). The believer today has been raised from the dead and “the hope of glory” which is “Christ in you” is now a “hope realized” in the New Covenant age (Cols. 1:27; Prov. 13:12).
Full Preterism is the organic/historical development (“Reformed and Always Reforming”) of the creedal and classic Amillennial view combined with the Partial Preterist view.
Classic Amillennial View:
The NT’s use of the “last days” covers the time period between Christ’s First and Second Comings.
There is only ONE “The parousia” or eschatological coming of Christ in the NT – the ONE hope of the Apostle Paul and the Church.
This is to take place at the end of the age at which time…
The judgment and resurrection of the dead and arrival of the New Creation occurs.
The NT’s use of the “last days” covers the time period between Christ’s first coming and His spiritual parousia to close the Old Covenant age by AD 70.
The imminent time texts in the NT “demands” that “a” parousia of Christ took place in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The NT’s use of “this age” is the Old Covenant age and the “age to come” is the New Covenant age – one passing away and the other established at Christ’s parousia in AD 70. At which time…
There was a spiritual judgment and resurrection of the living and dead and arrival of the New Creation that took place (not visible to the physical eyes).
Full Preterism (Synthesis or “Reformed and Always Reforming”):
The NT’s use of the “last days” covers the time period between Christ’s First and Second Comings which brought an end to the Old Covenant age in AD 70.
The imminent time texts and the analogy of Scripture principle of interpretation in the NT demands that “THE (ONE) parousia” took place in AD 70.
The NT’s use of “this age” is the Old Covenant age and the “age to come” is the New Covenant age – one passing away and the other established at Christ’s parousia in AD 70. At which time…
There was a spiritual judgment and resurrection of the living and dead and the arrival of the New Creation that took place (not visible to the physical eyes).
Full Preterism seeks to take the strengths and common sense approaches of both these “orthodox” views to form its “orthodox” (or straight) view. For example the strength of the Postmillennial Partial Preterist view is how it correctly seeks to deal with the clear NT imminent time statements such as: “some standing here shall not taste death till they see of the Son of Man Come…” “this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled” “shortly,” “quickly” “at hand” “soon” “about to be” “near” etc… which all point to Christ’s coming or His parousia being fulfilled in AD 70. And the strength of the classic Amillennial view is the analogy of Scripture or that such passages as these are describing the SAME event – Matthew 13:39-43; Matthew 24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:15–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24, 52; Revelation 1:7 ; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 22:6-7, 10-12, 20.
Method of Study
So unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses position which has come up with an entirely new view which Christianity has never taught on the spiritual parousia allegedly taking place in 1874/1914 (out of necessity to save-face on a failed literal prediction), the Full Preterist follows the orthodox Christian Churches teaching that the NT only teaches ONE “the parousia” and that this spiritual parousia took place in AD 70 to close the OC age. Or unlike arriving at a time of fulfillment for the parousia through using a confusing and self-admitted erroneous, and “Satanically led” chronological pyramid scheme, the Full Preterist arrives at his time frame for the parousia in AD 70 following the inspired time statements given by Jesus and the divinely inspired NT authors, grounded in the meaning of Greek words, the teaching of Daniel, Jesus, and the NT authors whom identify the “time of the end” and “end of the age” to be that of the OC or Jewish age (not “the end of time”/world history or the end of the NC age), and by using the common and prophetic apocalyptic or metaphoric language of the day and that used in the OT Scriptures. In other words the Full Preterist uses the Bible to interpret the Bible and seeks to follow views that can be found in the historic church (historically synthesizing the classic Amillennial view and Partial Preterist views).
Taking a look at JW’s “These are God’s dates not man’s” position
From 1868 to 1879 Russell was associated with the Adventists. This group has a rich history of making false predictions of the Second Coming (William Miller falsely predicted 1843 and 1844). In order to understand Russell’s development of eschatology and date setting we need to also briefly look at the man who influenced him the most and whom he would eventually co-author a book with – Nelson H. Barbour (also an Adventist). Barbour had made a failed prediction of a visible and literal return of Christ in 1873. After that failed he set the date for 1874. Barbour and his followers were deeply depressed and disappointed that their predictions failed not once but twice. Instead of repenting, they decided to save face by claiming Christ came spiritually in 1874. In other words they were now claiming they were right about the date, while initially being wrong about the nature of its fulfillment (now being changed to a spiritual invisible coming/parousia in 1874). This became Russell’s view of the Second Coming as well.
In 1875 Barbour would go on to write on the alleged prophetic significance of the dates 1874, 1878, 1881, and 1914. He believed there would be a period of “harvest” time from 1874 to 1878 and at the end of this time a literal fulfillment of “the translation of the living saints into the air” (the “rapture”) would take place. And by 1914 (40 years from 1874) other literal fulfillments were to take place such as a global Tribulation period, the destruction of Gentile nations, and usher in Jesus’ literal rule on earth (the millennial age).
Russell became one of Barbour’s disciples and not long after their meeting they would go on to co-author a book in 1876 entitled, Three Worlds and the Harvest of This World. At this point we can begin officially understanding Russell’s eschatology and how it developed. This book taught such things as:
- Christ’s Second coming spiritually took place in 1874.
- A spiritual resurrection for dead saints happened a year later in 1875.
- Predicted the literal rapture or translation of living saints in 1878 (which obviously didn’t happen).
- And the “day of wrath” coming of Christ would occur in 1914 (which again didn’t happen).
When a literal rapture and the day of God’s great wrath didn’t take place in 1878 Russell and Barbour were once again proven to be false teachers, but that wouldn’t stop them and apparently wouldn’t stop people from following them.
The two coming theory and dilemma for Jehovah’s Witnesses
Before going on in developing Russell’s eschatology, I need to make some brief observations about the two coming(s) theory proposed by JW’s and that of some other groups. Russell and JW’s have placed themselves within a two “near” Second Coming(s) doctrinal dilemma. On the one hand they were forced to come up with the view that the Second Advent/Coming/Parousia of Christ was “near” and took place in 1874 (then changed to 1914) because this was the date Russell had predicted through the use of “God’s Stone” (pyramidology – God’s divine chronology which established “God’s dates and not man’s”). But since they were still holding out for other physical expectations that Christ’s Second Coming in 1874/1914 didn’t fulfill – the arrival of the kingdom, paradise on earth, Satan being judged, etc…, they were forced into the view of finding another future but still “near” to them “coming” of the Lord. For their system this “near” future coming of the Lord for them is Christ’s coming in Matthew 24:30—25:31. And since Christ coming as a thief in Matthew 24:43 is allegedly future this causes them to interpret him coming as a thief in 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3, 16:15 as future as well. And since they didn’t see Satan destroyed at Christ’s parousia in 1874/1914, they were forced to now believe the coming of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 and the “great day of God’s wrath” or “hour of His judgment” in (Rev. 6:17; 14:7) is to take place in our near future as well.
The false doctrinal teaching of a two coming theory isn’t exactly new. The flawed doctrinal presuppositions within Reformed Partial Preterism have also forced this group into teaching a two coming theory of Jesus to salvage their system. On the one hand they are forced to try and deal with NT imminence which for them “demands” a fulfillment of Christ’s parousia in AD 70; while on the other hand they seek to remain creedal and follow tradition connected to literal expectations of the kingdoms arrival in the future (a physical resurrection, literal transformation of planet earth, the judgment of Satan, etc…). In this theory Christ came spiritually in AD 70 within Jesus’ “this generation” (Matt. 24:27-34) and wherever His coming is described as imminent in the NT (“near,” “at hand,” “about to be,” “quickly,” “soon,” etc…). But since a literal “catching away” or bodily “change” of the living and physical resurrection for the dead did not occur in AD 70, most of them believe 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15 addresses the “Second Coming” yet to be fulfilled. But because NT imminence is also connected with a resurrection and arrival of the new creation, recently they have been forced to take the position that there was a spiritual resurrection (Dan. 12:2) and arrival of the new creation that took place in AD 70 as well. This allegedly was only partially or typologically fulfilled, because their creeds are deemed to be “infallibly certain” in regards to a physical fulfillment.
The theology of Premillennial Dispensationalism is also forced to adopt a two Second Coming theory in order to salvage their eschatological system. First there is the “rapture” coming for the Church 7 years before the Second Coming takes place. When it occurs Christ comes with the Church to fulfill Israel’s literal promises establishing the kingdom on earth whereby Jesus reigns physically on the earth for a literal 1,000 years millennial period.
As Full Preterists we (along with the historic and classical Amillennial view) reject this false view of a two Second Coming theory proposed by these churches or organizations. However, the problem with the classic Amillennial view is that it is forced to deny NT imminence in order to adhere to creedal physical expectations of the ONE Second Coming. The Full Preterist’s conscience is not bound by these creeds which themselves claim can be in error and are subject to change through the authority of the Word of God. This is what my/our book was designed to do – reform the creeds in the area of eschatology exegetically and by historically reconciling or synthesizing the classic Amillennial view with the Partial Preterist view. Although we have responded to them in print, they have not been able to answer our exegesis and historical argumentation.
Getting back to the Jehovah’s Witnesses — they have no exegetical evidence that the coming of Christ in Matthew 24:27 was allegedly fulfilled in 1874/1914 but the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24:30 is a “near” future to us coming. Contextually, both are describing the same coming the disciples asked about and both take place in the same “this generation” time period and fall under the “all these things” of Matthew 24:34. The Watch Tower cannot make a distinction based upon the different Greek words for Christ’s coming in (vss. 27 & 30). In other words they can’t reason like this, “in the disciples question regarding Christ’s coming in Matthew 24:3 they used the Greek word parousia and therefore since Matthew 24:27 uses parousia that is the spiritual and invisible presence/coming that took place in 1914, whereas in Matthew 24:30 the Greek word erchomai is used which indicates a different coming of Christ.” Why? Because the Watch Tower is teaching that the parousia of Matthew 24:37 is an alleged future coming along with the erchomai references.
