Jonathan Welton: Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy Is About Jesus, Not An Antichrist


(Note: This post includes a full-scale teaching illustration below the following introduction.)

The last quarter of the 20th century featured many prophecy charts, based on dispensationalism, depicting a future “Rapture,” 7-year tribulation, Antichrist, series of seal/trumpet/bowl judgments, Battle of Armageddon, etc. When I was younger, I saw a few of these charts in person, and a number of others when I watched “A Thief In the Night” (1972), “A Distant Thunder” (1977) and “Image of the Beast” (1981); all available here.

Charts and illustrations can be good teaching aids. Based on my study of church history, however, the vast majority of respected leaders in the first 1800 (or so) years after Christ would have been horrified to see a lot of these (dispensationalist-based) charts. As my personal journey has taken me away from the pre-trib Rapture/premillennialist view I grew up with, and toward fulfilled eschatology, I’m glad to see that new charts, illustrations, and similar tools are being created which are a lot more sound and Biblical (in my opinion). In a couple of previous posts, I’ve highlighted two such illustrations by author Jonathan Welton, one on Daniel 2 and the kingdom of God and another on John’s use of “ge” (land) versus “kosmos” (world) in the book of Revelation.

Welton’s newest illustration concerns the 70 Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9. Seeing this prophecy differently was a major turning point in my own journey. Previously I was led to believe that Daniel saw a future Antichrist who would make a 7-year political covenant with Israel, then break it 3.5 years later, before presiding over another 3.5 years of planet-wide turmoil and catastrophes. This was to be the 7-year tribulation period. The text (Daniel 9:24-27) says none of these things. I can’t forget how stunned I was when it was pointed out to me, online, that the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is parallel to Jesus’ words on the night He was betrayed by Judas:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering…” (Daniel 9:27).

For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Each “week” in Daniel’s prophecy represents a period of seven years. We also know that Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice after 3.5 years of ministry (“…in the middle of the week…”), and that His sacrifice brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings under the old covenant. There went the idea that sacrifices must be restored in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in our future. There also went the only Scriptural basis (so I thought) for a 7-year tribulation period. Jonathan Welton does a great job bringing this and more out in his latest illustration:

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Maurice Perry: The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant


One of my Facebook friends, Maurice Perry, has also been blogging for the last three months. Maurice believes that the book of Revelation is about the Biblical covenants, and the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. I believe the same (see “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation”).

His article on this subject, “The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant,” makes some great points about the judgments in the book of Revelation being covenantal, and fulfilling Jesus’ words (e.g. Matthew 23:29-38) against the rulers of the old covenant age:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothingBut we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:6-8).

Maurice also makes some great points about the main opposition to the church during the generation (roughly 30 AD – 70 AD) when the covenant periods were in transition. That opposition was the bondage of the old covenant and those who sought to impose it upon the new covenant community (Jesus’ followers). This particular opposing force was dealt a huge blow when the Jerusalem temple, the center of old covenant worship and ceremonies, was taken out of the way. I’ve highlighted some of these points in red, below. I’m still mulling over the topics of Satan and the lake of fire, which Maurice also brought up in this article. As always, your thoughts are welcome on these things:

Revelation is all about covenant. It’s a covenantal book. When you look at it that way, things become more simplistic. There were two covenants. One, old. One, new. One (the old) was preparing to vanish away, or be demolished (Hebrews 8:13), while the other (the new) was already in existence because men and women were pressing into it even during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matt. 11:12, Luke 16:16)…

Revelation, a letter written to 7 churches to SIGNIFY to them things which would shortly come to pass (Rev. 1:1), is virtually entirely written in signs, symbols, metaphors and figurative language. If you read the book with a literal narrative, you will miss the entire meaning and focus.

The Focus?

The revealing of Jesus Christ as Messiah – judgment for the ones that had pierced him (Rev. 1:7) – salvation and deliverance for those 1st century saints that were being persecuted. Covenantally, it was judgment being released on those that killed the apostles and prophets (servants of God). This scenario is played out over, and over, and over and over again throughout Revelation using different imagery, symbols and idiomatic language each time the scenario is retold.

That being said, the majority of stuff in the letter cannot be taken literal. This includes hard things to be understood like “1000 years”, Satan being bound, and the Lake of Fire.

Long story short, Satan being bound for a “1000 years” is in reference to the time in which the gospel went forth relatively unhindered. This would be the gospel of the New Covenant. Remember, it’s all about covenant.

Satan was “loosed for a little while”, and this SIGNIFIED the time when the 1st century saints (who were preaching the gospel of the N.C.) were being persecuted, killed, imprisoned, etc – just as Jesus had previously told them (Matt. 24:9, Mark 13:9, Luke 21:12).

Satan’s main objective was to stop the spreading of the N.C by making the Hebrew Christians trip up and fall away and back into bondage, via the old covenant.

Luke 8:13
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

Hebrews 3:12
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

It was Judaism, or the temple worship, and the pressure of the unbelieving Judaizers that caused many to fall away from the faith (in Jesus) and back into Judaism (bondage under the law). Thus, Jesus’ question-

Luke 18:8
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

So, what better way to put an end to [competition against] the New Covenant?

DESTROY the infrastructure of the Old Covenant. That would be the temple!

EVERYTHING in Jerusalem revolved around the temple – worship, politics, economics/commerce (thus, Jesus driving the money changers out!), etc…

When the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the entire economy and way of life for the Jews was destroyed, and when it was destroyed, the main oppressor, or competition [against] the New Covenant was destroyed also (the Old Covenant had then vanished away).

Satan (which means adversary), who opposed God EVERY step of the way, from Genesis to Revelation, could not stop the ultimate plan of redemption for the entire world – the gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ. His last ditch effort to stop the spread of the gospel was with the persecuting of the saints (Rev. 12 – “chasing after the woman”, then “chasing after the woman’s seed”) through the unbelieving Judaizers. He (Satan) failed miserably!

Him (Satan) being thrown into the Lake of Fire is symbolic of his eternal covenantal judgment, and also symbolizes that he can no longer hinder the progression of the gospel of the kingdom, world without end (Eph. 3:21)

New heavens and New earth is spiritual and covenantal. Lake of Fire is spiritual and covenantal. Those that accept Jesus and the New Covenant enter into New heavens and New earth (which 1st century saints began entering – Hebrews 12:22), and those that reject Jesus and the New Covenant enter into the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, which is representative of being cut off from communion with the Father forever.

Satan, being in the Lake of Fire, cannot plead His case with God. Unbelievers who enter the Lake of Fire will not be able to plead their cases. It’s covenantal judgment.

Satan, and demons HAVE NOT been annihilated. They still roam around the world. Thus, the continued need for deliverance ministry and salvation. But they are forever outside of the kingdom, or City of God.

