Split Decision: Olivet Stands United
By Daniel E. Harden
In my previous article, When is a Heretic not a Heretic, we investigated Kenneth Gentry’s double-talk, exposing his inconsistencies regarding the Parousia of Christ in 70 AD. In several of his articles, he clearly wants to distance himself from Preterists by indicating that while Christ did come in 70 AD, it was a metaphorical coming, and not a true coming. We has seen in the Olivet Discourse that there is no qualifications ever given to the apostles to indicate which coming was indicated. They are left up to their own devices to determine what Christ meant.
We also investigated the teachings of Christ in the Olivet Discourse to see if Dr. Gentry’s claims could be substantiated. What we found is that in essence he contradicts himself, insisting on a link to the OT sensational prophecies, yet failing to follow it through to its natural conclusion.
In this article, I intend to take a closer look at the nine points or ‘distinctions’ made by Dr. Gentry in his September, 1998 issue of Dispensationalism in Transition. He uses these arguments to force a split between Matt 24:35 and Matt 24:36, correctly placing the fulfillment of the first section (Matt 24:4-35) at 70 AD, but shifting the second section (Matt 24:35ff) to the distant future. We shall investigate these points one by one, and endeavor to determine if such a split is indicated in the Olivet Discourse. In addition, we shall draw on the material that touch on this in the August, 1998 and October, 1998 issues.
Note: While Dr. Gentry uses other terms to identify Preterism, it needs to be made clear that the only true Preterist is what some call Full Preterists, and that Partial Preterists aren’t truly Preterists at all, but Futurists with Preterist tendencies. So for the purposes of this article, when I refer to Preterism, I mean “Full Preterism”.
Here are a few of the comments by Dr. Gentry:
“I certainly agree that A.D. 70 is a pointer to the Second Advent. And I agree that the two events can be drawn into the same eschatological contexts.” [August, 1998]
“Bock and I agree that Matthew brings together the A.D. 70 catastrophe AND the Second Advent.” [September, 1999]
“The Lord brings the Second Advent and A.D. 70 together in his discourse, even though they are two distinct events. They are thematically RELATED even though they are not historically IDENTICAL.” [September, 1999]
“Contextual evidence suggests that Christ is distinguishing two different comings. One coming is his judgment upon Jerusalem to end the old covenant era (24:4-35; cp. Heb. 8:13; 10:24-25; 12:18ff). The other is his coming at the Second Advent in final judgment to end history (24:36ff). These two ‘comings’ are theologically related (one is a microcosmic expression of the other) while historically distinct.” [September, 1999]
This is sufficient to see what Dr. Gentry’s position is. What is insufficient here is why he holds this position. The closest he really gets to this is in appealing to church history—the church believes it so it must be so. I am reminded immediately, however, of this statement, given by Pastor David Curtis in a recent sermon:
|“Now someone is bound to be thinking, ‘Are you trying to tell us that for many centuries of Christian teaching the church has missed the true meaning of this passage?’ Yes, I am! You do consider yourself a protestant don’t you? Would you have discouraged Martin Luther or John Calvin in their attempt to reform the church?
|“Emperor Charles the V said of Luther at the diet of Worms, ‘A single friar who goes counter to all Christianity for 1,000 years must be wrong.’ The greatest conviction of the Reformation was the supremacy of an appeal to Scripture over against the tradition of the church. We must stand in the fundamental principle of the Reformation, ‘sola Scriptura’ — the Scriptures alone!” [June, 1999]|
As Luther realized, if an appeal is made to “what the Church has always believed” yet cannot be firmly substantiated Scripturally, then it MUST be thoroughly investigated. Dr. Gentry’s appeal to the Church rather than to Scripture forces him into a point where he MUST split Matt 24 down the middle. But is this warranted? So in light of Dr. Gentry’s statements above, the question is: Why? Where in the Gospels do we see Christ previously setting a precedent for intermingling or comparing two different comings? The fact is, it is not to be found on the pages of the Gospels. And yet Dr. Gentry would have us believe that the apostles would understand the shift here in Matt 24 when it is not something Christ has previously done?