Another difficulty is that the Watch Tower teaches that the parousia and coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 began with Christ’s invisible presence/parousia and the first resurrection began in the years 1914-1918. To claim the 1 Thessalonian 4:16-17 coming of Christ and resurrection began in the years 1914/1918 but the coming of the Lord to gather the elect in Matthew 24:30-31 is a future “near” coming for us is untenable. Consider these parallels which clearly demonstrate that Paul is following Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:30-31:
• Christ returns from heaven 1 Thess. 4:16 = Matt. 24:30
• with archangelic voice 1 Thess. 4:16 = Matt. 24:31
• with God’s trumpet 1 Thess. 4:16 = Matt. 24:31
• Believers caught up to be with Christ 1 Thess. 4:17 = Matt. 24:31
• Believers meet Christ in “clouds” 1 Thess. 4:17 = Matt. 24:30
These parallels (the Bible interprets itself) also destroys the two Second Coming(s) theories of Partial Preterists such as Kenneth L. Gentry whom claim the reverse order of the JW’s in that they think the coming of Christ in Matthew 24:30 was an invisible coming of Christ in AD 70 and yet the coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is a future to us coming. But again look at the above parallels and note that this coming of Christ is one and the same — thus silencing the Watch Tower and the two coming(s) or “second, second coming(s)” theory of Partial Preterism. Other issues are that Jesus uses a contemporary “you” throughout Matthew 24 and Paul uses a contemporary “we” indicating a first century expectation of these comings of Christ and not one thousands of years into the future – per Watch Tower and Partial Preterist eschatology. If I were to say, “We who live long enough to see the year 2030,” there is no reason to think that I would be assuming that I myself would be among the living in 2030. My only assumption would be that some of us today would be alive in 2030. In the same way, Paul’s words imply only that he knew that some of his contemporaries would still be alive when Christ returned, as Christ Himself promised would be the case in Matthew 16:27–28; 24:27-34.
Having taken a brief but necessary rabbit trail look at the two second coming(s) theories, let’s get back to the development of Charles Taze Russell’s eschatology and how it developed and then evolved through the Watch Tower over the years.
Russell would end up breaking from Barbour and venture out on his own in 1879, founding Zion’s Watch Tower which would later be associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses and given the new name, The Watchtower.
In their literature the Watchtower organization identifies itself as,
“The Prophet.” This “prophet was not one man but a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses.
This “prophet” claims to make their,
“declaration… under angelic direction and support.”
We are told by this “prophetic” religious organization that,
“the nations will see the fulfillment of what these witnesses say as directed from heaven” (The Watchtower, 4/1/72, 200).
And yet boldly and ironically declares,
“Of course it is easy to say that this group acts as a “prophet” of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record” (The Watchtower 4/1/1972, 197).
I say “ironically,” because when one does takes the time to “review the record” of the Watchtowers “prophecies,” it is clear that “the nations” did not “see the fulfillment of what these witnesses said as directed from heaven” in the years 1874, 1878, 1886, 1910-12, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925, and 1975. Space forbids going over all of these dates, but in Russell’s doctrinal chronology the most important dates were 1874 and 1914:
“The careful student will have observed that the period designated ‘The Time of the End’ is very appropriately named, since not only does the Gospel age close in it, but in it, also, all prophesies relating to the close of this age terminate, reaching their fulfillments. The same class of readers will have noticed, too, the special importance of the last 40 of these 115 years (1874-1914), called ‘The End’ or ‘Harvest.'” (Studies in the Scriptures Series III – Thy Kingdom Come, 121).
Russell in his chronology clearly taught that the Second Coming took place spiritually in 1874 and that all prophecy concerning the end of the age would be fulfilled by 1914. At which time a literal thousand year millennium would end in 2914!
In regards to other significant dates for Russell’s eschatology – they are:
- In 1799 the “last days” began.
- In 1874 Christ’s invisible presence was inaugurated ushered in by His Second Coming.
- In 1878 the failed literal rapture event was turned into the date whereby Jesus was established as king in heaven.
- In 1914 the rapture and end of the age/world would take place.
Since Russell’s predictions failed again the next prophetic voice within this movement would be Joseph Rutherford sought had to now come along and tweak and change the dates of Russell’s failures,
“WE HAVE no doubt whatever in regard to the chronology relating to the dates of 1874, 1914, 1918, and 1925.” (Watchtower May 15, 1922; 147).
Rutherford changed the “angelic direction” to:
- 1914 was the fulfillment of Jesus’ invisible presence, which started the clock ticking for the “last days,” and was the date given by which Christ was established as king in heaven (notice this changed Russell’s dates for these events).
- 1925 then became the time by which all prophecy and the end of the world would be fulfilled.
For more than 60 years The Watch Tower Society taught that Christ’s Second Coming and presence began in 1874, and this date was claimed to be “indisputable.” And yet in 1943 the JW’s conveniently changed the event’s fulfillment to 1914.
“Millions Now Living Will Never Die!” – End of world predicted for 1925
The new President of the organization (Joseph Rutherford) was not content to just tweak and re-work the predictions of Charles Russell. No, he knew that in order to get attendance where it needed to be and continue the date setting tradition/doctrinal practice (that was the foundation of the movement’s success) he needed to come up with some new angel of this on his own. And that he did.
In 1918-1919 Rutherford began a lecture and writing campaign (turning his message into a booklet) designed to predict that the end was to take place in 1925. The message published was “Millions Now Living Will Never Die!” The prediction for 1925 included the following events:
- The resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (along with other OT worthies) to begin living among us on earth – being “perfect in mind and body” having to get used to using telephones and other modern living devises of the day.
- The living would “never die” and join the resurrected ones.
- The return of paradise to earth would take place at this time.
- The re-establishment of Palestine with Jerusalem being the world’s capital.
In other words literal fulfillments that didn’t take place in 1914 would be fulfilled in 1925. To bolster 1925 through using a pyramid measuring method (that Russell had used) and twisting Daniel’s Seventy Sevens prophecy of (Dan. 9:24-27) he came to this conclusion:
“Seventy times 50 are 3,500. The whole period would therefore have been 3,500 years from the time the Jews entered Canaan until all the types would have been fulfilled. As they entered Canaan 1,575 years before Christ there would be 1,925 years of types after Christ, or 1925 A. D.” (1925 – Millions Now Living Will Never Die, http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/1925.php I am thankful for this site and its details regarding this section on 1925).
As we will see later on Jehovah’s Witnesses always try and down play their date setting as not being under any kind of authoritative voice or inspiration just mere opinions and yet once again this is NOT what we find. 1925 was said to:
- Have “conclusive” evidence for its support.
- “… this chronology is not of man, but of God…. the addition of more proofs removes it entirely from the realm of chance into that of proven certainty” Watchtower, July 1, 1922, 217).
- “The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914; Watchtower, Jul 15, 1924, 211)
- “Our thought is, that 1925 is definitely settled by the Scriptures. As to Noah, the Christian now has much more upon which to base his faith then Noah had upon which to base his faith in a coming deluge.” Watch Tower 1923 Apr 1 p.106
How can a Christian be able to have more hope that 1925 was going to see the fulfillment of these events than Noah had of God directly giving him revelation and instructions on the building of the ark and a coming flood — without Rutherford claiming special revelation (and not just mere “opinions”) for the new 1925 date?!? I can’t help but see how deceptive and manipulative this organization is at this point!
Of course the predictions didn’t take place as they were said to and expected so they tried to explain them away and to add insult to injury, the leaders actually tried to blame some of the members for expecting this date to be fulfilled with “certainty.” And that they were only members because they expected the dates of Russell and Rutherford to be factual predictions when they never claimed such. However, these were the very words their leaders used in predicting its alleged accuracy! Jehovah Witnesses cherry-pick the words of their “angel guided” “prophetic” utterances as mere opinions etc… And yet leave out all of the “these are God’s dates not man’s” kind of comments!
1975 – The earth’s history of 6,000 years is ending – “the end is near” again?!?
Before addressing this, for those that want to go into some of these dates in a more detailed and in-depth manner I highly suggest this site: www.JWfacts.com. On the significance of 1975: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/1975.php
In 1966 the date for 1975 was set with some preliminary qualifiers. But as time goes on the pattern of dogmatism increases.
“The published timetable resulting from this independent study gives the date of man’s creation as 4026 B.C.E. According to this trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand years from man’s creation will end in 1975, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E. So six thousand years of man’s existence on earth will soon be up, yes, within this generation. So in not many years within our own generation we are reaching what Jehovah God could view as the seventh day of man’s existence. How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants! This would be most timely for mankind. It would also be most fitting on God’s part, for, remember, mankind has yet ahead of it what the last book of the Holy Bible speaks of as the reign of Jesus Christ over earth for a thousand years, the millennial reign of Christ. It would not be by mere chance or accident but would be according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign of Jesus Christ, the ‘Lord of the Sabbath,’ to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man’s existence.” Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God 1966 pp.26-30
“Does God’s rest day parallel the time man has been on earth since his creation? Apparently so. In what year, then, would the first 6,000 years of man’s existence and also the first 6,000 years of Gods rest day come to an end? The year 1975. It means that within a relatively few years we will witness the fulfilment of the remaining prophecies that have to do with the “time of the end”.” Awake! 1966 Oct 8 pp.19-20
“It did not take the brothers very long to find the chart beginning on page 31, showing that 6,000 years of man’s existence end in 1975. Discussion of 1975 overshadowed about everything else. “The new book compels us to realize that Armageddon is, in fact, very close indeed,” said a conventioner. Surely it was one of the outstanding blessings to be carried home!” .. Brother Franz. ‘Does it mean that Armageddon is going to be finished, with Satan bound, by 1975? It could! It could! All things are possible with God. Does it mean that Babylon the Great is going to go down by 1975? It could. Does it mean that the attack of Gog of Magog is going to be made on Jehovah’s witnesses to wipe them out, then Gog himself will be put out of action? It could. But we are not saying. All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975. But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.” Watchtower 1966 Oct 15 pp.629,631
This particular prophetic scenario is not new. Christians throughout the centuries have tried date setting with this jargon as well as the “prophet” Muhammad of Islam.