The gates of the city are continuously open for those that are made righteous in Christ, but closed to those that are unbelievers:

Revelation 22:14-15
14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

We see in Rev. 21:8 that the same people of Rev. 22:15 are said to experience the 2nd death:

Revelation 21:8
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

So, being in the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, is synonymous with being left outside of the gates of the city, which is a spiritual city, New Jerusalem, heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the city of God, the general assembly, the CHURCH of the first born! (Hebrews 12:22)

THE CHURCH IS NEW JERUSALEM!!! The kingdom is an everlasting kingdom… the church is an everlasting church!!!

Ephesians 3:21
Unto him be glory IN THE CHURCH by Christ Jesus THROUGHOUT ALL AGES, WORLD WITHOUT END. Amen.

Maurice Perry and his wife, Ericka, live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with their three daughters. In February 2014, Maurice published his first book, “Restoring Sanity in the Western Church.

Wade Burleson: Four Blood Moons – It’s Called Lunacy for a Reason


Lunacy - Def. “originally referring to temporary insanity attributed to changes of the moon.” Cf. Old English “lunatic,” literally moon-sick.”    -Wade Burleson

I’ve read a couple of articles, but no books, on one of the latest fads to invade the world of Evangelical Christianity – the “four blood moons” of 2014-2015. My understanding is that this phenomenon was first highlighted by Mark Biltz, a Hebrew roots proponent and pastor of El Shaddai Ministries in Tacoma, Washington. He wrote a book in 2008 called “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs.” More recently, in 2013, John Hagee published his book on the topic, “Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change.”

Wade Burleson, a pastor and author in Enid, Oklahoma, wrote a review in March 2014 of Hagee’s book. I appreciate a lot of his thoughts (not 100%, but close), and believe that his article is informative and thought-provoking, so I’d like to share it here:

…Mr. Hagee’s newest book Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change makes a case that the author may be suffering from a form of temporary insanity.  Christians who believe what John Hagee is proposing without thinking for themselves, could find themselves afflicted with the same disease.

Mr. Hagee believes that something terrible, but ultimately triumphant, is about to happen to the nation of Israel due to the four total lunar eclipses that will occur in the northern hemisphere during 2014 and 2015.  These four eclipses, called by astronomers a tetrad, occur on April 15, 2014, which is Jewish Passover; on October 8, 2014, which is the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles; on April 4, 2015, which is (again) Jewish Passover; and on September 28, 2015 which is (again) the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles. 

Contrary to what Hagee would have the reader believe, lunar eclipses aren’t that special. There are at least two to five lunar eclipses every year. Likewise, lunar tetrads (total lunar eclipses that occur six months apart, with no partial lunar eclipses in between) also occur frequently. There have been 62 tetrads since Christ. The last one was in 2003 and 2004, and there will be a total of 8 lunar tetrads in this century (2001 to 2100). 

Hagee writes that what is rare is that this lunar tetrad is occurring on Jewish holy days. Well, maybe. Since the times of Christ, there have been eight tetrads that have occurred on Jewish Passover and the Festival of TabernaclesThink about this for a moment though. If the first total lunar eclipse of a tetrad happens to occur on Passover (15 Nissan on the Hebrew calendar), it is guaranteed that the second total lunar eclipse will occur the Festival of Tabernacles (15 Tishri on the Hebrew calendar) because the Hebrew calendar is lunar, and the Festival of Tabernacles is exactly six lunar months after the Festival of Passover.  So it is also guaranteed that the third and fourth lunar eclipses of a tetrad will occur on those same Hebrew festival daysthe following year.  Again, the lunar tetrad falling on Hebrew holidays is not as rare as Hagee would like you to believe. Here are the eight that have occurred since Christ. 

1. AD 162-163 
2. AD 795-796 
3. AD 842-843 
4. AD 860-861 
5. AD 1493-1494 
6. AD 1949-1950 
7. AD 1967-1968 
8. AD 2014-2015 

Hagee writes that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish feast days something traumatic  and ‘world-changing’ happens to Israel. He gives three examples. First, in 1492 Spain expelled the Jews and Christopher Columbus discovered America, giving the Jews a place to go. Second, in 1948 Israel became a nation again. And third, in 1967 Israel won the Six Day War and captured Jerusalem. In a moment I will absolutely destroy Hagee’s conclusion about “traumatic things” happening to the Jews and the nation of Israel every time a lunar tetrad occurs on Hebrew holy days. For now, just think about this: Israel wasn’t even a nation the first six times a lunar tetrad occurred. 

Yet, Hagee concludes that something traumatic, but ultimately triumphant, is going to happen to Israel during 2014 and 2015, an event that ‘will change the course of world history.’ More to the point, Hagee believes the “rapture” will occur, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus Christ will return to earth because the prophet Joel said,

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31).

Now, while being kind to Mr. Hagee as a brother in Christ, and writing as one who also believes in the full inspiration of Scripture, I would like to show you why the premise of Hagee’s book is speculative at best, and pure lunacy at worst.

7 Reasons Why the Premise of John Hagee’s Four Blood Moons  Is Potential Lunacy

(1). Anytime Jewish literature describes the fall of a government or nation, apocalyptic language is used. This highly symbolic manner of writing, with language like, “the sun was darkened, the moon would not give her light, and the stars shall fall,” is the way the Hebrew prophets described how God would come in judgment upon a nation. The Old Testament refers to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC (Isaiah 13:10-13) in this manner. Likewise, Egypt’s collapse in 590 BC (Ezekiel 32:7-8) and Judah’s fall in 586 BC (Zephaniah 1:14-16) are described with this stellar apocalyptic language. The sun going dark and the moon turning to blood is biblical symbolic language describing the fall of a nation by the judgment of God, not literal astronomy. 

(2). John Hagee falsely calls the lunar tetrad occurring in 2014 and 2015 four blood moons. These four lunar eclipses are not blood moons at all! They are simply full moons that are eclipsed! Hagee wrongly calls them “blood moons” in order to bring Joel 2:31 into play and act as if Jesus is coming as Messiah over Israel after “the moon turns to blood.” Astronomers who hear Christians call the next four lunar eclipses “Blood Moons” will rightly think we are ignorant of astronomy. Truth be told, we are mostly ignorant of the Bible.

(3). When the prophet Joel wrote “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31), he was describing the judgment of God upon the nation of Israel for their rejection of His Son. National judgment on any people in rebellion to God is often described as “the dreadful day of the Lord.” Joel’s prophecy, referred to by Luke in Acts 2:20, was a prediction of the “great day of the Lord” against Israel, the day when God judged the nation by destroying Jerusalem, the Jewish Temple and scattered the people (AD 70). God brought to an end the Old Covenant, formally ushered in the New Covenant (agreement) where people of every nation, race, family and language group find peace with God through faith in the person and work of His Son. Listen to the great Hebrew linguist and Baptist theologian John Gill commentary on Acts 2:20 and Joel’s prophecy:

“The sun shall be turned into darkness”… as at the death of Christ, by a total eclipse of it: “and the moon into blood,” as at the opening of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12) “before that great and notable day of the Lord come”: when he shall come in power and great glory, as God did a few years after this (AD 70), to take vengeance on the Jews, and destroy their nation, city, and temple; in which there was a display of his greatness, and power, and which was awful and terrible to them, as in Joel it is called “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (see Gill’s note on Matthew 24:29 also).