It gets worse for Dr. Gentry. He states in his September, 1998 issue that “Luke’s concern is SOLELY with A.D. 70.” (emphasis in the original) He reiterates this by devoting his entire October, 1998 issue to the Lukan version of the Olivet Discourse, and showing why it is not split in any way. I applaud him for this, for I believe he is absolutely correct. But think about what he has just indicated. According to Dr. Gentry, Matthew writes of Christ dealing with both a coming at 70 AD and in the future, while Luke only writes of the coming in 70 AD. Remember, this is the same sermon. Why would Matthew, writing to the Jews, include both comings, while Luke, writing to the Gentiles, only include the coming on the Jews? Why wouldn’t Luke, addressing Gentiles, mention the end of the physical world, which would more directly affect them? Matthew, writing to the Jews, would naturally include the prediction of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. But if Christ referred also to a future coming, why didn’t Luke include it in his version? After all, if the coming at 70 AD was merely a metaphorical judgment-coming on Jerusalem, the Gentiles would most likely be less concerned with that than with the final coming of Christ, which would more directly affect them. And yet, according to Dr. Gentry, we have Matthew, writing to the Jews, include both comings, while Luke, writing to the Gentiles, include only the coming on the Jews, and not the coming on the Gentiles! Wouldn’t it be much more natural for the added material in Matthew be not because it was a different coming, but because it was the same coming? Since the Jews were the most directly affected physically, it would be required to give as much information and ramifications as possible to them. Therefore Matthew would naturally give them all the reassurances possible. And yet Dr. Gentry has the Olivet Discourse in Matthew split, giving the first-century Jews an immediate judgment and yet no immediate comfort!
DR. GENTRY’S NINE REASONS FOR DIVIDING MATTHEW 24
Let’s take a look at Dr. Gentry’s nine distinctions:
GENTRY’S FIRST ARGUMENT: “MATT 24:34 FUNCTIONS AS A CONCLUDING STATEMENT.”
Based on what? Matt 24:34 serves as a transitional statement perhaps, but hardly a concluding statement. In fact, doesn’t it make more sense to conjoin verses 34 and 36, rather than separate them? It will all happen within that generation. “This generation will not pass away…but of that day and hour no one knows.” The natural flow and understanding here is that Christ is telling them to watch. They can’t know the “day” but they can be assured it will happen in that generation. It seems rather strained to have a section dealing totally with the idea of “when”—verses 34ff—and have it split after the first two verses. It is much more natural that the section starting at verse 36 is nothing more nor less than a further clarification of the “when” question, and a call to the first-Century Christians to be prepared.
Indeed, Dr. Gentry calls verse 34 a crescendo. Why would Christ build to a crescendo, only to totally change the subject? The call to be alert in verses 34ff include the warning that they couldn’t know the exact day. There is no abrupt subject change right at the crescendo, but rather an exhortation, a response for the Christians.
In this section, Dr. Gentry makes the statement: “He presents a nicely demarcated delineation of the two events. When you read Matthew 24 up through verse 34 through 36, you cannot help but surmise that Jesus is closing down his prior prophecy as he picks up on his Second Advent prophecy.” From what does he draw this conclusion? There is no natural division here, no clear break. There is no indication by Christ that He is referring to a different Parousia. And this is vitally important. The disciples are clearly focused here on the beauty of the temple and its impending destruction. Christ has just described events (those days) that would lead up to His glorious Parousia (that day). There is a clear and natural flow here. If Christ’s intent were a sudden change of gears, I would expect a very clear delineation, which just doesn’t appear here. What’s more, since Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, I would expect him to be very clear as to what was pertaining to the coming destruction and what did not. We see no such clarification either by Christ or by Matthew.
GENTRY’S SECOND ARGUMENT: “THERE IS A CONTRAST BETWEEN WHAT IS NEAR IN MATT 24:34 (“THIS GENERATION”) AND WHAT IS FAR IN MATT 24:36 (“THAT DAY”).”
This argument is extremely weak, at best. Dr. Gentry’s contention is that since Christ uses <houtos> in Matt 24:34 but uses <ekeinos> in Matt 24:36, there must be a difference in thematic subject. But is this a true and logical deduction? Consider:
|Matt 25:46. “And these <houtos> will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”|
|Here is the appearance of the same Greek word in a similar form at the very end of the second section. The reference isn’t “those” will go away, but “these” will go away.|
|Matt 24:19. “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those <ekeinos> days!|
|Matt 24:22. “And unless those <ekeinos> days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those <ekeinos> days will be shortened.|
|Matt 24:29. “Immediately after the tribulation of those <ekeinos> days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”|
Notice that throughout the first section, the Greek word indicating “far” is used, despite referring to the destruction of Jerusalem.
If we are to recognize the grammatical uses in Matt 24:34 and 36, then we have to consider their uses throughout the entire section. So let us do just that.