Alright we saw the qualifiers, but now let’s take a closer look at the devastation Jehovah’s Witnesses leave upon their members and the reproach it leaves upon the name of Christ.
“Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them “brainwash” you with the Devil’s propaganda to get ahead, to make something of yourself in this world. This world has very little time left! Any “future” this world offers is no future! Wisely, then, let God’s Word influence you in selecting a course that will result in your protection and blessing. Make pioneer service, the full-time ministry, with the possibility of Bethel or missionary service your goal. This is a life that offers an everlasting future!” Watchtower 1969 Mar 15 p.171
“If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. Of the generation that observed the beginning of the “last days” in 1914, Jesus foretold: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.”-Matt. 24:34. Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in highschool and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!” Awake! 1969 May 22 p.15” (Ibid., 1975 – Watchtower Quotes, http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/1975.php).
And again notice the manipulation of these people taking place by this organization commending them when they sell everything and devote their services to this cult:
“Yes, since the summer of 1973 there have been new peaks in pioneers every month. Now there are 20,394 regular and special pioneers in the United States, an all-time peak. That is 5,190 more than there were in February 1973! A 34-percent increase! Does that not warm our hearts? Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.” Kingdom Ministry May 1974 p.3 How Are You Using Your Life?
“Today there is a great crowd of people who are confident that a destruction of even greater magnitude is now imminent. The evidence is that Jesus’ prophecy will shortly have a major fulfilment, upon this entire system of things. This has been a major factor in influencing many couples to decide not to have children at this time.” Awake! 1974 Nov 8 p.11 (Ibid).
The stretching and contradictions concerning “this generation” (Matt. 24:34)
Probably one of the main pillars that keeps the Jehovah Witnesses movement alive and forms the backbone to its cries that the “end is near” is its interpretation of Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matthew 24:34) being twisted to mean “the generation of 1914.” The message is that Armageddon will take place before the passing of the 1914 generation passes.
Let’s develop chronologically how they have changed and contradicted themselves on (Matt. 24:34) as well.
1889 – Since Russell had to go back to the drawing board after his prediction did not come true, he began teaching that Armageddon would take place by 1914 after the “harvest years.” And since the WT has at some points conceded that a “generation” in the Bible is roughly 40 years, I am guessing that this among other things formed Russell’s view for the fulfillment of 1914 —- 1874 + 40 years (“this generation”) = 1914.
1950 – The Watch Tower looking at Matthew 24 began writing articles in how the chronology from Christ’s death in AD 33 to Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 was 37 years. Therefore, the theory was that they were 37 years into the “harvest” and “the time of the end” — thus the end of the world was “near” once again:
“More proof that such system had ended was given thirty-seven years later when the Jewish priests were forcibly deprived of their sacrificial work by the destruction of their typical temple, which has continued unrestored till this very day. Today, after more than thirty years of similar harvest work, how well we see prefigured in that Jewish harvesting and threshing what is in progress in Christendom today! When we call to mind the horrible end that came upon the Jewish capital and its besieged inhabitants back there, we shudder at the more terrible end that is shortly to come upon hypocritical Christendom and its confusion of religions.” (Watchtower, Nov 1, 1950, 407-408).
“The instruction these examples of divine help contain should not now be lost upon us. They were recorded for the benefit of God’s people now “upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived”. (1 Cor. 10:11, NW) Counting from the end of the “appointed times of the nations” in 1914, we are 37 years into the “time of the end” of this world.” (Watchtower, Mar 15, 1951, 179).
“WHEREAS the “appointed times of the nations” ended in 1914, it is now 37 years that we have been in the “time of the end” of Satan’s world. (Dan. 12:4; 11:40) During all this time Jehovah’s witnesses have become increasingly active and prominent. Why? Who commissioned them and gave them their message? Has their witness accomplished its purpose after all these years? Or must it be classed as a failure? All this was answered in Isaiah’s vision at the temple.” (Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1951, 214).
1952 – Of course after nothing happened in 1952 this 37 year concept for “this generation” was abandoned. For the first time the theory that “this generation” extended to an entire lifetime of 70 – 80 years was introduced. (Franz, Raymond, Crisis of Conscience. (Commentary Press. 2007), 254–272; Watchtower, Sept. 1, 1952; 542).
1968 – It now gets changed to:
“…youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of ‘this generation’ nearly 70 years old today…Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death.” (Awake!, Oct. 8, 1968, 13 — In 1980 the age would be dropped from 15 to 10, Watchtower, Oct. 15, 1980, 31).
1978 – The 1914 date connected with “this generation” “logically would not apply to babies being born in 1914 or WWI:
“Thus, when it comes to the application in our time, the ‘generation’ logically would not apply to babies born during World War I.” (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1978, 31).
1984 – More time was needed and excitement needed to be stirred up once again. Except this time they needed contradict what they had said before concerning babies being born at this time:
“If Jesus used ‘generation’ in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older…Some of them ‘will by no means pass away until all things occur.’” (Watchtower, May 15, 1984, 5).
1987 – Due to the public embarrassment the WT had created in its date setting concerning “this generation” Awake! Magazine discontinues this declaration and advertising scheme from the master head.
1988 – Awake! Begins adding the statement again to its master head and the church comes up with a new scenario declaring “this generation” could be someone being born in 1914 and living to be 75 years old and not 70. This marks the end to take place the following year – 1989:
“The Hebrews…reckon seventy-five years as one generation…” (Awake! April 8, 1988; 14 – and as 1988 begins to end they come out with another teaching that pushes it from 75 to 80 years Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1988; 917-918. This year they also claimed that it wasn’t just those babies born on 1914 living to be 75 or 80, but it could extend to babies born “…prior to it…” Awake!, April 8, 1988, 14).
1995 – After passing the 80 year old mark and 1994, the church begins speculating on “this generation” as referring to anyone who may be alive (at any given time) who can understand the spiritual significance of 1914. This makes its fulfillment unknowable. But I thought was the purpose of the WT and Awake!. Clearly it failed to give the “spiritual significance” of 1914 and “this generation” even being a prophetic voice being led by angelic means.
2010 – But apparently they didn’t want to give up because they came and interpreted “this generation” to now include “other anointed ones who would see the start of the great tribulation”, whose lives “overlap” with “the anointed who were on hand when the sign began to become evident in 1914 (Watchtower, April 15, 2010, 10).
It is important to note that this promise is not a mere opinion given by Jehovah Witnesses (something they want you to believe), but rather this is an alleged prophecy or “promise” they have had in print for many years given in and through the “creators” name:
“The Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.” But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.—Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NIV
Amazingly this organization “presumes” to be a “prophet” under angelic direction from God coming up with prophetic dates that are “God’s dates” and not mans and yet won’t heed to Deuteronomy 18:20-22’s teaching. But as we are about to see, it gets worse in that they have had to admit that this once declared inspired chronology (which is the foundation to the movement!), was in actuality “directed by Satan.”
Pyramidology – Russell’s last days pyramid scam exposed!
Through using the method called “pyramid inches” Russell and some of his disciples claimed they could measure the passage of time by measuring the Great Pyramid of Giza (one British inch = one solar year). Russell agreed with another author on this subject claiming the pyramid was “the Bible in stone” – even attempting to use scripture for its existence and purpose in the last days: “In that day shall there be an altar (pile of stones) to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar (Hebrew matstebah, or monument) at the border thereof to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign, and for a witness unto the Lord of Hosts in the land of Egypt.” (Isaiah 19:19-20).
Russell stated the following in order to arrive at two dates – first 1874 and then later a re-calculation to 1914:
“So, then, if we measure backward down the “First Ascending Passage” to its junction with the “Entrance Passage,” we shall have a fixed date to mark upon the downward passage. This measure is 1542 inches, and indicates the year BC 1542, as the date at that point. Then measuring down the “Entrance Passage” from that point, to find the distance to the entrance of the “Pit,” representing the great trouble and destruction with which this age is to close, when evil will be overthrown from power, we find it to be 3416 inches, symbolizing 3416 years from the above date, BC 1542. This calculation shows AD. 1874 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble; for 1542 years BC plus 1874 years AD. equals 3416 years. Thus the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1874 was the chronological beginning of the time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation — no, nor ever shall be afterward. And thus it will be noted that this “Witness” fully corroborates the Bible testimony on this subject…” (Charles Taze Russell, Thy Kingdom Come, (Millennial Dawn, vol. 3; 1891), The Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society. 1904 edition).
In the 1910 version, Russell re-worked the measurements to arrive at the 1914 date:
“So, then, if we measure backward down the “First Ascending Passage” to its junction with the “Entrance Passage,” we shall have a fixed date to mark upon the downward passage. This measure is 1542 inches, and indicates the year BC 1542, as the date at that point. Then measuring down the “Entrance Passage” from that point, to find the distance to the entrance of the “Pit,” representing the great trouble and destruction with which this age is to close, when evil will be overthrown from power, we find it to be 3457 inches, symbolizing 3457 years from the above date, BC 1542. This calculation shows AD. 1915 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble; for 1542 years BC plus 1915 years AD. equals 3457 years. Thus the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1914 will be the beginning of the time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation — no, nor ever shall be afterward. And thus it will be noted that this “Witness” fully corroborates the’ Bible testimony on this subject…” (Charles Taze Russell, Thy Kingdom Come, (Studies In The Scriptures, vol. 3, 1891), by The Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society. 1910 edition).