(4). Hagee attempts to prove that every time a tetrad occurs on Jewish holy days, something happens to the Jews and Israel. That’s simply not true for a couple of reasons. First, the Jews were scattered for nineteen centuries and Israel did not exist as a nation. NOTHING happened to the Jews or the nation of Israel during the years of the first six tetrads. Hagee tries to suggest that Spain “expelled the Jews” in 1492 and that was this was a ‘traumatic and terrible’ event. However, astronomers tell us that the actual tetrad occurred on Passover and Tabernacles in 1493 and 1494, not 1492. The Jews were expelled from Spain a full eighteen months before the first lunar eclipse of 1493/1494 tetrad even began. Second, there are only two tetrads that fall on Jewish holy days during Israel’s time as a nation (since 1948). Interestingly, Hagee makes the same dating mistake when he speaks of Israel’s “traumatic” war for independence. Israel was declared a nation and went to war in 1948, not during the lunar tetrad of 1949/1950. Hagee’s error of misstating the actual date of astronomical tetrads seems intentional. He must misstate the dates of previous tetrads in order to convince readers that his prophecies in Four Blood Moons are reliable. However, fudging facts to prove an argument is not scientific or ethical. 


(5). One of my favorite Bible series at Emmanuel was “Portraits of Christ: The Feasts and the Festivals of Israel.” I know enough about Jewish calendaring and the holy days of Old Covenant Israel to know that the priests watched the moon from the mountains of Israel to declare new moons (months), holy days, and other events by blowing the shofars. In other words, the moon was eyeballed by the priests of Israel! Interestingly, the lunar eclipse tetrad of 2014/2015 will not be visible from Israel! We Americans seem to think the world truly revolves around us. Smile. One would think if a special occurrence in the lunar cycle (a tetrad) were important to Israel, they could at least see it!

(6). Hagee’s use of the term “blood moons” for the upcoming lunar eclipse tetrad is utter deception. A tetrad is four successive total lunar eclipses with no partial lunar eclipses in between, each of which is separated from the other by six lunar months. Hagee’s book is about a tetrad, but he’s calling it four blood moons. There are NOT four blood moons occurring in 2014 and 2015. A blood moon can only occur in the fall. The twisting of science to conform to one’s alleged presuppositions of Joel 2:13 (the rapture, Armageddon, the return of Christ as Messiah of the nation of Israel, etc…) is pure deceit. Of course, this is done in order to convince people that “the moon turning to blood” before the “day of the Lord” (Jesus’ return), and that Jesus return is going to happen in 2014/2015. We’ve heard these same kinds of predictions on the return of Jesus in times past (88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988), and there will be additional false prophecies regarding the “return of Christ” in the future. What’s unfortunate is Christians never take the time to think through these silly predictions for themselves.

(7).  The great theologian John Brown once wrote: 

“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 economy, 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, vol. 1, p. 170).  

Amen, John Brown. I stand with you in promoting Christ, His mercy and grace, and the incredible blessing of living in a world built on the principles He taught–the Christian economy as you call it.  Love your enemy. Do good to those who abuse you. Be merciful and kind, seek justice for the sake of others, forgive those who have wronged you, and remember the poor, the fatherless, and the widows. What kind of world would we live in if we all took seriously the establishment of the Christian economy in our spheres of influence?

I love the nation of Israel. It is a democracy in the middle of Islamic totalitarianism. [Adam's note: I have reservations about this statement.] However, the only hope for Israel and this world is for individuals in these various nations to become followers of the true and eternal King, to learn to live at peace with all men, and to love others the same way Jesus has loved us. YetJohn Hagee, has declared

“When all is said and done, the flag of Israel will be flying over the walls of the city of Jerusalem when Messiah comes, and it’s going to be forever. And every nation that rises up in judgment against Israel God will punish and punish severely.”

Mr. Hagee, our time as followers of Jesus might be better spent telling others about the love of God in Christ, and not blindly supporting the nation of Israel. It seems that the New Covenant Scriptures attributes the judgment of God in terms of our treatment of His beloved Son. Do I trust Him, or do I despise Him? Do I love Him, or do I hate Him? It is far better to make a sinful soul at peace with God through a faith relationship in Jesus Christ than it is to muster support for the nation of Israel. Nations come and go. Kingdoms rise and fall. Christ’s Kingdom is the only eternal one. God calls those who love and trust His Son “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His special possession, so that we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9). 

We live in a changing world. Something catastrophic may happen to Israel and/or America during 2014/2015, but it’s not the result of blood moons or God’s judgment. God judges individuals on the basis of whether or not they trust in His Son. The only favored nation now is “the holy nation” of people from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue who have received Christ as Lord and Savior. Our praises of Jesus to a people living in darkness are never enhanced by the proclamation of false prophecies. My hope is that this little blog might save just one person from the lunacy of Four Blood Moons

Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel


I grew up in a church where Christian Zionism and dispensationalist theology was (and still is) taught. In that setting, and in others, I was repeatedly taught that Bible prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation in 1948. Furthermore, I was told, this event “restarted God’s prophetic time clock.” Two passages of Scripture allegedly foretold that event, Isaiah 66:7-9 and Matthew 24:32-33. In neither case does this ring true, and both passages carry an entirely different message.

Isaiah 66:5-13

Many believe that Isaiah was looking ahead about 2700 years to the political events of 1948 when he wrote the final portion of his book. They often point to verses 7-9 in particular, and insist that Isaiah foresaw the birth of national Israel “in one day.” Before looking at what this passage says, let’s consider Isaiah’s patterns and themes in the final eight chapters of his book:

  • Isaiah 59 concludes with a Messianic prophecy (“The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob…”). This prophecy, quoted in Romans 11:26-27, foretold Christ’s work on the cross as a sacrifice for sin.
  • Isaiah 60 is filled with prophetic decrees of the coming new covenant age (this present age), when the nations come to the light of the gospel.
  • Isaiah 61 contains a prophecy about the Lord’s anointed One and the good news, healing, and liberty He would bring; Jesus said this was fulfilled during His earthly ministry (see Luke 4:18-19).
  • Isaiah 65 speaks of new heavens and a new earth, in which sin, death, childbearing, and labor would continue (this makes sense if his prophecy is viewed as the establishment of the new covenant age rather than an overhaul of this planet and the galaxy). Our study on Matthew 24:35 discusses more fully the view that the Bible sometimes uses covenant language when speaking of “the heavens and the earth.”
  • From these and other examples in the final chapters of Isaiah, we see that Isaiah looks repeatedly to what we know were first century events. Let’s look now at Isaiah 66:5-13.

