Gary DeMar: Randall Price and the Transition Texts of Matthew 23:38-39 (2004)

Gary DeMar: Randall Price and the Transition Texts of Matthew 23:38-39 (2004)

There are no verses in the New Testament that mention anything about a rebuilt temple and the reinstitution of the old covenant sacrificial system.


Randall Price and the Transition Texts of Matthew 23:38-39

By Gary DeMar
2004


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“Although newly restored, [the temple] was still subject to the old terms of the covenantal contract, and with the Nation’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah the Temple was again doomed to desolation. All of Jesus pronouncements of the Temple’s destruction (Matt. 24:2/Mk. 13:2; Lk. 21:6, 20-24) must be viewed in this light, and not as a rejection or replacement of the Temple as a legitimate institution. In fact joined immediately to Jesus’ own pronouncement of the Temple’s desolation (Matt. 21:38) is His promise (in the word “until”) of Israel (and the Temple’s) restoration (Matt. 23:39). This and Jesus’ positive statements concerning the Temple elsewhere (Matt. 12: 4; 17:24-27; 23:16-21; Jn. 2:16-17) and especially in His Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14) hold out the prophetic promise that the history of the Temple would be continued in the future.” — Randall Price

Probably the best attempt to deal with the transition texts of Matthew 23:38-39 was made by Stanley Toussaint. He believes that Matthew 23:39 speaks against a first-century fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse because it holds out hope for a future conversion of the Jews as a nation. Since this has not happened, Toussaint argues, the events of Matthew 24 are yet unfulfilled. He agrees that the use of “your house” (23:38) refers to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, but “verse 39 describes Israel’s future repentance when they will mourn because of their great sin (Zech. 12:10).”1 Randall Price, as evidenced by the opening quotation, takes a similar view.

Given the grammar of the text, this distant futuristic interpretation is impossible. As R. T. France argues, the word “For, with which the verse begins, unambiguously links it with God’s abandonment of his house in v. 38.”2 The two events are linked in first-century time, not separated by nearly two millennia. If Matthew 23:38 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then so does what Jesus describes in verse 39 and following.

That Little Word “Until”

Part of the problem in understanding the relationship between verses 38 and 39 in Matthew 23 is in the way “until” is used. Price attaches a great deal of significance to “until” but fails to note its conditional character. France contends that “the words until you say are expressed in Greek as an indefinite possibility rather than as a firm prediction; this is the condition on which they will see him again; but there is no promise that the condition will be fulfilled.”3 The following verses demonstrate the conditional use of “until”:

“Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent” (Matt. 5:26).

“He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed” (Matt. 18:30).

“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him” (Matt. 18:34).

“And when it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under and oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12).

These verses show that results are not inevitable. Actions do not take place unless or until certain conditions are met. Until the person pays full restitution—“the last cent”—he will remain in prison. Toussaint and Price want to read Matthew 23:39 this way: “For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me, but one day a future generation of Jews will say ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

Jesus is describing what was necessary to escape the coming judgment that was to take place before that “perverse generation” passed away (Acts 2:40). Throughout the period between the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Jews cried out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” After hearing Peter’s Pentecost message, the Jews “were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (2:37). Peter told them that they must “repent” in order to “be saved from this perverse generation” (2:38, 40). Three thousand Jewish converts were added to the believing community “that day” (2:41). Luke records that “many of those who had heard the message [of Peter and John] believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (4:4). The restoration had begun in Jerusalem and extended throughout the Roman Empire prior to the destruction of the temple and city in A.D. 70.

No Corroborating Evidence

Toussaint and Price are willing to dismiss repeated references to an impending judgment by straining to find a single passage to bolster their argument that a pre-tribulational rapture, a rebuilt temple, and the reinstitution of Old Covenant Judaism during an earthly millennium remain to be fulfilled. A careful study of the New Testament dispels such notions.4 There are no verses in the New Testament that mention anything about a rebuilt temple and the reinstitution of the old covenant sacrificial system.


FOOTNOTES

1. Stanley D. Toussaint, “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse.”

2. R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 333.

3. France, The Gospel According to Matthew, 332.

4. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).



Date: 16 Mar 2005
Time: 08:46:56

Indefinite conditionality does not mean that Jesus did not expect that there would be a time in the futuure when the condition He required, based on Psalm 118, which would unite the testimony of the national leadership with that of the multitude at the “Triumphal Entry.” In like manner Jesus, citing Daniel 7:13 expected that at some time in the future that leadership that rejected Him would see the “Son of Man” coming on the clouds of heaven. From a preterist perspective this would not be indefinite but in A.D. 70. Paul explained the time the national leadership – and all of Israel – would fulfill the conditions He required – in Romans 11:25-27.