When determining whether to use the near demonstrative (this, these) or the far demonstrative (that, those), both the context and the noun must be considered. In Matt 24:34, the near demonstrative is used because the noun in question is generation, and it is indeed the very generation to whom Christ is talking. Therefore, it is natural and proper to indicate nearness—it was to come upon “this generation”, the very generation Christ is addressing. Indeed, Dr. Gentry properly uses this to place the fulfillment of this section at the destruction of Jerusalem. How else should “this generation” be understood? But in verse 36, the far demonstrative is used because the “Day” in question is not the day on which Christ is speaking, but one that is as of yet nearly 40 years in the future. It would be only natural to indicate farness. Dr. Gentry contends that if the Day in question in verse 36 were the same as the culmination in verses 29-31, nearness would be indicated (this day). Yet despite Dr. Gentry’s objections, didn’t Christ refer to the days leading up to the Parousia in the first section as “those days”? And wouldn’t it be appropriate to refer to the culmination of “those days” of the signs to be “that day”, the Parousia described in verses 29-31? Absolutely. Dr. Gentry’s argument here falls flat, when the nouns attached to the descriptors are taken in consideration.
GENTRY’S THIRD ARGUMENT: “THE SYNTACTICAL STRUCTURE OF MATT 24:36 SUGGESTS A CHANGE OF SUBJECT.”
Dr. Gentry bases this on the Greek for “but concerning”, <peri de>. He makes this comment: “It does not provide additional insights to the preceding observations, but either contrasts with them or adds new material.” I would agree with this statement, to a point. I would urge him to check out the passages where this structure appears, however, for he will find that while new material may be added, it is always within the structure of the same theme. For example:
|Matt 22:28-32. “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning <peri de> the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”|
The theme, the subject in question does not change, but rather is clarified and added to. The resurrection in verse 31 is no different than the resurrection in verse 30. Later in Matthew we again find this is so:
|Matt 27:45-46. “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about <peri de> the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”|
Again, we see that the subject hasn’t changed. The phrase is merely used as a conjunction. It is true that the phrase <peri de> can introduce a new subject, as Dr. Gentry shows in 1 Cor. However it is not true that that simple phrase must introduce a new subject. It can be used merely to bring forth a related point or event. Notice in Matt 27:46, some translations render <peri de> as merely “and about”, rather than “but concerning”. This is in recognition of the fact that it need not represent a total change in theme or subject. Is there a change in subject matter in 1 Thes 5:1, for example? Are the “times and seasons” any different than the events Paul had just explained in the previous chapter, 1 Thes 4:13-18? Indeed, no. The same theme is still in focus, the coming Parousia of Christ.
It is insufficient for Dr. Gentry to show that it can be used to introduce a new theme. It is imperative for Dr. Gentry to show that it must be used this way. And this he cannot do. Context is important when determining how the phrase is used. And since we are talking about the same general idea in Matt 24:36 as we were in Matt 24:34-35, namely the idea of “when”, no theme change is warranted.
GENTRY’S FOURTH ARGUMENT: “THE SIGNS EVAPORATE AFTER VERSE 34.”
Again, a totally transparent argument by Dr. Gentry. His contention is that since the section before verse 34 contains signposts of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, but the section after it does not, then it must be a different subject. This is simply poor logic. There is no need to reiterate the signs in the latter part of the chapter. The first half of the chapter deals with signs leading up to the Parousia, and culminates in the Parousia itself. The last half deals then with the time factor and the call to be alert. Dr. Gentry’s split here is purely arbitrary, for nowhere in the first half does it say that man can know the hour or day of the 70 AD Parousia of Christ, it merely affirms that the signs would be clear enough. It would be enough to know that the end of the Old Covenant system was hand, without knowing the exact day of its destruction.
Likewise, nowhere in the second half does it say there wouldn’t be any signs. Dr. Gentry has read that into the text himself. It doesn’t say that there wouldn’t be any signs or evidence, it merely affirms that the suddenness of the unfolding events would catch those who were not alert unaware. Dr. Gentry gives six instances of surprise and ignorance, exhibiting them as “proof” that there has been a subject change, and that this “second” Parousia is unpredictable–Matt 24:39,42,43,44,50 and Matt 25:13. But a closer examination of these verses tells us the intent of these verses, that is, that it is necessary to be alert and aware, to be watchful for the previously-mentioned signs.
Matt 24:38-39 tells us that it was those with whom God did not find grace that were caught unaware. “And so it will be with the Parousia of the Son of Man.” The logical implication here is that those not of the True Kingdom would not recognize the signs and would thus go on as if nothing special is happening, and therefore be caught unaware. What Dr. Gentry doesn’t tell us is that those in communion with God did recognize the signs and were prepared. Not everybody perished in Noah’s day, only those who were apart from God and did not know what was coming. To properly equate Noah with the Parousia in a proper parallel, the Parousia mentioned in verse 39 must be an event in which the wicked would perish but the watchful would not, being warned and taking the proper precautions. This fits all too well with the destruction of Jerusalem.