5 Hear the word of the Lord, You who tremble at His word: “Your brethren who hated you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.’ But they shall be ashamed.”  6 The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, who fully repays His enemies!  7 “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child.  8 Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children.  9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.  10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;  11 that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.”  12 For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees.  13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Verse 5: This is clearly the Lord’s comfort for those who would be persecuted, hated, and cast out for His sake. Albert Barnes (1834), John Gill (1763), and Matthew Henry (1710) all taught that Isaiah was referring to the first century when Jesus, the apostles, and the early church preached the gospel and were opposed by the religious leaders of Israel.

Verse 6: Noise and a voice are heard from the city and the temple, and the voice is the Lord’s as He repays His enemies. Who are His enemies here? The text doesn’t say, at least not explicitly. However, if verse 5 is about the religious (temple) authorities persecuting the followers of Christ, then they are the enemies being repaid here at the time of the temple’s downfall; and Matthew 23 and I Thessalonians 1 also foretell this event:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …you are sons of those who murdered the prophets… I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth… all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:29-36).

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thessalonians 2:14-16).

Verses 7-8: Isaiah sees a woman, identified as Zion (verse 8), in labor. She delivers “a male child” (verse 7) and gives birth to “children” (verse 8). A nation is born “in one day” and “at once” (verse 8). Matthew Poole (1683) and John Gill (1763) are among those who taught that Isaiah foretold what would happen on the day of Pentecost, when 3000 Jews heard Peter preach the gospel and believed (Acts 2:41).

Verses 9-11: For those who love Jerusalem, this birthing is cause for rejoicing (verse 10). They are invited to “feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom” and to “drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory”  (verse 11).

Verses 12-13: This woman is given “peace like a river,” and she is filled with “the glory of the Gentiles” (verse 12). [Interestingly, those who insist that this is a prophecy of Israel becoming a nation in 1948 are often fixated on the goal of "a Jewish state," and sound as if they would be happy to see each and every non-Jew exiled from Israel. The Jerusalem Isaiah saw would be marked by the glory of Gentiles - of Gentiles finding salvation in Christ.] Those who feed from this woman would be carried on her sides and dandled on her knees. God would comfort them in Jerusalem as one is comforted by his own mother.

Where else does Scripture depict Jerusalem as the mother of God’s people? And which Jerusalem is that, the earthly one or the heavenly one?

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem ABOVE is free, which is THE MOTHER OF US ALL” (Galatians 4:24-26; see verses 21-31 for a fuller context).

In the next verse Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1, a passage which is parallel to Isaiah 66:

For it is written, ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband’ (Galatians 4:27).

Observe how Paul goes on to interpret Isaiah 54:1.

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (Galatians 4:27-31).

Isaiah 66:8 is parallel to Isaiah 54:1, and it ought to be seen in the same way that Paul made application of Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4. Isaiah foresaw the birthing and the breaking forth of the heavenly Jerusalem (66:8-10), even as earthly Jerusalem met her demise (66:6). Ironically, Isaiah 66 does not speak of the restoration of earthly Jerusalem into the hands of mostly unbelieving Jews in 1948. Rather, it mirrors the taking away of the earthly kingdom from unfaithful Israel (in 70 AD), and the giving of the heavenly kingdom to God’s holy nation, the Church, just as Jesus predicted (Matthew 21:43-44; cf. Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). It speaks of the establishment of the new Jerusalem for the bride of Christ, and the dissolving of the old covenant in favor of the new covenant (which was established at the cross). This is the point of both Isaiah and Paul.

Matthew 24:32-33

Matthew 24:32-33 reads this way: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that He is near—at the doors!” In part 4 of our series on the Olivet Discourse, we noted that dispensationalists are fond of saying that the fig tree represents Israel, and that when Israel became a nation in 1948, the world’s final generation was unveiled. We also noted at least four problems with this view:

[1] When Paul speaks of Israel in his epistle to the Romans (11:17, 24), he uses the illustration of an olive tree, not a fig tree.

[2] In Luke’s account, Jesus speaks of not only the fig tree, but “all the trees” (See Luke 21:29-31).

[3] Jesus does speak of a fig tree elsewhere in Matthew, but observe closely what He says about it: “In the morning, as He was returning to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, He went to it and found nothing on it but leaves. And He said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’” (Matthew 21:18-19). In light of what Jesus said to that fig tree, one ought to think twice about what it means if national Israel is represented by the fig tree.

[4] In Matthew 24:34 Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” This certainly included the branches of the fig tree, so to speak, bringing forth leaves. James saw the signs and declared, “Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand… Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:8-9; compare with Matt. 24:33).

Modern Israel is not in view in either of these passages which are so often cited as predicting the events of the mid-20th century. Some of those who thunder the loudest against what they call “replacement theology” have attempted to take Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of the new covenant church, and make it about the (re-)birth of national Israel instead. Scripture interprets Scripture to demonstrate that, while God cast out earthly Jerusalem, He chose new Jerusalem to be the nurturing mother of the church. 

Matthew 13 (Verses 24-58: “The Wheat and the Tares” and Other Parables)


The previous post featured notes and commentary on Matthew 13:1-23 (The Parable of the Sower and the Seed). This post covers the rest of Matthew 13 (verses 24-58), and this study also took place in June 2011.

Verses 24-30: The Parable of the Weeds

This parable is explained by Jesus in verses 36-43, so we will only give a brief overview here. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a man who sowed good seed in his own field. He apparently assigned his servants to do this sowing, because while they were sleeping, an enemy came and intentionally sabotaged the harvest by sowing weeds among the wheat before going away. The damage was done, and when the grain appeared, so did the weeds. The servants offered to pluck up the weeds, but they were told not to do so lest they mistakenly pull up the wheat along with it. The weeds would be pulled first later on at harvest time by the reapers, and bound in bundles to be burned, but the wheat would be gathered into the man’s barn.

In farmer’s terms, there was a weed known as “bearded darnel” which resembled wheat when the plants were young. Only when they reached maturity would it be clear which was which.

Q: Do we view all of Jesus’ parables as general anecdotes about how we should live? Or do we view some of them as specific declarations to a 1st century audience of coming judgment and change?

Verses 31-33: The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Verses 31-32: Jesus next compared the kingdom of heaven to a grain of mustard seed sowed in a man’s field. The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the Jewish community, and elsewhere Jesus referred to this seed in His statement about mountain-moving faith (Matt. 17:20). What grows from this seed, however, is a tree that is larger than all garden plants and becomes a host to many birds and their nests. Christ’s kingdom would be small at the time of its beginning, but over time it would greatly expand as many came to faith from all nations. Another implication is that His kingdom would be far greater than any earthly kingdom.