I would agree with Eric Francke’s analysis that Russell deliberately manipulated the measurements of the pyramid to fit his eschatological system and thus continue to manipulate his followers:
“Since 1874 was fading as a memory, and had passed without significant incident, Russell was left with the very embarrassing prospect of having to explain why great tribulation didn’t come upon the earth in the subsequent years. The chronologies that he had been publishing in the meantime, utilized the year 1914 AD as the fateful year when God was going to punish the apostate church and pour his wrath out upon the earth. Thus, Russell inserted into the “Pyramid Chronology” another arbitrary number, this time 3457 pyramid inches. He was still 4 inches short of the actual measurements he claimed he was citing, but at least he was able to get the Pyramid to predict the “Great War” which everyone figured at the time to be the “War to End all Wars”. Thus, he grew the Great Pyramid 41 pyramid inches between revisions of his book.
Charles Taze Russell went to his grave believing that the Great Pyramid was the “Bible in Stone”, built as witness to the chronologies he espoused. Regarding his shifting chronologies based on the Bible, most of us will grant that he had a change of opinion on certain verses, and adjusted his calculations based on his accumulated knowledge. The Great Pyramid, is a little different, however, since the stone passage ways do not generally grow or shrink at command. The only accounting of the changes one can give then, is that Russell was deliberately and knowingly fabricating numbers to support his theories.” (Eric Francke, A Pyramid Scheme How C.T. Russell’s Great Pyramid Changed with the Times, http://neirr.org/pyramidscheme.htm)
If Russell’s willful deception here is not a devastating blow to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, then their eventual change of mind and blatant contradiction concerning this method of arriving at God’s chronology and allegedly his dates eventually “being from Satan” in 1928 buries JW’s eschatology alive:
“It is more reasonable to conclude that the great pyramid of Gizeh, as well as the other pyramids thereabout, also the sphinx, were built by the rulers of Egypt and under the direction of Satan the Devil…The Devil, by the use of the descendants of Ham, set up Egypt, or the land of Ham, as the first great world power. Then Satan put his knowledge in dead stone, which may be called Satan’s Bible, and not God’s stone witness. In erecting the pyramid, of course, Satan would put in it some truth, because that is his method of practising fraud and deceit.” (November 15, 1928 Watchtower, 344).
This is amazing! Talk about sawing off the branch one is sitting on – consider the development of this doctrine:
- Their founding “prophet” Charles Russell and the prophetic voice of the Watch Tower (functioning as a corporate “prophet”) is directed by God through angelic means in the development of its chronology and dates.
- Both sources tell us that the pyramid method of measurement by which they got these dates for the fulfillment of Christ’s Second Coming (ex WT 5/1881, 188) are from the pyramid (which only could have come from God they claimed!).
- And then the Watch Tower turns around and blatantly contradicts itself claiming it’s very method of arriving at its chronology and date for the Second Coming is actually “under the direction of Satan” and not God?!?
This reminds me of Muslims exhorting us to trust in their angelic revelations of who Jesus is and that it’s teachings on Jesus’ Second Coming have not been corrupted like ours allegedly have all the while apparently finding no problem with their “prophet” Muhammad who thought he was possessed by demons and had to have “Satanic verses” from his holy books removed due to Satan’s influence! I don’t want to sound mean here, but honestly I can’t figure out how anyone in their right mind would want to put their trust in such religions as these which claim to be guided by God and angelic revelation or “light” — all the while blatantly make false predictions of the Second Coming and admit they have been influenced by Satan?!? And the Watch Tower has the audacity to claim that their,
“New light never contradicts old light, but (only) adds to it” (Watch Tower, February, 1881, 188).
The Watchtower oddly uses Proverbs 4:18 as justification for changing its key dates and doctrines:
““The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established,” states Proverbs 4:18. Yes, Jesus’ leadership is progressive, not stagnant. Another way to cooperate with Christ’s “brothers” is to have a positive attitude toward any refinements in our understanding of Scriptural truths as published by “the faithful and discreet slave.”” (Watchtower, May 15, 2011, 27)
“Regarding progressive spiritual enlightenment, Proverbs 4:18 has proved true. It says: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” How thankful we are for the progressive spiritual enlightenment we have experienced!” (Watchtower, Jan 15, 2001, 18).
Of course the context of this proverb in the verses preceding verse 18 and the ones following it have nothing to do with WT doctrinal changes and contradictions they have south to explain away etc… The context of Proverbs 4 is an exhortation to heed God’s wisdom / understanding / doctrine. If you don’t you will be like the fool finding yourself on a pathway of darkness stumbling. Therefore, stay on the right path and do not turn from it. The context has to do with how one lives his or her life and the moral decisions they make day by day as they turn to God’s word “keeping (their) heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23). If there is a message here for Jehovah Witnesses it is this. Stop acting like a fool in not heeding God’s Word. You are on a self-admitted path of darkness and influence – having been influenced by a “prophet” that was “directed by Satan” to arrive at his date for the Second Coming. The Day Star/the Sun of Righteousness/the Ancient of Days – Jesus Christ’s parousia was fulfilled in His AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” just as He said it would be. Without confessing that He is God and worshiping Him, you too will die in your sins and experience utter darkness upon death.”
JW’s have stated that they can “prove” their case that Jesus is not God and that the nations would see their predictions come true – to further support that God is speaking through them thus we need to submit to their organization for salvation. And yet we have taken the time to examine their claims and no such evidence or “proof” has been provided. If anything we have seen that this organization “presumes” to be a “prophet” making predictions in God’s name that not only don’t come true, but are self-admitted by the organization to come from Satan! So why should we believe anything it has to say about Jesus, salvation, the Second Coming, etc…?
It is now my turn to “prove” that “God’s chronology” of Christ’s parousia was fulfilled by AD 70 to close the OC age.
The Full Preterist Case against Jehovah’s Witnesses
Let me begin by addressing and summarizing the issue of “God’s chronology” in the Scriptures which contradicts that of Russell and the teachings of the Watch Tower and Awake! magaizines. From there I will go on to “prove” that Jesus and the NT (“God’s dates” or time table) posits the parousia to take place in AD 70. But first let’s briefly look at NT chronology of the “last days” events.
Biblical chronology vs. Jehovah’s Witnesses chronology:
The “last days” did not begin in 1799 (per Russell) or 1914 (per Rutherford), but were already present in the first century and would precede the imminent AD 70 Second Coming of Christ (Acts 2:16-22; Heb. 1:1-2; 9:26-28; 10:37; Jms. 5:3, 7-9).
Unlike Russell’s view which placed, “special importance…of the last 40 of these 115 years (1874-1914), called ‘The End’ or ‘Harvest;” the NT places the importance of the 40 years “this generation” between AD 26 – AD 66 or AD 30 – AD 70 to be the time for the Great Commission / “harvest” which precedes (not follows) the “the end” / parousia / “great and dreadful day of the Lord” / coming of the Sun of Righteousness / resurrection (Matt. 3:7-12/Mal. 3-4; Matt. 13:39-43; Matt. 24:27-34; Rev. 14).
The “times of the Gentiles,” Great Tribulation, arrival of the Kingdom, and His Parousia (the coming of the Sun of Righteousness from the east to west) were all fulfilled within Jesus’ AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matt. 24:15-34/Luke 21:20-32).
The “translation of the living” into God’s Kingdom at Christ’s coming is when both the living and dead were to be resurrected and “perfected together” in the “better resurrection” which took place in the “a very little while” and would “not be delayed” AD 70 Second Appearing time frame (1 Thess. 4-5; 1 Cor. 15; Heb. 9:26-28; 10:37—11:39-40).
While the JW’s teach that the “great day of God’s wrath” has not taken place (while the Second Coming has), the NT’s teaching is that the Second Coming / parousia / “Day of the Lord” event IS the “great day of God’s wrath” said to take place in an AD 70 “soon” “near” “at hand” time frame (Rev. 1:1, 3:11; 14:7; 16:15; 22:6-7, 10-12, 20; 2 Thess. 1-2).
Events which Jehovah’s Witnesses say are future (ie. the end of the millennium, the battle of Gog and Magog, the destruction of Satan, the arrival of the new creation, etc…) are said to take place at Christ’s Second Coming in an AD 70 “shortly” “soon” “at hand” “about to be” time frame (Rev. 1:1—22:20) and not in a “soon” “the end is near” “this generation” of 1874 / 1878 / 1914 / 1925 / 1975 and following time frame!
I will demonstrate that the analogy of Scripture destroys Russell’s and the Jehovah’s Witnesses view of a two Second Coming(s) doctrine:
1) in 1874/1914 and…
2) Christ coming as a thief in our alleged near future.
The fulfillment of Christ coming on the clouds in His parousia or Second Coming “as the Ancient of Days” proves He is God (the eternal “Alpha and Omega”) not “a god” and worth of “worship” (Dan. 7:13-14 [OG LXX and NIV]; Rev. 1:7, 13-18; Matt. 26:62-65).
When did Jesus Promise His Coming or Parousia would take place?
Let’s compare the failed and false teaching of Rutherford “Millions Now Living Will Never Die!” with Jesus’ teaching that some who were listening to Him in the first century would live to see His Second Coming in power and glory (Matt. 16:27-28).