In addition, why would Christ use the same phrase he had used just a few verses earlier, indicating His Parousia, without making any clear distinction that this was a different “Parousia” than the one just referred to? This word alone is sufficient to throw the context back to what was mentioned earlier in verses 29-31. Christ had just finished telling the disciples about His Parousia at the end of the age, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the disciples already had this uppermost on their minds. To then say shortly thereafter, “As in the days of Noah, so too will it be at the Parousia of the Son of Man” and mean a different Parousia would be totally misleading.
And the only other warning by Christ where He couples Noahic event with a Parousia (besides the parralel passages in Matt 24 and Matt 13) is in Luke 17. This is almost surely also a parallel, but in any event the language is the same:
|Luke 17: 26-27 “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”|
The intent again is the unpreparedness of the people in Noah’s day, and the similarity with the “days of the Son of Man”. Notice this clearly–Dr. Gentry firmly applies the warning here in Luke 17 to the destruction of Jerusalem! See the inconsistency? The language in Luke is the same as it is in Matthew. The destruction would come upon those who were watching for the signs. There can be no mistaking the intent of Luke 17:26-27 and Matt 24:38-39 are the same.
Matt 24:42 is a slightly different case. But it again shows Dr. Gentry’s inconsistency. The exhortation here is to “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” Dr, Gentry asserts that since the audience here doesn’t know the hour, this coming isn’t associated with signs. But that is simply not so. Why the call to “Watch”? What is there to watch, if there are no signs? The exhortation is clear. While the audience wouldn’t know the exact day, they could nonetheless watch it approaching, by the very means of the signs! This verse doesn’t demand a lack of signs, but the very opposite!
Matt 24:43-44 are nothing more than a further call to exhortation. Again, the assertion is the opposite of what Dr. Gentry asserts. In verse 34 Christ is exhorting the audience to not be like the owner of the house in verse 43, but to be ready. Were the first-Century Christians indeed ready? Yes.
Dr. Gentry also sites Matt 24:50, but this one is really detrimental to his case. For the whole parable here is the contrast between the faithful servant and the evil servant. The coming of the master did not surprise the faithful servant, but it did surprise the evil servant. Indeed, what is the purpose of this parable? The exhortation, again, is to not be like the evil servant, assuming the master’s coming will be delayed, and therefore not look for it. According to Dr. Gentry, this is a parable regarding an end-of-history coming. But 2000 years have passed since Christ gave this parable. Wouldn’t 2000 years constitute more than just a delay? Since the parable is about being watchful, yet the delay was some 50 generations long or more, why indeed should the evil servant worry? The coming referred to here cannot be some distant future coming, for that would play right into the hands of the evil servant. But rather, the delay was of only a short duration (Matt 24:48-51)—the Lord did not tarry for a long period of time (Heb 10:37) but came to those that eagerly awaited Him (Heb 9:28) in just a very little while (Heb 10:37). The fact that the evil servant was in error in his idea that the master would delay for a lengthy and indefinite period of time firmly places the fulfillment of this parable within the lifetime of the original audience. Christ was telling them to watch and be prepared! The evil servants are the apostate Old Covenant Jews who assumed that the system would continue along as it had for hundreds of years. The good servants were the New Covenant Christians who knew that the master was about to come and exact judgment.
Lastly, Dr. Gentry appeals to Matt 25:13. But again, the whole parable is an exhortation to the first-century audience to be prepared for what is about to come. Don’t be a “foolish virgin” and be unprepared. In fact, I would say the whole parable goes further, likening the foolish virgins to the apostate, Old Covenant Jews while likening the wise virgins to the New Covenant Christians. In any case, once again, Matt 25:13 gives the exhortation to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Again, as in Matt 24:42, what is there to watch if there are no signs? The affirmation here is that since you do not know the hour or day of the Parousia, you must watch for the signs that it is imminent.
So what we find is that in the section beginning with Dr. Gentry’s division verse, Matt 24:36, the signs don’t evaporate at all, but are affirmed. Didn’t Paul also teach of signs before the Parousia?
|2 Thes 2: 1-4 “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”|
The falling away and the man of sin were just two more signs that the first century Christians were to watch for. This passage must be referring to the Parousia of Christ at 70 AD, for how would some have assumed any alleged end-of-history Parousia had already happened?