Verse 33: The parable of the leaven spoke of how the kingdom of heaven was to come to fruition. Does this illustrate the time period between the announcements of John the Baptist and Jesus that the kingdom was at hand until it was to come in power – while some of Jesus’ disciples were still alive (Matthew 16:27-28)? In other words, was this leavening process to take one generation, the generation which saw the Old Covenant age pass in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple? Or might this parable speak of how the kingdom of heaven works itself out in the hearts of God’s people and/or how it was to pervade the whole world as the message of the gospel went forth to the nations?

Verses 34-35: Prophecy and Parables

At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He only spoke to the crowds by means of parables. Matthew said this fulfilled a prophecy by Asaph in Psalm 78:2.

“Asaph wrote that he would explain to his readers aspects of Israel’s history that had been previously unknown. He then proceeded to use Israel’s history to teach the Israelites how consistently rebellious they had been toward God and how just and merciful God had been with them. He taught these lessons by using ‘parables,’ by comparing various things. By comparing various incidents in Israel’s history He revealed things previously unclear. Stephen used the same technique in Acts 7” (Dr. Thomas Constable). 

Jesus was casting new light onto the teachings of the kingdom that had been given by the prophets.

Verses 36-43: The Parable of the Weeds Explained

Verse 36: This explanation of the parable of the weeds, and the parables that follow, are spoken only in the presence of Jesus’ disciples. They went back into the same house that they were in earlier (Matt. 12:46, 13:1). It was the disciples who asked to hear the explanation of the parable of the weeds.

Verse 37-39: Jesus identifies the cast of characters in this parable: [1] Jesus is the sower of the good seed [2] The good seed is those who belong to the kingdom [3] The field is the entire world [4] The weeds are those who do not belong to the kingdom [5] The sower of the weeds is the devil [6] The reapers are angels.

Verse 39: Jesus identifies the time of the harvest as “the close of the age.” It’s popularly taught today that this means the end of world history. However, whereas the phrase “time of the end” appears in Scripture numerous times, the phrase “end of time” does not. In Matthew 24:3, the disciples asked Jesus about “the end of the age,” and this was parallel to their question about the pending destruction of the temple (Mark 13:1-4, Luke 21:5-7), which we know from history took place in 70 AD. Furthermore, the reply that Jesus gave them also tied the end of the age to their own generation (Matt. 24:34). In other words, they spoke of the end of the Old Covenant age. For further proof of this, see Hebrews 9:26 (Jesus appeared at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself), I Corinthians 2:6-8 (the rulers of Paul’s age had crucified the Lord, and they were doomed to pass away), and I Cor. 10:11 (the ends of the ages had come upon Paul’s first century readers). According to William Barclay’s “New Testament Words,” the word used for “age” here in verse 39 means “generation or epoch.”

The reapers are angels, Jesus also says. The judgments we see in the book of Revelation all involve angels. In Revelation 14:14-20 we also see a two-part harvest. An angel announces that “the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe” (verse 15). A different angel then shouts out a command to “gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe” (verse 18). This second reaping results in those who are gathered being cast into “the great winepress of the wrath of God” where much blood flowed “outside the city” (verses 19-20). In Matthew 16:27-28, we also see that Jesus is to come within the lifetime of some of His disciples in judgment and “with His holy angels.” Both passages appear to mirror what we see here in this parable. Joel McDurmon comments (SOURCE):

…The separation of wheat and tares, then, pertained to the destruction of Jerusalem and the separation of God’s true fruit-bearing people from the weeds, the unbelieving Jews of that time. Ironically, this interpretation gets to the heart of the picture in the parable.

A “tare” was not simply any old weed, but a particular weed called a “darnel” or zizania in Greek. It looked almost exactly like wheat in early stages of growth and required close examination to tell the difference. In later stages, the difference grows clear, but then it is too late to remove the darnel without damaging the wheat (as the parable says). Worse yet, the darnel kernels are poisonous, causing dizziness, sickness, and possibly even death when eaten. In short, they could look like the real thing, but they were poison; and after a while, their true colors showed. This was exactly the story with the rebellious Jews. They looked like God’s people, but they were really the children of the enemy—they even killed God’s prophets (Matt. 23:30–39). And the longer history went on, the more their true nature as the children of wrath was revealed.

Thus the parable describes the then-soon-coming end of that old age and the destruction of its children, and the beginning of the gathering in of the true children of God’s kingdom. It should not be understood as teaching anything beyond this

In what sense were the unbelieving Jews, the Judaizers especially, like poisonous weeds among the children of the kingdom? Paul offers a clue in what he says to the Thessalonians who were under persecution: “…For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!”  (I Thess. 2:14-16).

Verses 40-42: At the close of the age (70 AD), Jesus would send His angels to gather “out of His kingdom” the weeds, i.e. those who rejected His kingdom, and they would be thrown “into the fiery furnace” and burned with fire. Jerusalem and the temple were literally burned with fire by the Romans in 70 AD, just as Jesus (Matthew 22:7) and John (Revelation 17:16, 18:8-9, 18) said would happen. Jesus’ words here also appear to be related to what He said in the Parable of the Tenants, when He proclaimed that the kingdom of God would be taken away from the religious leadership of Israel and given to those who would bear its fruit (Matthew 21:43). The following are some thoughts shared by two friends of mine, Mark Church and Kurt Simmons (a published author), in a Facebook conversation, also in June 2011 (Source):

The imagery of being “cast into the lake of fire” is taken from the Old Testament prophets, and describes the defeat of nations and armies. When the angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians, the bodies were buried and burned in Tophet (Valley of Hinnom), which gave rise to the imagery of hell (Gehenna) as a place of fire and maggots (Isaiah 30:31-33). This defeat and cremation of an enemy army seems to be the source of latter imagery. Ezekiel describes the defeat of Egypt in similar language, saying its host would go down to the “pit” (sheol) in defeat (Ezekiel 31:14, 17)… Also in Isaiah 34:8-10 it uses similar language about the lake of fire (stream of fire) in juxtaposition to the destruction of Edom (kingdom just south of Israel). 

Isaiah 34:8-10 “For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause. Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night or day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again.”

IT SAYS THERE THAT THE SMOKE WOULD RISE FOREVER AND EVER. Obviously after the destruction of Edom, we don’t still see the smoke rising from there to this day. It was a metaphorical expression about being completely wiped out. 

It was the same in the book of Revelation chapter 19 when describing the ultimate destruction of Babylon (which we know was JERUSALEM).

Revelation 19:3 “And again they shouted: ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.’”

Obviously, to this day we don’t still see Jerusalem smoke rising forever and ever. It was an expression of complete annihilation.

Verse 43: The righteous will shine like the sun. Compare with Daniel 12:3, which also has as its context the completion of the great tribulation and the end of the age (verses 1, 4, 7, 13).