For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Let me first demonstrate that Matthew 16:27–28 (and its parallels, Mark 8:38–9:1; Luke 9:26–27) cannot be divided into two different events, according to the typical futurist approach. As we can see from the chart below, Matthew 16:27 is united to Matthew 16:28. Both verses speak of the same timeframe and event that Jesus spoke of in His undivided Olivet Discourse.
Matthew 16:27-28 & Parallels
The Olivet Discourse
|1. Christ comes in glory (Luke 9:26)||1. Christ comes in glory (Matt. 24:30)|
|2. Christ comes with angels (Matt. 16:27)||2. Christ comes with angels (Matt. 24:31)|
|3. Christ comes in judgment (Matt. 16:27)||3. Christ comes in judgment (Matt. 24:28-31;25:31-34)|
|4. Christ and the kingdom come in power (Mark 8:38)||4. Christ and the kingdom come in power (Luke 21:27-32)|
|5. Some of the disciples would live (Matt. 16:28)||5. Some of the disciples would live (Luke 21:16-18)|
|6. Some of the disciples would die (Matt. 16:28)||6. Some of the disciples would die (Luke 21:16)|
|7. Christ would be ashamed of some in His generation (Mark 8:38)||7. All of this would occur in His generation (Matt. 24:34)|
For the Son of Man is about to Come
Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), the Darby Bible, Wuest’s Expanded Translation of the New Testament, and Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech all translate Jesus’ return here as “about to come” or “soon to come.” These translations reflect the consistent usage of the Greek word mello in Matthew’s gospel, and its predominant usage in the New Testament. Christ’s imminent coming in verse 27 is consistent with Christ’s coming in the lifetime of “some” in the crowd who were listening to him in verse 28. After having waited thousands of years for the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom, the span of forty years (AD 30–70) was a relatively short time.
Verily I say unto you
Jesus uses the term “verily,” “truly,” or “most assuredly” 99 times in the gospels. The Greek word is “amen,” and it means “absolutely,” “really,” “may it be fulfilled.” It is never used to introduce a new subject. Dispensational author and editor of another multi-authored book seeking to refute preterism, Thomas Ice, says of Matthew 16:27 and 28 that these “are two separate predictions separated by the words ‘truly I say to you.’” (Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 87).
But Mr. Ice fails to produce a single passage in which Jesus’ phrase, “Verily I say unto you,” separates one subject from another. To the contrary, the phrase always signals an amplification of the previous thought.
Some standing here shall not taste of death until
Some have made the mistake in thinking that Jesus was only talking to the 12 disciples but according to Mark’s account, “ . . . He called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said . . . ” (Mk. 8:34–9:1). This is the background to Peter’s questing of the Lord as to if John was going to be alive to witness His return (while he would be martyred) in John 21:21-23. Some standing there listening to Christ would die of natural causes before the end of the OC age in AD 70, while others would be martyred prior to His coming or parousia (cf. Matt. 10:17-23; Matt. 24:9).
Until they see the kingdom of God already come in power
According to Mark’s account, some of the disciples would not die until they looked back on this event, knowing that the Lord and His kingdom had come in power. (Literally, “until they see the kingdom of God having come in power.”) According to Jesus, some of those who were listening to Him that day would see His Parousia, look back on the event, and afterwards die. Another of our critics Kenneth Gentry at least concedes this point citing J.A. Alexander:
Here “come” is “not, as the English words may seem to mean, in the act of coming (till they see it come), but actually or already come, the only sense that can be put upon the perfect parti-ciple here employed.” (Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 215–216, emphasis added).
The Greek word here for “see” is eido. As with the English word, eido not only refers to physical sight, but it can also mean “perceive” or “understand.” Through observing with the physical senses, “some” of Jesus’ contemporary audience would be able to look back on the destruction of the old covenant kingdom’s temple and city in AD 70 and “perceive” that Christ’s kingdom had arrived among and “within” them (Lk. 17:20–37; Col. 1:27; Jn. 14:2–3, 23, 29).
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the events of 1914 demonstrate that Christ began ruling in His kingdom at that point and that we are living in a small period of time waiting for him to consummate the kingdom promises when he destroys Satan and sets up his kingdom on earth “soon.” But the Biblical position is that Christ at His ascension had begun to reign and rule in His kingdom, and when His parousia was fulfilled in AD 70, it was set up spiritually “within” the believer. The Church can look back on the historical events of AD 66-AD 70 (not 1914) to understand that His parousia and kingdom promises were “soon” fulfilled indeed.
“End of the age” – Were the disciples “confused?” Did they ask about the end of planet earth or in JW’s jargon “the system of things”?
Jehovah’s Witnesses along with all other futurist systems begin with the disciples question in Matthew 24:3 by assuming what they need to prove – when they claim the disciples were “confused” in associating Jesus’ coming/parousia, end of the age, with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Since their theology separates these events by thousands of years, and the disciples linked them to be fulfilled altogether (based upon Jesus’ earlier teachings in Matt. 10:22-23; 13:29-43; 16;27-28) they merely assume the disciples were mistaken and not their futurist systems. Here are some key hermeneutical steps the Jehovah’s Witness and creedal futurists willfully skip over:
The Jews of Jesus’ day understood the phrase “this age” to be the old covenant age of Moses and the prophets and the “age to come” as the new covenant or Messianic age.
In the book of Daniel the consummation of the major eschatological events can be found in chapters 7, 9 and 12. Daniel connected the eschatological “time of the end” events such as the desolation of the temple, the resurrection, the tribulation, the coming of the Son of man and the arrival of the kingdom, to take place when the city and temple would be destroyed – or “when the power of the holy people would be completely shattered” “all these things” (not some of them) would be fulfilled together (cf. see the consummation scenes in Dan. 7:13-14, 18, 27; Dan. 9:24-27; Dan. 12:1-7).
In Matthew 13:39-43, 51 Jesus taught that the judgment and resurrection (“the time of the end” eschatological events) would take place at the end of their old covenant “this age.” Jesus specifically asks them if they understood His teaching on the time of this harvest at the end of their “this age” and they emphatically responded “Yes” (vs. 51).
Jesus had previously taught that He would return in some of their lifetimes (Matthew 10:22-23; 16:27-28/Mark 8:38-9:1).
Jesus previously taught them that all the blood from righteous Abel (from Genesis up to those He would send to them) would be avenged when the temple was destroyed in their “this generation” (Matthew 23:30-36, 38). Isaiah in his “little apocalypse” (Isiah 24-28) posits all of the eschatological events (judgment, de-creation, avenging the sin of blood guilt, the blowing of the trumpet, the resurrection, etc…) to take place together when the temple would be destroyed or “when he makes all the altar stones to be like chalk stones crushed to pieces” (Isaiah 27:9).
So before we even get to Matthew 24, the disciples could have discerned from such prophets as Daniel and Isaiah, that all of the eschatological events would be fulfilled when the temple was destroyed. The record clearly states that the disciples understood Jesus’ teaching on “the end of age” or the end of their “this age.” And lastly, Jesus had already taught them that some of them would live to witness His return and the destruction of the Temple. Therefore, they were NOT mistaken to associate and connect Jesus’ coming (to destroy the Temple [that they were looking at and discussing] in their generation) with His coming and the end of the age.
Just because Matthew (as a responsible narrator) or Jesus have elsewhere shown us where the disciples were confused in Matthew’s gospel, does not mean that they were confused here in Matthew 24:3. In fact, when the disciples are confused or wrong about something it is clearly identified as such (ex. Matthew 16:6-12, 21-23; 17:4-5; 19:13-15; 20:20-25).
Milton Terry was spot on when he wrote of Jesus’ teaching on the “end of the age” in the Olivet discourse and elsewhere in the NT (such as Hebrews 9:26-28):
“The ‘end of the age’ means the close of the epoch or age—that is, the Jewish age or dispensation which was drawing nigh, as our Lord frequently intimated. All those passages that speak of ‘the end,’ ‘the end of the age,’ or ‘the ends of the ages,’ refer to the same consummation, and always as nigh at hand.” “…the writer regarded the incarnation of Christ as taking place near the end of the aeon, or dispensational period. To suppose that he meant that it was close upon the end of the world, or the destruction of the material globe, would be to make him write false history as well as bad grammar. It would not be true in fact; for the world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. It is futile, therefore, to say that the ‘end of the age’ may mean a lengthened period, extending from the incarnation to our times, and even far beyond them. That would be an aeon, and not the close of an aeon. The aeon of which our Lord was speaking was about to close in a great catastrophe; and a catastrophe is not a protracted process, but a definitive and culminating act.” Milton S. Terry, Biblical HERMENEUTICS A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 441-442. After all the second appearing or coming of Christ to close the old covenant age is further described as Christ coming “…in a very little while” and “would not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37).
Russell and Jehovah’s Witness literature makes it clear that the “Second Advent” or “Second Coming” was fulfilled in 1874 or 1914 and yet the very passage Christians go to in order to find the doctrine of a “Second” “Appearing” or “Coming” is Hebrews 9:26-28. And here it is clear that the “last days” were already present in the first century and that Christ appearing toward the end of those days and toward the “end of the age” is the old covenant age – and not the “system of things” or “end of world history” etc… And the next chapter tells us that Christ was going to come “in a very little while” and “would not tarry”
Therefore, since Matthew 24-25 is about Christ coming in judgment upon old covenant Jerusalem in AD 66 – AD 70 to bring an end to the old covenant age (not the planet earth or to end the Church age), the futurists or end time apocalyptic cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the ones confused in Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse and not the disciples. Having established that the discourse is about the end of the old covenant age and not world history or planet earth, we can readily see how all these things would be fulfilled in Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matthew 24:34).