Dr. Gentry makes one other statement in the September, 1998 issue that actually is at odds with this argument. Speaking of the split between these sections, he says:
|“These two ‘comings’ are theologically related (one is a microcosmic expression of the other) while historically distinct.”|
But if these are two different “comings”, and if the first is merely a “microcosm” of the second, then the second must also be accompanied by signs! This is a more important point than Dr. Gentry may have intended. For if we assume that there is another Parousia beyond 70 AD, and that the Parousia of Christ at 70 AD is but a microcosm of this later Parousia, then the correlation must be strong. But we find Dr. Gentry actually arguing for a later Parousia not based on similarities, but on differences, thereby destroying his own assumption! The first is hyperbolic, the second literal; the first comes with signs, the second does not; the first is amidst turbulent times, the second is amidst tranquil times; etc. Dr. Gentry spends so much effort destroying this microcosmic relationship that he unravels it altogether, being unable to show any relationship at all. But if we look at the Olivet Discourse as a whole, without trying to split it, then the flow is much more natural and not forced at all. One Parousia, one coming with angels, one coming with the kingdom, but shown in terms of what must be looked for (the signs) and what will happen to those that don’t watch (the parables).
GENTRY’S FIFTH ARGUMENT: “CHRIST HIMSELF DOESN’T KNOW THE TIME OF HIS SECOND ADVENT.”
Dr. Gentry writes:
|“This total ignorance of Jesus on this point is wholly out of accord with his earlier presentation… In the earlier section prior to verse 36, Jesus clearly knows the time of the A.D. 70 judgment, for he tells his disciples that certain signs may come but “the end is not yet” (v. 6). How could he know “the end” (of the Temple, Matt. 23:38; 24:1-2) was “not yet” if the time was unknowable?”|
It should be clear the fallacy of Dr. Gentry’s logic. What was unknowable was the exact date and time. That does not render the entire idea of when unknowable. Christ is merely asserting in this chapter that He knows these events are coming on that generation, and what the signs will be. It is not hard at all to see that Christ could predict that the signs would come but that the “end” was still coming. He knew what the signs would be, and that it would culminate in His Parousia. He knew that it would all take place in that generation. He merely didn’t know the exact date of the Parousia. He could know that “the end is not yet” because He knew what the end was, and He knew the signs that would come before the end. Therefore he could tell the disciples that the end was not yet, for He knew that the signs were not the end in itself, but merely a foreshadowing. Therefore, to answer Dr. Gentry, He could firmly assert that the signs were not the end itself, and even assert that it would all befall that generation, without knowing the exact day of His Parousia. Christ could know that the end was not yet, precisely because he knew what the end was (the Parousia and the destruction of Jerusalem) and what it wasn’t (the signs that come before the end). It doesn’t require knowledge of the precise date to make this assertion.
GENTRY’S SIXTH ARGUMENT: “THE TIME FRAME OF THE FIRST SECTION IS SHORT, WHILE THE TIME FRAME OF THE SECOND SECTION IS LONG.”
Dr. Gentry bases this argument on this breakdown and observation:
|Matt 23:31-38 Judgment to befall the first-century Pharisees|
|Matt 24:34 This generation is the first-century Jews|
|Matt 24:48 The master is delayed|
|Matt 25:5 The bridegroom is delayed|
|Matt 25:19 After a long time the lord of those servants came|
While the arguments for the shortness of time in the first section are solid, the arguments for the delay in the second section are far less. To begin with, in all three verses Dr. Gentry quotes, doesn’t the master/bridegroom/lord return within the normal lifetime of THAT servant/virgin? There is absolutely no logical reason to distance the one section from the other. In fact, the fact that Christ indicates it will be within that generation, yet not until after the signs, is in itself reason enough to speak of a delay. The two (first-century, delay) are far from mutually exclusive!
Second, within each section that mentions a delay, the thrust of the parable is not the delay itself, but a diligence to be ready and be watchful. Audience relevance! Since He just warned the first-century Christians of the imminent destruction, and told them it would be in that generation, it is only natural to follow that up with a call to watch for those signs, and not to grow lazy by the delay.
The flow is simple: When will it be? There will be signs, but that isn’t yet the time. Finally, by the end of the present generation, will come the end. So watch for the signs, despite the short delay, because He is coming! The section following Matt 24:34 is merely that, a firm exhortation to watch in light of what is coming as spelled out up to that. No different “coming” of Christ is differentiated.
It was quite in keeping with Christ’s teaching to give parables on the subject in question. In this case, as He often does, He follows the facts with the parables. It would be poor hermeneutics indeed to assume the parables following the prophecy that was critical to the disciples deals with a new subject at all!