Verse 44: The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

The true disciple loses his affection for the things of this world, as Jesus and His kingdom become the treasure of his heart.

Verses 45-46: The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

Ditto! In the previous parable, though, the discovery was accidental.

Verses 47-50: The Parable of the Net

This parable is very similar to the parable of the weeds. All things are gathered first, and the sorting occurs later, where again the bad things gathered are thrown away.

Verses 51-52: New and Old Treasures

The disciples affirmed that they understood what Jesus shared with them, in fulfillment of verse 11 (“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom…”).

Verses 53-58: Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth, where the crowds gathered at the synagogue were astonished by His mighty works, and also likely by His teachings. They expressed doubt that, having come from a humble upbringing, He could then do all these things. They chose to be offended by Him, and so He withheld the greater part of His mighty works from them because of their unbelief. This likely indicates that their astonishment had been the result of hearing about His mighty works, and not so much the result of witnessing them firsthand.

Matthew 13 (Verses 1-23: Parable of the Sower and the Seed)


What follows are notes and brief commentary from a Bible study that took place almost three years ago (June 8, 2011). At the time, 5-7 of us guys met together weekly, and we took turns preparing and leading these studies. I was part of the group from January 2008 – August 2013 (when my wife and I move to Ohio). Most of the time we worked through one book of the Bible at a time, and at this point we were in Matthew.

Scripture passage for this study: Matthew 13:1-13

Verses 1-9: The Parable of the Sower

Verses 1-2: We’re told that Jesus “went out of the house.” Tracing Matthew’s account backwards, Jesus must have been in a house when the demon-oppressed blind and mute man was brought to him (Matt. 12:22). This makes sense when we see in Matt. 12:46 that at the end of this round of teaching “His mother and His brothers stood outside.” The crowds had apparently grown much larger in size, so Jesus went to the sea instead and got into a boat.

The phrase “That same day” links the parables Jesus is about to tell to the condemnation He had just pronounced upon His own evil generation, along with the affirmation that anyone (regardless of ethnicity) who did His will was part of His spiritual family. So we should look for these parables to be a response to Israel’s rejection of Him.

Verse 3: The word “parable,” according to Strong’s Concordance, means “a comparing, comparison of one thing with another, likeness, similitude.” Jesus used this method often. He tells His audience why just a bit later.

Verses 4-9: These verses contain the Parable of the Sower. We’ll give just a short overview here, since Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of this parable in verses 18-23. Jesus speaks of four different types of reception given to the seed sown by the sower. What was sowed was identical. Therefore, the focus is on the soil, or the recipients: [1] this seed only lay on the surface and was devoured by birds [2] this seed fell on rocky ground with very thin topsoil; there was no root and they were quickly scorched [3] this seed was choked by surrounding thorns [4] this seed fell on good soil and produced fruit, but in different quantities. Not everyone would have “ears to hear,” but it was a good thing to have them.

This first parable seems to be an introduction to the parables which are to follow. Israel was frequently portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures as a vineyard. See, for example, Isaiah 5:1-7. This is probably just one of the reasons the Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them in The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45).

Verses 10-17: The Purpose of Parables

Verses 10-11: The disciples wanted to know why Jesus spoke in parables, and He promptly told them that they had already “been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven,” but that the crowds had not. That’s why Jesus spoke to the crowds in this veiled manner, while expecting His disciples/followers/those whose ears were open to understand and learn what the kingdom of heaven was all about.

Verse 12: There seems to be a warning here about not taking for granted what one has. Consider what Israel had: “…the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2); “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:4-5). The church in Ephesus was warned by Jesus that if they didn’t repent and return to their first love, He would come to them and remove their lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4-5).

Verse 13: Jesus’ Jewish audience (generally speaking) hadn’t accepted basic revelation about Him and who He was, so Jesus would continue to speak to them in a veiled manner so that they wouldn’t pick up on further truth either.

Verses 14-15: Jesus quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10, where Isaiah had given this prophecy a little before 700 BC. Isaiah stated that this condition would last until “cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste” (verse 11). This was fulfilled in 586 BC when Babylon destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. Jesus suggested by quoting this passage that it was going to happen again. It did, in 70 AD. This passage from Isaiah is also quoted in John 12:39-40 and Acts 28:25-27, where Paul followed this up by saying, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Verses 16-17: The disciples and those whose ears were opened, however, were greatly blessed, especially because the longed-for Messiah was in their midst.

Verses 18-23: The Parable of the Sower Explained

Verse 19: [1] The seed sown on the path (surface only) is likened to the one who doesn’t understand the message of the kingdom, and what is heard is snatched away by the evil one. The Jews, for the most part, so anticipated a political kingdom marked by Jewish superiority that they rejected Christ’s message of a heavenly, spiritual kingdom for all nations.

Verses 20-21: [2] The seed sown on rocky ground with very little soil is likened to the one who initially shows great enthusiasm for the message of the kingdom, but they are not rooted in the truth and so easily fall away when opposition arises. Observe how many turned away and walked with Jesus no longer (John 6:66) when He gave hard sayings and talked about laying His life down for all peoples.

Verse 22: [3] The seed sown among thorns is likened to the one who proves unfruitful because the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches in this life crowd out any affection for eternal life through Jesus.

Verse 23: [4] The seed sown on good soil is likened to those who both hear and understand the message of the kingdom, and who go on to bear fruit to various degrees.

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The next post will feature notes and commentary on Matthew 13:24-58 (“The Wheat and the Tares” and other parables).

The Significance of the Word “Desolate” in the New Testament


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the book of Revelation”

The word “desolate” (or the related word “desolation”) only appears 12 times in the New Testament. Seven of these appearances are in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and five of them are references to Jerusalem’s condition in Jesus’ day and to what was about to happen to that city. This word does not appear in John’s gospel account, but its final two appearances in the New Testament demonstrate that John, in the book of Revelation, was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was.

Like the previous post, this one is also inspired by a recent discussion here. PJ Miller, of Sola Dei Gloria, observed the similarity between Matthew’s use of the word “desolate” in both chapters 23 and 24:

[1] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

[2] “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16).

[1] In Matthew 23:38, Jesus summed up what had become of Jerusalem in His lament over that city. Although formerly God’s house, Jesus now spoke of Jerusalem (and/or the temple) as “your house,” for He had abandoned it and left it to them as “desolate.”  About 650 years earlierGod said the same to Jeremiah just before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC:

I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritageI have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies… ‘Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; They have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate; Desolate, it mourns to Me; The whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart” (Jeremiah 12:7-11).

(In two recent posts, we discussed how first century Jerusalem became infested with demons, but how God chose new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, as His house and His dwelling place.)

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used in Matthew 23:38, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.”