In Matthew 24:34 Jesus clearly identifies that the “this generation” of the “you” (first century Jews not “the generation of 1914”) of whom He is addressing would not pass away before “all these things” (the signs, end of the age, and His coming) would be fulfilled. The Greek word for “generation” here is genea and is used over 30 times in the NT and in each context it is never used as anything other than to address a roughly 40 year generation period or in particularly, the first century contemporary generation of Jesus and His disciples. In spite of this clear Scriptural meaning, the Jehovah’s Witnesses insert a totally different meaning into the context claiming this is speaking to the generation that was alive to witness 1914. Other’s within Dispensational circles have tried to gain a following and sell sensationalistic books by pawning this same kind of scenario. Popularized by Hal Lindsey, an alleged “prophecy expert” who, based on current events (like JW’s) and not the Bible claimed,
“WE are the generation that will see the end times… and return of Christ.” And “unmistakably… this generation is the one that will see the end of the present world and the return of Christ” (Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon, (New York: Bantam, 1980), see back-cover and p. 144).
And then this view was fueled from the pulpit from mega church Pastors such as Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel movement (one of my former Pastors):
“…that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).” (Chuck Smith, End Times, The Word for Today, 1978, 35).
In his book Future Survival (1978) Chuck wrote,
“From my understanding of biblical prophecies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981.”
Lindsey began by admitting that a generation “was something like forty years.” Since 40 years have passed, instead of throwing in the towel on his theory, Lindsey now claims a generation could be 60 – 100 years. If this doesn’t sound new, it’s because it isn’t. The “expanding” of a generation is exactly what we have seen the Mormon’s and now Jehovah’s Witnesses do with their false predictions concerning “this generation.” One good fraud knows the other’s techniques!
If Jesus wanted to teach that a far off and removed generation from His would see the fulfillment of these events He could have simply said, “that generation” instead of “this generation.”
The signs problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses and “this generation”
Another problem Jehovah’s Witnesses have here is that according to the disciples question(s) and Jesus’ answer, all of the signs get fulfilled before the parousia and “the end” or “the end of the age” occurs. Because they have embraced a false fulfillment of Christ’s parousia taking place in 1874 or 1914, they create a very odd order in Matthew 24 in that they are still preaching that all of these signs are being fulfilled right before us marking the near end of the age or “system of things.” Yet contextually Jesus says “all these things” (the signs, end of the age, and parousia) would all be fulfilled in His generation. Contextually and grammatically, if one is going to say the parousia has been fulfilled, then one has to teach that “all these things” (including the signs which were given to point to the fulfillment of the parousia) have been fulfilled.
Jesus predicted that false messiahs would come in the generation of the first century and they did: Theudas (Acts 5:36; 13:6), Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), and Simon (Acts 8:9-11) to name a few. In the epistles of John, John writes (as that generation was ending) informs the first century church that they knew it was “the last hour” because the Antichrist’s had arrived (1 John 2:17-18). For those who understand the “Antichrist” and “Man of Sin” to be the same person, we should point out that this individual was alive and “already at work” during the time of Paul (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). Contrary to the popular science fiction writings of Dispensational Zionist Hal Lindsay, this individual is not “alive and well on planet earth” in the form of some political leader of Russia, Iran, Iraq, etc.
The Jewish historian Josephus writes of a false prophet during the destruction of Jerusalem which deceived the Jews to stay and fight the Romans:
“Of so great a multitude, not one escaped. Their destruction was caused by a false prophet, who had on that day proclaimed to those remaining in the city, that “God commanded them to go up to the temple, there to receive the signs of their deliverance.” There were at this time many prophets suborned by the tyrants to delude the people, by bidding them wait for help from God, in order that there might be less desertion, and that those who were above fear and control might be encouraged by hope. Under calamities man readily yields to persuasion but when the deceiver pictures to him deliverance from pressing evils, then the sufferer is wholly influenced by hope. Thus it was that the impostors and pretended messengers of heaven at that time beguiled the wretched people.” (Josephus, Wars, 6.3.6.).
“Wars and Rumors of Wars”
“In AD 40 there was a disturbance at Mesopotamia which (Josephus says) caused the deaths of more than 50,000 people. In AD 49, a tumult at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover resulted in 10,000 to 20,000 deaths. At Caesarea, contentions between Jewish people and other inhabitants resulted in over 20,000 Jews being killed. As Jews moved elsewhere, over 20,000 were destroyed by Syrians. At Scythopolis, over 13,000 Jews were killed. Thousands were killed in other places, and at Alexandria 50,000 were killed. At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour’s time.” (John L. Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p. 28)
When Jesus was addressing wars and rumors of wars, He was not referring to what is going on in modern day Russia, China, Israel, Iraq, United States, or Europe today. To reach into Matthew 24 and back into the OT and twist these passages and prophecies by asserting that they are referring to these modern day countries and to us today is irresponsible exegesis to say the least.
Again, the Bible and history record famine and pestilences during “the last days” (AD 30 – AD 70) of the Mosaic old-covenant age and generation (Acts 11:27-29). In AD 40 and AD 60 there were pestilences in Babylon and Rome where Jews and Gentiles alike suffered.
The book of Acts records for us an earthquake occurring in the Apostolic generation (Acts 16:26). “…just previous to 70 AD there were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judea.” (DeMar, Gary, ibid., 64)
“Put to Death”
The first century Christians were to expect tribulation, to be brought before kings and rulers, imprisonment, beatings, for the sake of Jesus. Please read the book of Acts 4:3,17; Acts 5:40; Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1; Acts 12:1-3; Acts 14:19 to see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Luke 21:12. In fulfillment of our Lord’s words, Paul and Silas were beaten (Acts 26:23) and Paul was brought before rulers and kings – Gallio, (Acts 28:12), Felix (Acts 24), Festus and Agrippa (Acts 25). Peter and Paul were put to death in the persecution of Nero.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
The New World Translation of Matthew 24:14 reads,
“And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
JW’s claim their church and their church alone will fulfill a global Great Commission before Jesus’ second, second coming/parousia takes place sometime in our generation. But of course they haven’t even begun to impact these countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bhutan, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, North Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Western Sahara and Yemen.
And with the growth of the world’s population every increasing, they never will reach all the people on the globe in our generation.
Let’s turn from the JW’s fictional eschatology of this passage to how the NT actually develops its fulfillment within the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation”:
|“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14)||“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans 10:18)|
|“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)”(Mark 13:10)||“…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)…” (Romans 16:25-26)|
|“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)||“…of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit…,” (Colossians 1:5-6).|
|And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek kitisis) ” (Mark 16:15)||“…from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)|
|“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Greek ge)” (Acts 1:8).||“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)|
Jesus nor the Apostle Paul meant nor understood these phrases of “into all the world,” “all nations,” “every creature,” or “end of the earth,” to be global terms as the JW’s and most futurist eschatologies have interpreted them. These are describing the nations of the Roman Empire or “the inhabited world as they knew it” in the first century!
“Abomination that causes desolation” and the “Great Tribulation”
In 2013 the JW’s began an overhaul in how they interpreted these events.
Let’s allow them to make their case as to why and what their adjustments have been and then continue giving a proper exegesis of Matthew 24-25:
“3. In the past, what was our understanding of the timing of the great tribulation?
3 For a number of years, we thought that the great tribulation began in 1914 with World War I and that “those days were cut short” by Jehovah in 1918 when the war ended so that the remnant would have the opportunity to preach the good news to all nations. (Matt. 24:21, 22) After the completion of that preaching work, Satan’s empire would be destroyed. Thus, the great tribulation was thought to have three phases: There would be a beginning (1914-1918), the tribulation would be interrupted (from 1918 onward), and it would conclude at Armageddon.
4. What insight led to a clearer understanding of Jesus’ prophecy about the last days?
4 Upon further examination of Jesus’ prophecy, however, we perceived that a part of Jesus’ prophecy about the last days has two fulfillments. (Matt. 24:4-22) There was an initial fulfillment in Judea in the first century C.E., and there would be a worldwide fulfillment in our day. That insight led to several clarifications. *
5. (a) What difficult period began in 1914? (b) That period of distress corresponds to what time period in the first century C.E.?
5 We also discerned that the first part of the great tribulation did not begin in 1914. Why not? Because Bible prophecy reveals that the great tribulation will start, not with a war among nations, but with an attack on false religion. Thus, the events that began in 1914 were, not the beginning of the great tribulation, but the “beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matt. 24:8) These “pangs of distress” correspond to what took place in Jerusalem and Judea from 33 C.E. to 66 C.E.
6. What will signal the beginning of the great tribulation?
6 What will signal the start of the great tribulation? Jesus foretold: “When you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, (let the reader use discernment,) then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.” (Matt. 24:15, 16) In the first fulfillment, the “standing in a holy place” occurred in 66 C.E. when the Roman army (“the disgusting thing”) attacked Jerusalem and its temple (a place holy in the eyes of the Jews). In the larger fulfillment, the “standing” will occur when the United Nations (the modern-day “disgusting thing”) attacks Christendom (which is holy in the eyes of nominal Christians) and the rest of Babylon the Great. The same attack is described at Revelation 17:16-18. That event will be the beginning of the great tribulation.
7. (a) How was ‘flesh saved’ in the first century? (b) What can we expect will happen in the future?
7 Jesus also foretold: “Those days will be cut short.” In the initial fulfillment, this happened in 66 C.E. when the Roman army “cut short” its attack. Then, anointed Christians in Jerusalem and Judea fled, allowing for their ‘flesh, or life, to be saved.’ (Read Matthew 24:22; Mal. 3:17) So, what can we expect will happen during the coming great tribulation? Jehovah will “cut short” the attack of the United Nations on false religion, not allowing true religion to be destroyed with the false. This will ensure that God’s people will be saved.