One further point on the parable of the good and evil servants that links the two sections—notice the last verses of Matt 24:
|Matt 24: 50-51 “the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”|
The evil servant is given the judgment of and equated with the hypocrites, which Dr. Gentry firmly and appropriately places in the first section, the judgment on the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem. The hypocrites are the first-century Pharisees (Matt 23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”—see especially verses 27-28) and their judgment came with the destruction of Jerusalem at 70 AD. The judgment in Matt 24:51 is equated with theirs, to such an extent as to be unmistakable to the point of equating the evil servants with the Pharisees! (Weren’t they indeed a “brood of vipers”? Matt 23:33) In addition, the term “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is reserved by Christ for the judgment at the end of the age for the Pharisees and sons of the Old Covenant kingdom that reject Christ.
|Matt 8: 10-12 “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”|
|Matt 13: 40-42 “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”|
|Matt 13: 49-50 “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”|
|Matt 22: 7-13 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, `The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. `Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, `Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, `Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”|
The only other two places in Matthew’s gospel that the phrase is used is in the Olivet Discourse, in Dr. Gentry’s “second half”, are in Matt 24:51 and:
|Matt 25: 30-31 “`And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”|
Dr. Gentry correctly places the “Son of Man coming in glory with his angels” in Matt 16:27-28 and Matt 24:29-31 at the destruction of Jerusalem, and places all other references to the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” there as well. Why suddenly assign their usage here to some supposed distant event? Dr. Gentry says the two events are thematically related. Doesn’t it appear more likely that this is an arbitrary split, when in fact they are not just related, but identical?
GENTRY’S SEVENTH ARGUMENT: “THE DIFFERENT SECTIONS HAVE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS.”
First, it is quite clear that the signs of the first section would not be apparent to everybody. The call to watch for the signs were specifically for the saints. They were the ones that were to prepare to flee. (verse 15). And isn’t this exactly the way it happened? By and large the nation ignored the signs that Christ had foretold. The Christian community, however, saw it for what it was and escaped to Pella. Peter, in talking about these same “last days” of the first century, says:
|2 Pet 3: 3-4 “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”|
Those not specifically looking for the signs ignored them. In fact, the Jews’ eyes were deliberately closed by God:
|Acts 28: 25-27 “So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, `Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the heart of this people has grown dull. their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.” ‘|
For the apostate Jews, it was a time of relative peace right up until the war broke out in 66 AD. Then, having missed the import of the beginning of the skirmish and missing the time to flee, it was too late.
|Luke 17: 23-37 “And they will say to you, `Look here!’ or `Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”|
This section of Luke certainly speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as the indicators of verses 23-24 echo Matt 24:26-27, verse 25 specifically speaks of that generation, and verse 37 echoes Matt 24:28. But notice that the tranquillity and suddenness of the intermediate verses are nearly identical to Matt 24:38-41! Of special notice is verses 26-28, which refers to Noah in nearly identical language as Matt 24:36-38. So if Dr. Gentry can accept the Noahic correlation in Luke 17 with the Parousia of Christ at 70 AD, he must therefore concede that this character of tranquillity did in fact have a clear relationship with the apostate Jews of that day. And in doing so, it becomes clear that what is applied in Luke 17 to the apostate Jews of the first century should also be similarly applied in Matt 24:38-39, and followed through verse 41.
GENTRY’S EIGHTH ARGUMENT: “THE OPPORTUNITY FOR FLIGHT EXISTS IN THE FIRST SECTION BUT NOT IN THE SECOND SECTION.”
This point really is so similar to the previous point that the same argument can be used to refute it. The fact that there is no opportunity for flight mentioned in the second section does not prove that none existed. As we have pointed out, the intent of the first section is for the watchful saint (the good servant) while the intent of the second section is to point out what will happen to those that are not watchful (the evil servant). Christ gives the apostles the signs so that they will know when to flee. Those not in communion with the Christians, on the other hand, would assume that all was as it had been for years, and wouldn’t know there was a real danger of destruction to their city and temple until it was too late. And despite Dr. Gentry’s contention, the language in Luke 17, which is clearly referring to the destruction of Jerusalem at 70 AD, is nearly identical, including the suddenness of the event to those not watching. In fact, in an attempt to support his claim, Dr. Gentry specifically quotes Matt 24:16-20, showing the opportunity to flee in the first section, and Matt 24:40-41, showing the tranquillity in the second section.
But what he neglects to say is that these ideas are shown side by side in Luke 17, and both refer to the destruction of Jerusalem!
|Matt 24: 16-20 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.”|
|Matt 24: 38-41 “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”|
|Luke 17: 26-36 “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”|
Notice clearly how the tranquillity of Noah in Luke 17:26-27 (which is the same language as Matt 24:38-39) is closely followed by the tranquillity of Lot, but is then followed by the warning to flee in Luke 17:31 (which is the same language as Matt 24:17-18) and is then again followed by the tranquillity of the women grinding and the men in the field in Luke 17:35-36 (which is the same language as Matt 24:40-41).