[2] In Matthew 24:15, Jesus warned His followers living in Judea to flee to the mountains when they saw the “abomination of desolation.” Matthew’s Jewish audience was familiar with this phrase, and would understand the reference to Daniel, but Luke quotes Jesus differently for his mostly Gentile audience:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” (Luke 21:20-21).

So the “abomination of desolation” was in the hands of foreign armies coming to complete Jerusalem’s desolation. The warnings of Matthew and Luke, stated differently, were to bring about the same response: immediate flight. In 314 AD, Eusebius, known as the father of church history, wrote the following about the obedience of Jesus’ followers to His words in Matthew 24:

“The people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to the approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the [Jewish-Roman war of 67-73 AD], and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella [in modern-day Jordan]. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men” (see here for more about this event).

The word “desolation” in Matthew 24:15 is #2049 in Strong’s Concordance, and the definition there is: “from 2048; to lay waste (lit. or fig.): -(bring to, make) desolate (-ion), come to nought.” The word “desolation” in Luke 21:20 is entry #2050, and Strong’s simply points back to #2049. So we can see that all three entries (#2048, #2049, and #2050) are essentially the same word, just as the words “desolate” and “desolation” are essentially the same in English.

“Desolate” and “desolation” appear in Mark 13:14 and Luke 13:35 as direct parallels to Matthew 24 and Matthew 23, respectively. Otherwise, these words only appear six other times in the New Testament.* We’ll look briefly at four of these instances, before looking at their two appearances in Revelation: 

The word “desolation” appears in Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 (parallel passages), where Jesus responds to the Pharisees who question by what power He was casting out demons: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

The word “desolate” appears in Acts 1:20 regarding Judas Iscariot: “’For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it.”

It also shows up in Galatians 4:27, in Paul’s argument that God’s people belong to the Jerusalem above, and not the Jerusalem below. He quotes Isaiah 54: “For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.’”

The Strong’s entry for Acts 1:20 and Galatians 4:27 is #2048, and the entry for Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 is #2049.

*A different Greek word for “desolate” appears in I Timothy 5:5, and refers to a widow’s grief.

The final two places where this word shows up in the New Testament are in Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18:19 (Strong’s #2049), regarding the burning of the harlot and the great city:

And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’”

As we discussed in a recent post (“Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons“), “the great city” was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified (Rev. 11:8).” Of course, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. This city was also aptly named “the harlot,” the same name given to it by Jeremiah (3:6-8), Ezekiel (16:15), and Hosea (6:10) because it was full of spiritual adultery at that time. Revelation 16-19 repeatedly holds “the great city”, “the harlot,” and “Babylon the great” (different names for the same entity) responsible for shedding the blood of God’s saints, prophets, and apostles. Jesus left no doubt who was responsible for shedding this blood, and when the resulting judgment would come: Israel, in His generation (Matthew 23:29-38).

Jesus declared Jerusalem in His day to be a desolate house, and He warned that “the abomination of desolation” would come and complete its desolation in His own generation. John, in his visions of “things which must shortly take place…for the time is near…at hand” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10), saw the outcome of what Jesus prophesied, Jerusalem made desolate and burned to the ground.

Seeing how the word “desolate” is used here in Revelation 17 and 18, concerning the harlot and the great city, is good confirmation that John was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was in Matthew 23 and 24. This desolation was made complete in the year 70 AD. Gratefully, we can rejoice that we are children of the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26), the new Jerusalem aligned with the new covenant established by the blood of our Savior (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Luke 17 Shows That Matthew 24 Can’t Be Divided


Scripture passages for this study: Matthew 24:1-51 and Luke 17:20-37

This post was prompted by a discussion under a recent post, concerning what might be and what might not be fulfilled in Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse). There was a time when I didn’t believe that any of Matthew 24 has been fulfilled. Then I came to believe that most of Matthew 24:1-34 was fulfilled in Jesus’ generation, before acknowledging that verse 34 doesn’t allow for only some of it to be fulfilled (“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place“). At that point, I believed there must be a breaking point somewhere after verse 34, a dividing line after which the rest of the chapter would be fulfilled about 2000 years later (i.e. in our own future). I never could pinpoint that dividing line, though, and be at peace with it.

There are numerous reasons why I now believe all of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the first century AD, in Jesus’ own generation. This post highlights one of those reasons, which is that Luke 17:20-37 demonstrates the impossibility of any time division. Luke 17 scrambles and reorders various portions of Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24, predictions which are located before and well after verse 34. What is ordered as “1, 2, 3, 4, 5″ in Matthew 24:1-41 is ordered as “2, 4, 1, 5, 3″ in Luke 17:23-37, as shown in this diagram by Ed Stevens in his book titled, “What Happened in 70 AD?”

Matthew 24 Undivided

Source: World Without End (December 5, 2013); Better design seen here

David Curtis, the pastor of Berean Bible Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has also produced a similar chart, in which he fully writes out the passages shown in the diagram above

Matthew 24

Luke 17

SECTION ONE Verses 1-35

1. Matthew 24:17-18 (NKJV)
Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 “And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

2. Luke 17:23-24 (NKJV)
“And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24 “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.
2. Matthew 24:26-27 (NKJV)
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
4. Luke 17:26-27 (NKJV)
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 “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.
3. Matthew 24:28 (NKJV)
“For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
1. Luke 17:31 (NKJV)
“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.

SECTION TWO Verses 36-51

4. Matthew 24:37-39 (NKJV)
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 “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, 39 “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

5. Luke 17:35-36 (NKJV)
“Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 “Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
5. Matthew 24:40-41 (NKJV)
“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
3. Luke 17:37 (NKJV)
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.”
Those who attempt to divide Matthew 24 say that SECTION ONE refers to the events of AD 70. But they say SECTION TWO refers to events yet future to us. If the five prophetic events of Matthew 24 that are found in Luke 17 are numbered 1-2-3-4-5, Luke’s numbering of the same events would be 2-4-1-5-3. Luke has an event from section 1 followed by one from section 2, then another from section 1 followed by section 2, and finally one from section 1. This shows the impossibility of dividing Matthew 24 with a 2,000 year gap.

 What do you think? Is this a valid conclusion? Why or why not?

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Previous posts on the Olivet Discourse can be viewed at this page, including a 4-part series (titled “This Generation Or That Generation?”) examining the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in a parallel fashion.

New Jerusalem, God’s Dwelling Place


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

In the previous post, “Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons,” we looked at:

  • how Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were once known as God’s dwelling place on earth
  • how God’s dwelling place is also in heaven
  • how Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness at times earned her the title of “harlot”
  • how Jesus said Jerusalem’s house was “desolate,” and that His “wicked generation” would be like a man exorcised of a demon but then inhabited by seven worse demons,
  • and how John was told that “the great city,” known as “Babylon the great” and “the harlot,” and first identified as Jerusalem, was “a dwelling place of demons.”