8. (a) What events will take place after the initial part of the great tribulation has passed? (b) At what point, apparently, will the last member of the 144,000 receive his heavenly reward? (See endnote.)
8 What happens after the initial part of the great tribulation has passed? Jesus’ words indicate that there will be a period of time that will last until the start of Armageddon. What events will occur during that interval? The answer is recorded at Ezekiel 38:14-16 and Matthew 24:29-31. (Read.) * After that, we will witness Armageddon, the climax of the great tribulation, which parallels Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. (Mal. 4:1) With the battle of Armageddon as its climax, that coming great tribulation will be unique—an event “such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning.” (Matt. 24:21) When it has passed, Christ’s Millennial Rule will begin.
9. What effect does Jesus’ prophecy about the great tribulation have on Jehovah’s people?
9 This prophecy about the great tribulation strengthens us. Why? Because it assures us that no matter what hardships we may face, Jehovah’s people, as a group, will come out of the great tribulation. (Rev. 7:9, 14) Above all, we rejoice because at Armageddon, Jehovah will vindicate his sovereignty and he will sanctify his holy name.—Ps. 83:18; Ezek. 38:23.” (http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/w20130715/jesus-prophecy-last-days/).
Here are the errors that continue to plague this last day’s cult even in light of their “new understandings” of Matthew 24:
As one can clearly see JW’s have tried to give a double or typological fulfillment for the abomination of desolation and the Great Tribulation – one fulfillment prior to AD 70 and another alleged “near” future fulfillment for our generation. However, Jesus teaches that the abomination that causes desolation, the Great Tribulation, all of the signs, and His Parousia/Second Coming would be fulfilled in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (cf. Luke 21:8-32/Matt. 24:4-34).
Jesus’ teaching indicates no such “typological” or double fulfillments for these events! Jesus unequivocally states that these events would be “…in fulfillment of all that has been written.”
JW’s are cherry-picking what they want to be typologically fulfilled in the events from AD 33 – AD 70. They claim the Great Tribulation had a prior to AD 70 partial fulfillment, but what about all of the signs that precedes this event? They want all of the signs being fulfilled for our generation when the text gives no such meaning. If they are going to give the Great Tribulation a fulfillment by AD 70, then what of Christ’s parousia and Coming in vss. 27-30 which are grammatically and contextually connected to these events? Again ALL of them would be fulfilled by the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” and no other!
Although JWfacts.com, has attempted a partial refutation demonstrating that some of the “signs” were fulfilled by AD 70, it too lacks exegetical support in that Jesus teaches that “all of these things” (ALL the signs, Great Tribulation, end of the age, parousia, trumpet call/gathering of the elect) would be fulfilled in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matt. 24:3-34). JWfacts.com is no less guilty of “cherry-picking” what it wants to be fulfilled by AD 70 and what it wants to be fulfilled in the future.
In Luke’s account of the abomination that causes desolation is identified with the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem and laying it waste in the years of AD 66 – AD 70, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” (Luke 21:20-22). History records for us that the early Christians were not deceived by the Jewish false prophets and fled to Pella and were safe.
Any Bible College or seminary class on hermeneutics would tell us that we need to follow a grammatical historical hermeneutic. One of the steps involved in interpreting how language and terms are used is to honor the way language is used during the time it was written in. Josephus who was a close contemporary of Jesus’ time describes the destruction of Jerusalem in practically the identical language:
“Now this vast multitude is indeed collected out of remote places, but the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly, the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world;”[vi]
The words “For then shall be great tribulation…” are words linking the tribulation period with the preceding fleeing of the disciples from Jerusalem in the previous context (vs.17-20, cf. also Lk.21:20-23). The great “wrath” and “distress” upon “this people” in the “land” in (Lk. 21:23) is parallel to Matthew’s tribulation period described for us in Matthew 24:21. The Tribulation period is not a global event as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Dispensationalists have tried to portray it, but a local event that took place in Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation.”
“The stars shall fall from heaven” and “the Son of Man coming on the clouds”
God’s coming on the clouds and stars falling from heaven, as used elsewhere in the Bible, are metaphors referring to the judgment of nations, not the destruction of the physical planet. This can be seen in such O.T. passages referring to the fall of Babylon, Egypt, Edom, and Israel (Isa. 13:9-10; 19:1; 34:4-5; Ezk. 32:7-8; Amos 5:21-22; Psalm 18; Psalm 104; Hab. 1:2ff.). Did God come on a literal cloud when he judged Egypt by means of the Assyrian’s in 670 B.C.: “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt” (Isa. 19:1)? Was the literal heaven “dissolved” and rolled back like a scroll and did literal stars fall down from heaven when National Idumea (or Edom) was judged by God in the OT: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment” (Isa. 34:4-5)? In Matthew 24, the context is the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. The sun, moon, and stars represented the universe of Israel and her rulers which would fall from her covenantal significance by A.D. 70 for rejecting Christ and His Apostles and prophets (cf. Matthew 23:31-36). Reformed and Puritan theologian John Owen had this to say of this text,
“And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world. So Isa. 34:4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom. And our Saviour Christ’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, he sets it out by expressions of the same importance. It is evident then, that, in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’, the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood” (John Owen, Works, Banner of Truth Pub., Vol. 9, 134).
John L. Bray correctly writes of the stars falling from the heavens of Matthew 24:29:
“Jewish writers understood the light to mean the law; the moon, the Sanhedrin; and the stars, the Rabbis.” (John Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p.125).
Therefore, one can see how Christ cast down the religious rulers (the stars) when He judged their OC world/age/city/Temple in AD 70.
Christ’s Parousia as Lightning or Sunlight Shining from East to West (Matt. 24:27)?
I really don’t have an issue with Russell’s understanding of the Parousia being likened to the Sun verses Lightning in this passage. In fact I have been teaching this myself even before I knew JW’s offered this translation.
Matthew 24:27 is usually interpreted by Partial Preterists and Full Preterists to mean Christ’s coming through the means of the Roman armies would be sudden and quick like lightning and this very well may be true. But I believe Christ’s parousia here and the Greek word associated with it astrape, is making reference to Christ’s presence and Kingdom being manifested within the hearts of His people in AD 70 while at the same time burning up the wicked–using the illustration of the sun’s rays shining “from east and flashing to the west.”
The Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon gives astrape, the meaning of a “bright light.” The Greek word for “shine” is phaino which according to the Greek English Online Bible Greek Lexicon can mean, “of growing vegetation, to come to light.” IF (and that’s a big if) the fig tree represents Israel in Matthew 24 then “all the trees” in Luke’s account must be interpreted as all the nations (from where the GC of Matt. 24:14 reached its fulfillment by AD 70). If this scenario is true, then this can have a reference to the Sun’s light through the gospel and Christ’s parousia giving light and life to Israel (the fig tree) and to all the trees (the Gentile nations) in Matthew 24:14, 32; Luke 21:29-30. The Second Coming of Christ is referred to as being “high time” and “the night is far spent and the day is at hand” (Rms.13:11-12). “…as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet.1:19/Luke 17:20-21ff.). And “…I will give Him the morning star.” “I am the bright and morning star” (Rev.22:16). The idea here is that Christ’s presence and His righteousness is in and of itself, the chief reward and joy for His Church at His return. If this isn’t exciting enough for you go get a Hal Lindsey book at a garage sale for a twenty-five cents!
Jesus would not be revealing Himself in some dark inner secret room as the false Christ’s would shamefully be doing for they were of the darkness, but on that day, “they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.” (Isa.45:6; 19-25; cf. Mal.1:1, 4:1-2, 5-6). He would shine seven fold on that day burning up the wicked while at the same time His heat and light would not harm the remnant but only cause them to flourish and bear fruit to be gathered in His kingdom (Mt.13:6-9/Jms.1:11-18/5:1-9; Mt.13:43; Judges 5:31; 2Sam.23:4-7; Ps.121:6-7; Isa.30:26-27; Isa.16:19-20/Rev.21:23, 22:5).
In that Day, Christ as the “Sun of righteousness would rise with healing in His wings” and would cause the remnant of Israel (the fig tree) and the Gentile nations (“all the trees”) to have blossomed TOGETHER as the very Garden of God in His everlasting Kingdom (Lk.21:28-32/Rms.9-11; Cols.1:5-6; Isa.27:7; 35; 44; 55:10-13; 60:20; 61:10-11/Ezk.16:7/Rev.21:9- chapter 22).
A type of eternal life can be found in Josh.10:12-14 when God listened to Joshua and the sun stood still. Every day in the new creation is a day without darkness or bearing the reproach of our sins. In Joshua’s day this miracle was a sign to all that Jehovah was fighting for Israel. When those who are in darkness outside the gates of the City look at your life and see the joy, light, and warmth of God’s presence radiating from your inner being, God uses this to cause His elect to crave this enduring light and righteousness that can only come from your Lord. This also serves to harden the reprobate – as the sun melts the wax and hardens the clay. In Joshuah’s day this was a sign that the Lord was fighting for Israel and today Christ’s presence and eternal Day within His church demonstrates that nothing will ever be able to withstand her.
As plants receive life from the sun’s light and energy through photosynthesis, so the Church receives eternal life from Christ alone. In union with Christ, the Church becomes the leaves on the Tree of Life and the light of the New Jerusalem/Creation brings healing to the nations of the world. It is the light and living waters of the gospel preached to sinners that serves as “special revelation” to a thirsty sinner’s soul. No luminary lights of the physical creation can fully demonstrate the righteous ways of God! Only Christ and His Church serving as a heavenly Kingdom can bring the revelation needed for sinners to be saved. Without the “Sun of Righteousness” the light and glory of God’s imputed righteousness beaming in upon the heart and mind of man, all is lost. The world truly does revolve around the “Sun/Son of Righteousness.”