In reference to the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, the two characteristics that Dr. Gentry uses to divide Matt 24 occur not only side by side but interspersed as well! There is no contention in Luke 17 that Christ bounces back and forth like a yo-yo between two comings, and every indication that He is referring to nothing other than His Parousia at 70 AD. And since the language is nearly identical in Matt 24, any argument that attempts to separate Matt 24:4-35 from Matt 36ff is invalid. In fact, if Dr. Gentry admits that Luke 17 speaks only of 70 AD, then he must therefore concede once again that the character of tranquillity was also existent in Christ’s warnings concerning the destruction of Jerusalem!
Notice also that Dr. Gentry conveniently stops at verse 41 in Matt 24. But notice the first three words in the very next verse, Matt 24:42 – “Therefore, keep watch”! IF there were no opportunity for flight, and IF there were no signs, then this exhortation would be totally useless. But Christ actually spends a lot of time in this section exhorting the apostles to be watchful. (Matt 25:1-30)
GENTRY’S NINTH ARGUMENT: “THE FIRST SECTION DEALS WITH “DAYS” (PLURAL) WHILE THE SECOND SECTION ONLY DEALS WITH A “DAY” (SINGULAR).”
This is perhaps Dr. Gentry’s most inconsistent argument, if any can truly be labeled as such! I dealt with this largely in my previous article, but it bears repeating here. Consider first these quotes from the August 1998 issue by Dr. Gentry:
|“Jesus’s prophetic language in the Olivet Discourse is patterned after Old Testament prophecies of the historical fall of Jerusalem to Assyria and Babylonia.”|
|“My point, rather, is that the apocalyptic judgment language of the Old Testament prophets serves as a pattern for Jesus’s prophecy of Israel’s HISTORICAL judgment in A.D. 70, rather than of a FUTURE universal judgment; it therefore is figurative not literal.”|
|“Just as we may look to Old Testament judgments on various ancient peoples (Egypt, Edom, Assyria, Babylon) as the backdrop of the New Testament fall of Jerusalem, so may we expect that same pattern continued in the world-concluding events associated with the Second Advent. And what is unreasonable about this?”|
Dr. Gentry concedes readily that the Olivet Discourse is of the same pattern and type as the Old Testament prophecies, which often included apocalyptic cosmic imagery as its apocalyptic judgment language. (‘Apocalyptic Cosmic Imagery ’ – The pictorial usage of heavenly objects in Biblical prophecy to indicate the cataclysmic state of national governments, leaders or prominent persons as a result of a major covenantal event. This includes the rising and falling of the sun, the moon, and the stars. One of the earliest [and simplest] examples can be found in Gen 37:9 and its fulfillment in Gen 42:6-9, when Joseph dreamed about his star ascending above his brothers’ stars. Isaiah’s prophecies use this technique more than any other prophet, but it is used throughout the Old Testament.)
Where Dr. Gentry is inconsistent is that often in these OT passages, the “days” culminated in a single day—the Day of the Lord!
|Is 13: 6-10 “Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; they will be amazed at one another; their faces will be like flames. Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.”|
This passage speaks of a “day”! As does this one:
|Amos 8: 9. “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord God, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight;”|
But most pointed of all is this one:
|Joel 3: 1-2 “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.”|
|Joel 3: 15-18 “The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again. And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; a fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Acacias.”|
Notice that the “days” ends with the “day”. That is the pattern of the Old Testament prophecies. Dr. Gentry cannot adhere to the pattern of the OT prophecies and selectively ignore a crucial part of the pattern!
Notice what Dr. Gentry also says on this point: “In verse 37 ‘days’ are mentioned, but this refers back to Noah’s time, not to that future time.” He includes this as a parenthetical statement, and yet it should be obvious how it destroys his own argument:
|Matt 24: 38-39 “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”|
In this very passage, the same pattern is followed! The “days before the flood” culminated on “that day that Noah entered the Ark”. The “day” is not disassociated from the “days”, but is the natural conclusion of the “days”! For it naturally follows that if a group of “days” were to come to a cataclysmic end, it would happen on the final “day” of those “days”?
And once again, Luke 17 can be used to show that that “day” included both the end of tranquillity (verses 27, 29, and 34-36) and the time for the watchful to flee (verse 31).
What we clearly see is that for Dr. Gentry to be consistent with his adherence to the OT prophecies, he must concede that the ‘coming days’ ended with the ‘Day of the Lord”.
No Division In Matthew 24.