We also ended with this question: With God having abandoned Jerusalem as His dwelling place, was He then without a dwelling place of His own? As we also noted, God’s dwelling place was always in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49):

“And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive…”

Since we, as God’s people in Christ, know that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), it’s no surprise to discover that God has chosen us as His dwelling place. The New Testament record is clear that God’s earthly dwelling place is not in any way confined to a geographical location. God dwells with (and in) those who belong to His Son, Jesus.

In the book of Revelation, “those who dwell in heaven” are repeatedly distinguished from “those who dwell on the earth.” This pattern is discussed more fully in a 3-part series (part 1, part 2, and part 3). In the following two passages, we can see this distinction:

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time‘” (Revelation 12:10-12).

“And [the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:5-8).

Earthly Jerusalem was filled with demons, marked for judgment, and was judged, but God had already chosen a different Jerusalem as His dwelling place. This is John’s triumphant message after detailing the judgments which were soon (Rev. 1:1-3; 22:10) to be poured out on earthly Jerusalem: 

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God’’” (Revelation 21:2-3).

I don’t believe John’s words here only became true after he wrote them, but rather they were already true of those abiding in Christ. John’s vision here stands in contrast to his previous vision of the harlot city ripe for judgment. Earthly Jerusalem, the harlot, had become a dwelling place for demons (Rev. 18:2), and that demon-filled city met its demise, but God’s dwelling place, the bride, stood unshaken. Since the time of Christ, God dwells in “the holy city, New Jerusalem.” We, the church, the bride of Christ, are that city: 

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). 

Many believe that this promise from Revelation 21 has not yet been realized or fulfilled, even in our day. However, the author of Hebrews didn’t believe this way when he told his first century audience that they had already “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). The apostle Paul also didn’t believe this way when he quoted Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:11, and Ezekiel 37:27 as a present reality for the Church in his own day:

For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people‘” (II Corinthians 6:16).

The apostle Paul also said this to the believers in Ephesus:

You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

I would like to submit that the book of Revelation reflects a picture also shown in Galatians 4:21-31 and in Hebrews 12:18-29, of two cities, two women, and two covenants (this chart appears larger if opened in a new tab):

Two Covenants

Also, note how the following passages in Revelation compare with, and contrast, each other:

A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

In the first scene, it’s likely that John was taken to a wilderness because it was in a wilderness that God established the old covenant with the Israelites. In the final scene, it’s likely that John was taken to a great, high mountain because of what God said He would do in the last days of the old covenant age:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1).

With His Son, Jesus, as the cornerstone, God has built His church as His spiritual house and temple. Because Jesus is the light of the world, we are also the light of the world, and the nations are being drawn to His light. Jerusalem, in its last days, was a dwelling place for demons, but God’s new covenant community, new Jerusalem, is now His holy dwelling place.

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For more details behind the content in this post, see our study on Revelation 21 (verses 1-4 and verses 5-27).

Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2)

A survey of the Old Testament reveals a common theme, as God repeatedly proclaimed that Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were His dwelling place. Consider the following texts (this is just a sample):

You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established” (Exodus 15:17).

But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

In Jerusalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:2).

For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place(Psalm 132:13).

At the same time, God’s dwelling place was in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49):

“And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive…”

A survey of the Old Testament also reveals that Israel and Jerusalem often proved unworthy of serving as a dwelling place for God. In these times of unfaithfulness, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea were among those who referred to Israel as a harlot:

The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlotAnd I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also” (Jeremiah 3:6-8).

But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it” (Ezekiel 16:15).

I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10).

When Jesus came, He summed up what had become of Jerusalem in this lament:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used by Matthew here, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.” In the New Testament, we see indications that demons are attracted to such places:

For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness” (Luke 8:29; some translations say “solitary places” or “deserted places”).

Similarly, recall what Jesus said would be true of the nation of Israel in His generation:

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:41-45).

John wrote the book of Revelation in Jesus’ generation, and there we see a tragic picture of what had become of His former dwelling place, as John describes “Babylon the great”:

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

Someone may object here and say that Babylon the great is not Jerusalem. However, if we pay attention, John does positively identify the great city, Babylon. In the previous chapter, John is shown “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication” (Rev. 17:1-2). She is shown sitting on a great beast (verse 3), and on her forehead are written these words: “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (verse 5). John sees her drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs (verse 6). The angel says to John, “The woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). So the following is clear:

The harlot = Babylon the great = the great city

The “great city” is mentioned five times in Rev. 18 (verses 10, 16, 18, 19, and 21). In verses 10 and 21 it’s referred to as “the great city Babylon.” (See also Rev. 14:8.) Yet it’s in the first mention of “the great city” where we see the positive identification of that city. We see this in the scene of the two witnesses who are killed by the beast:

 “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).

Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. Therefore, “the great city” is Jerusalem. This title was also given to Jerusalem by Josephus (Wars 7:8:7) and Appian, a Roman historian of the same era. It may also be a throwback to Jeremiah’s words when he described the soon-coming judgment upon Jerusalem by Babylon, which took place in 586 BC:

And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them” (Jeremiah 22:8-9).

The great city, Babylon, is further confirmed as Jerusalem in at least the following three ways:

[1] This would not be the first time that Israel was referred to as “Sodom.” Isaiah did the same thing: Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of SodomGive ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:10-11)John invokes the names of two of Israel’s oldest enemies, Sodom and Egypt, and uses them to describe first century Jerusalem.

[2] John describes the great city using the imagery of a harlot. As discussed above, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea referred to Israel as a harlot in their day. Israel was in a covenant relationship with God, and therefore capable of spiritual adultery, unlike other nations in John’s day (or the United States or any other nation in our own day).

[3] John sees the harlot, Babylon the great, drunk with the blood of martyrs and saints (Rev. 17:6), and filled with the blood of prophets and apostles (Rev. 18:20, 24; see also Rev. 16:6, 19:2). Jesus said that Israel would be held responsible and judged in His generation for shedding this very blood (Matthew 23:29-36). He also said that “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). 

In all this we see that a terrible thing had happened to Jerusalem, God’s former dwelling place. It was given over to spiritual adultery and had become overrun by demons:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

With God having abandoned Jerusalem as His dwelling place, was He then without a dwelling place of His own? Not at all. In the next post, we will see that God has chosen as His dwelling place the new Jerusalem, the community of saints who abide in His Son, Jesus.

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For more information and details on the content in this post, see our studies on Revelation 17 (verses 1-6 and verses 7-18) and Revelation 18.

If time allows, consider also our study on Revelation 9, where John sees an army of torturing locusts emerging out of the abyss. There is good reason to believe John witnesses a horde of demons sweeping through the land of Israel. The locusts didn’t touch any vegetation, but were given authority to torment only those who were not God’s servants, and this torment was to last for five months. In Judea, locusts typically came between May and September (a 5-month period), and this is roughly the same period when Rome laid a 5-month siege upon Jerusalem in 70 AD leading to Jerusalem’s downfall in September of that year.