“Heaven and earth will pass away”
So far we have found contextual and grammatical reasons to interpret the “end of the age” as the old covenant age in vs. 3, the stars falling from the heavens in vs. 29 to be the religious and civil rulers falling from the places of power when Jerusalem and her Temple was destroyed in AD 70, but what of verse 35 which addresses the “heaven and earth” passing away? Surely that is referring to the end of planet earth? Once again there is contextual and a historical hermeneutic within the Christian church to also understand this to be referring to the old covenant heavens and earth and its temple.
G.K. Beale’s research indicates,
“…that ‘heaven and earth’ in the Old Testament may sometimes be a way of referring to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.” (G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2004), 25). J.V. Fesko, Last things first Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, (Scottland, UK, 2007), 70.
Reformed theologian John Brown in identifying the passing of “heaven and earth” in Matthew 5:18 writes:
“But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens.” (John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 ), 1:170).
Commentators are correct to identify the “heaven and earth” of (Matthew 5:18) as the “heaven and earth” of (Matthew 24:35), but the context of both point us to the old covenant system and not the planet earth. According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:17-18 if heaven and earth have not passed away, then we are currently under all of the “jots and tittles” of the old covenant law.
And now specifically of the passing of heaven and earth here in our text, Evangelical Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis makes the following comments on Mark 13:31/Matthew 24:35:
“The temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met. Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality.” And “. . . [T]he principal reference of “heaven and earth” is the temple centered cosmology of second-temple Judaism which included the belief that the temple is heaven and earth in microcosm. Mark 13[:31] and Matthew 5:18 refer then to the destruction of the temple as a passing away of an old cosmology. (Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis a contributing author in, ESCHATOLOGY in Bible & Theology Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 157).
Jesus nor the NT writers ever predicted the end of the planet earth as is simply assumed by so many here in Matthew 24:3, 29, 35 and elsewhere in the NT. When we take a combined look at some of the best theologians within the Reformed and Evangelical communities, we find a preterist interpretation of virtually every eschatological de-creation prophecy in the Bible. Combined, John Owen, John Locke, John Lightfoot, John Brown, R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Keith Mathison, Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, Hank Hanegraaff, and N.T. Wright teach that the passing away of heaven and earth (Matt. 5:17–18; 24:3, 29, 35; 1 Cor. 7:31; II Peter 3; I Jn. 2:17–18; Rev. 21:1) refers to the destruction of the temple or to the civil and religious worlds of men—either Jews or Gentiles; and that the rulers of the old covenant system or world, along with the temple, were the “sun, moon, and stars,” which made up the “heaven and earth” of the world that perished in AD 70. (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965–68), 9:134–135. John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – 1 Corinthians, 4 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, , 1989), 3:452, 454. John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of our Lord, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust,  1990), 1:170. John Locke, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke: A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul Volume 2, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 617–618. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998). Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 363–365. Kenneth Gentry (contributing author), Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 89. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs: GA, 1999), 68–74, 141–154, 191–192. James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 1998), 269–279. Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis (contributing author) Eschatology in Bible & Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 145–169. Peter J. Leithart, The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004). Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999), 114, 157–158. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 345–346. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 645, n.42. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 84–86. C. Jonathin Seraiah, The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2002).
These interpretations are, individually considered, “orthodox.” Yet when full preterists consolidate the most defensible elements of Reformed and Evangelical eschatology, anti-preterists unite in opposition to even some of their own stated views. The full preterist combines the two competing “orthodox” views on the coming of the Lord and de-creation of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25 to form a consistently exegetical and historical position:
1. CLASSIC AMILLENNIAL VIEW: The coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24-25 is the ONE second coming event as is the de-creation spoken of here.
2. PARTIAL PRETERIST VIEW: The coming of the Son of Man happened spiritually and the end of age, de-creation of verses 3, 29 and 35 are descriptive of the passing of the old covenant creation/age and establishing the new by AD 70.
3. FULL PRETERIST VIEW (Synthesis of 1-2 “Reformed and always reforming”): The coming of the Son of Man is the ONE second coming event (as is the de-creation spoken of in verses 3, 29, 35) whereby Christ came spiritually to end the old covenant creation/age in the events of AD 66 – AD 70 and establish the new.
The Coming of the Son of Man and the Deity of Christ
Daniel 7:13-14 and Matthew 26:62-65
“Upon the clouds of heaven came one like a Son of Man, and he came as the Ancient of Days.” (Daniel 7:13 (OG) LXX). “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all people, nations and men of every language worshiped him.” (vs. 14 NIV).
“…The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.” (Matt. 26:62-64).
According to the Old Greek Septuagint translation of Daniel 7:13, the Son of Man came “as the Ancient of Days” on the clouds of heaven, not “to the Ancient of Days.” This translation is in harmony with verse 22, which says that it was the Ancient of Days Himself who came in judgment and gave the saints the kingdom.
Although some have tried to apply this passage to the ascension, the New Testament does not give the slightest hint that “the coming of the Son of Man” on the clouds of heaven would be fulfilled in the Ascension. And as Keil and Delitzch commented regarding Daniel 7:13-14,
…it is manifest that he could only come from heaven to earth. If the reverse is to be understood, then it ought to have been so expressed, since the coming with the clouds of heaven in opposition to the rising up of the beasts out of the sea very distinctly indicates a coming down from heaven. The clouds are the veil or the “chariot” on which God comes from heaven to execute judgment against His enemies; cf. Ps. 18:10f., 97:2–4; 104:3, Isa. 19:1, Nah. 1:3. This passage forms the foundation for the declaration of Christ regarding His future coming, which is described after Dan. 7:13 as a coming of the Son of man with, in, on the clouds of heaven; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 18:26; Rev. 1:7; 14:14. (Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F., Commentary on the Old Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), (Daniel 7:13-14), bold emphasis MJS).
I would agree with Keil and Delitzch that the context of Dan. 7:13 and how the NT develops it, forms the foundation for the Second Coming event with Him coming down from heaven in judgment upon His enemies (who are upon the earth rising in opposition to Him) and not Him going “up” at the ascension event.
It is also important to point out that John in the book of Revelation alludes to Dan. 7:9, 13 in his description of Christ as being both the Son of Man who comes on the clouds to judge those whom had pierced Him (first century Jews) and as the eternal Ancient of Days in Revelation 1:7, 13-17.
In our next verse the one likened to the “Son of Man” and “Ancient of Days” coming on the clouds of heaven is “worshiped” (vs. 14 NIV the original Aramaic is pelach – some translations render the word to mean divine “service”). In establishing the meaning of a passage or word in a particular text we need to examine its usage elsewhere in the same book. Everywhere in Daniel pelach is used of divine service or worship. Of false gods in Daniel 3:12. In Daniel 3:17-18 we are told that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego only gave divine service and worship to the only living God and would not render divine service and worship to Nebuchadnezzar’s false gods. In Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar gives praise to their God and reinstates that they “yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” In Daniel 6:16, 20 it describes Daniel’s divine service to the only living God continually which is given in hopes that God would and did deliver Daniel from the den of the lions. In Daniel 7:27 when the Ancient of Days came (cf. vss. 13-14, 22) to give possession of the Kingdom to the saints, “all rulers will worship and obey him.”
The rabbis referred to God as “the cloud rider” because only God came upon the clouds in the Scriptures. With this being the exegetical and historical background, it is clear that at Jesus’ trial in Matthew 26:62-65 the high priest understood WHO Jesus was claiming to be and why the high priest tore his clothes and identified Jesus’ statements as ”blasphemy.” For Jesus to claim he would ride upon the clouds in judgment of the high priest was for Jesus to identify Himself as God “the cloud rider” and the Son of Man/Ancient of Days of Daniel 7:13-14.
Jesus accepted worship because He is God (Matt. 14:33; Matt. 28:9, 17; John 9:35-38; Rev. 1:7-14/Rev. 5:1-14). This has a profound implication upon the false prophets of Islam’s Muhammad and Mormonism’s Joseph Smith who both denied the Deity of Christ. In AD 70 not only did Jesus prove to be a faithful Prophet, but He proved He was very God as He clearly taught. Bow before Him today in worship and receive the free gift of eternal life.
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:17).
We have seen that Jesus did in fact teach that His Second Coming would take place within the lifetime of those that were listening to Him (Matt. 16:27-28) and in their “this generation” (Matt. 24:27-34). Therefore, He kept His word and came upon the clouds of heaven through the Idumean and Roman armies judging Jerusalem and ending their old covenant age (or their “heaven and earth”) in AD 70 and establishing the new covenant age.
This has serious and deadly consequences for the founding “prophets” of Islam, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since Christ returned in AD 70 the office and gift of prophet bringing forth revelations or prophecy was “sealed up” or “ceased” (Dan. 9:24-27; Matt. 24; 1 Cor. 13:8-12).
One of the titles of Christ in the book of Revelation is that of being the “Faithful and True Witness.” History validates that Christ was faithful and true to come when He said He would, while at the same time history condemns the testimony and failed prophecies and revelations from alleged Angelic direction to Muhammad, Joseph Smith, and Charles Taze Russell/Watch Tower. This fact alone ends the debate on the credibility of these men and the false religions they began.
I hope you have found this article helpful and will continue studying the Full Preterist view. Please do purchase the second edition of my/our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Ramona, CA: Vision Publishing 2009, Second Edition 2013) which will help answer any further questions that may have arisen as a result of reading this.
This article is still a work in progress…