Dr. Gentry affirms that Matt 24:4-35 clearly deals with the first-century events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem. Let us look, then at several of Gentry’s own words:
|“Jesus’s prophetic language in the Olivet Discourse is patterned after Old Testament prophecies of the historical fall of Jerusalem to Assyria and Babylonia.” [Aug., 1998]|
|“Last DAYS must precede the last DAY; and the last days begin in the first century with Christ, the divider of history.” [Aug., 1998]|
And by Dr. Gentry’s own admission, the “last days” in the Old Testament prophecies precedes the “last day” not by millennia, but very closely indeed. Dr. Gentry also says:
|How in the world could Matthew omit Jesus’s prophecy regarding the destruction of THAT temple (Matt. 23:38-24:1) in light of the DIRECT question from the disciples (Matt. 24:2-3) given the HISTORICAL CONTEXT of Jesus (approaching the end of his ministry and his final rejection by the Jews, Matt. 27:11-25) and the TOPICAL DRIFT of Matthew (cf. Matt. 23-24 relationship)?|
Can you see the real significance of this admission? Do you follow the logical argument that Gentry has given? He is telling us that Christ’s teachings in Matthew, based on “the HISTORICAL CONTEXT” as well as and “the TOPICAL DRIFT”, are specifically dealing with “the destruction of THAT temple”! This is crucial! Matthew’s gospel deals contextually AND topically with His Parousia in the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Absolutely! In every single Parousia reference prior to this in Matthew, Dr. Gentry holds true to this topic. He also correctly stresses, over and over again, the prophetic pattern that Christ is using in Matt 24.
How can Dr. Gentry then conclude that verse 36 represents a mid-stream shift in topic, which blatantly goes against both the Old Testament patterns AND the historical context and topical drift of the entire section and the entire book? Indeed, the entire thrust of Dr. Gentry’s arguments for an interpretation of the first section as dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem speaks volumes against the interpretation of the second section as dealing with any other topic as well!
As we have seen, Luke 17 and Luke 21 speak clearly about the destruction of Jerusalem in language consistent with both sections of the Olivet Discourse.
This speaks volumes in understanding Matt 24:36ff as not a new topic, but a further clarification by Christ to the disciples about the conditions surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem, and its import. The natural flow of the teaching of Christ in Matt 24 is one of unity, that the same topic is dealt with throughout. There is no clear delineation, as stated by Dr. Gentry, between Matt 24:35 and Matt 24:36. Is there any reason at all to assume that the ‘Parousia’ referred to by Christ in verses 37 and 39 is any different than just a few verses earlier in verse 27? The apostles are raptly listening to Christ’s prophecies regarding His Parousia surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem, and the reference to “Parousia” in verses 37 and 39 would be identified clearly by the apostles as this same Parousia. It is contextually consistent to identify them as the same Parousia, and totally arbitrary to assume that a different Parousia is being discussed. And in light of the constant warning by Christ for them to be watchful, it seems that the most natural rendering would be in keeping with the entire topical flow of the destruction of Jerusalem. There is no clear division or even pause by Christ, indicating a change in topic. Any midstream shift assigned by Dr. Gentry is wholly forced, and must be read into the text. Taken as a whole message, the Olivet Discourse stands as a unit. Dr. Gentry’s arbitrary split reminds us of the similar gymnastics that Dispensationalists use in such passages as Daniel 11 (between verses 35 and 36) and Revelation. In fact, the Dispensationalists and Dr. Gentry are both guilty of a topical shift in the section of Matt 23-25. Dr. Gentry simply moves the arbitrary line a little further along.
A sound, hermeneutical reading of the text, however, indicates a steady flow of teaching on one subject and one subject only. Christ makes no clear division at Matt 24:36, nor does He differentiate or indicate in the least that the Parousia in verses 37 and 39 is in any way different than the Parousia that the disciples asked about in verse 3, and that Christ already mentioned in verse 27. Dr. Gentry often appeals to the original question the disciples asked to interpret the answer Christ was giving as referring to the Parousia at 70 AD. The disciples specifically asked about His Parousia (singular) in verse 3. There is absolutely no reason to inject any other Parousia than the one that specifically answers the disciples’ question. In addition, in the absence of any clear differentiation by Christ that a different Parousia is now being discussed, it is absolutely essential to sound hermeneutics to equate the Parousia in the later part of the chapter with that in the verse 3. The reference is always to the Parousia without differentiation. There is not a Parousia here and a Parousia there, but only THE Parousia. This indicates that there is only one Parousia talked about not only here in Matt 24, but throughout Christ’s teaching. And that was the Parousia at the destruction of Jerusalem at 70 AD.
Dr. Gentry wrote:
|“I do not have any unyielding theological commitments against applying the entire Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25 to A.D. 70. If these chapters apply only to A.D. 70, so be it!” [Sept., 1999]|
Therefore, so be it!
What do YOU think ?