Tag Archives: futurism

Ezekiel 38:1-23 Who is Gog and Magog?

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying (Ezekiel 38:1 NASB 1995)

This oracle is given to Ezekiel, and its contents are covered in both chapter 38 and 39.

“Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him (Ezekiel 38:2)

Son of man. Son of man here probably is meant to contrast between the human condition of Ezekiel and the transcendent majesty of God. This contrasts with the usage of “Son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, which appear to be Messianic.

Set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Ezekiel is commanded to orient himself toward Gog, who is presented as a person, from the land of Magog. The people of Magog are direct descendants of Japheth, one of three sons of Noah (Genesis 10:1-2). Gog rules over more than one people (Tubal and Meshech), who are also descendants from the fifth and sixth sons of Japheth (1 Chronicles 1:5). Hence, Ezekiel likely has in view the peoples to the far north of the land of Israel (in modern day terms, the land area appears to be modern-day Turkey). Because the Hebrew term rosh (“chief”) in verse 1 sounds similar to the name Russia, some believe that Ezekiel 38 predicts modern Russia’s rise and influence. However, the context suggests that everyone in Ezekiel’s day would have been familiar with these nations (Ezek. 38:17), so there is no reason to assume that the nations listed in Ezekiel 38 are actually the geographical equivalent of modern nations.2 

And prophesy against him. Ezekiel is to foretell Gog’s ruin and destruction. 

But who is Gog? Various names have been suggested, such as Cambyses, king of Persia, Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, Gyges, a Lydian king, among others, as possible historical fulfillments for Gog, though it is uncertain if these identities are the best fits. Dispensationalists interpret Gog as a future ruler from a coalition of nations, including Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, and Libya (Algeria/Tunisia), who comes against modern day Israel near the midpoint of a supposed Tribulation.

However, there appears to be another ruler who fits the description of Gog. He is Haman, who attempted to annihilate the Jews in the book of Esther (Esther 3:12-14). Since Gog is identified as a “chief prince”, Gog may be a fitting description of Haman, who was not the king of Persia, but rather was a high-ranking official or perhaps, 2nd in charge over 127 provinces of the Persian Empire (Esther 1:1; Esther 3:13). Moreover, in Esther 3:1 and 9:24, Haman is referred to as an “Agagite.” He was a descendant of Agag, who was the king of Amalekites. The term “Agag” and “Gog” appear similar at face value, and they are equated in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Numbers 24:7 LXX reads, “There shall come a man out of [Israel’s] seed, and he shall rule over many nations. The kingdom of Gog shall be exalted, and his kingdom shall be increased”. In fact, some Septuagint manuscripts say that Haman was a “Gogite,” instead of an “Agagite,” at Esther 3:1 and Esther 9:24 (Lewis B. Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, page 194).Clearly, there is an ancient connection between the titles of “Agag” and “Gog”. Moreover, “Gog” could well have been used as a title for the kings of the Amalekites, much like how “Pharaoh” was a title for the kings of Egypt.

[How could we explain Gog’s relationship with Japhethic territories, if he is a descendant of Amalekites? The Amalekites may not be the descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau (also known as Edomites) (Gen. 36:12,16) since it appears that the Amalekites were already a major force to contend with in the days of Abraham (Gen. 14:7). Furthermore, the Amalekites who were under God’s curse in Exodus and following were said to be the “first (tyvar) of the nations” (Numb. 24:20). If they are identified with Magog, this may makes sense].

Is there further evidence that Haman is Gog from the context of chapter 38 and 39? Continuing from next verse.

This is what the Lord God says: “Behold, I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal (Ezekiel 38:3)

Ezekiel was to announce that Yahweh was opposed to Gog, implication being that God is declaring war against Gog, whose evil scheme is to annihilate God’s people.

So I will turn you around and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them magnificently dressed, a great contingent with shield and buckler, all of them wielding swords (Ezekiel 38:4)

The Lord would reverse the fortunes of this ruler, take him under His control, and bring him and his vast, impressive army and power he exercises over them out into the open.  Putting hooks in his jaws pictures control that Gog would not be able to resist, emphasizing God is the one who is orchestrating this battle.  Gog’s arsenal is said to be armed with swords, clubs, spears, and bows and arrows, and they invade by riding horses while carrying shields. These descriptions could not apply to a future war in our modern day or future time, but rather it appears that the prophet has ancient war in mind. Usually, dispensationalist assert that “bows and arrows,” “clubs,” “spears,” and “swords” really refer to machine guns, rifles, pistols, etc., but this spiritualization or allegorizing of the text undermines the fundamental premise of their position, which is that this text must be interpreted literally. In the Book of Esther, we are told that Haman had command over “all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day” (Esther 3:12,14).

Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with buckler and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you (Ezekiel 38:5-6)

Gog is not alone. Ezekiel foresaw a day when Meshech and Tubal would also join with two other northern powers—Gomer and Beth-togarmah (all these northern powers are descendants of Japheth)—and this four would form an alliance with Cush (Ethiopia), Put (Libya), and Persia, which were three powers to the far south or southeast of the Promised Land. The sevenfold makeup of the enemy coalition suggests totality of the threat of evil that would rise up against the people of God.  Haman fits Gog here as well, as Meshech, Tubal, Magog, Togarmah, and Gomar were all nations within the Persian Empire, which he had control over during the time of Esther (Esther 3:12-14).3 

“Be ready, and be prepared, you and all your contingents that are assembled around you, and be a guard for them (Ezekiel 38:7)

Gog is admonished to get ready with his alliances. Guard and guide them, but it would be all in vain. Hence, the implication is Gog, be ready for your downfall!

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual place of ruins; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them (Ezekiel 38:8)

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come. The expression “after many days” indicate that what is predicted is yet in the future from the time of Ezekiel and it is synonymous with the “latter years” . The idiom “latter years” do not refer to future end times, but the contextual “end”, which is the prophet’s own “eschatological horizon” which is clarified in the next clause. Gog will come at the latter time from days of Ezekiel. When is that time?

Into the land that is restored from the sword. Gog will come into the land, when it is being recovered from the sword of their enemies. This appears to be a time when Israel started to return to their land after the Babylonian exile.

Whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual place of ruins. People who were once scattered over many nations (due to the Babylonian captivity), are now brought back to the mountains of Israel, which were desolated continually due to enemy sieges. We are told that Gog would come shortly after Israel returned from exile. Since modern Israel does not fit the description of Ezekiel 38, it appears the timeframe of Gog’s invasion is shortly after Israel returned from Babylonian exile in approximately 537 BC during the reign of the Persian Empire.

But its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. Gog will come at a time when the people are been regathered, and they dwell securely. Some Jews had returned to Jerusalem, though others were still scattered over the 127 provinces of Persia ranging from India to Ethiopia and everywhere else (Esther 8:9). Persian empire was much kinder to the Jews unlike its predecessor, the Babylonian empire, and this fits with the idea of Jews living securely. Moreover, in Esther, the fighting occurs in every province. In Ezekiel, though we see a focus on the land of Israel, but Ezekiel also indicates that “all the nations will see My judgment” (Ezek. 39:21) and God will “send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety” (Ezek. 39:6). Hence, both passages portray the fight universally, and not just in the land of Israel.

And you will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you. (Ezekiel 38:9)

Gog and his bands shall come like a storm that overspreads the whole land like a cloud, as they come against God’s people. The book of Esther shows that all people in all the land were ready to act on God’s people no sooner the command went forth (Esther 3:14)

‘This is what the Lord God says: “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan (Ezekiel 38:10)

On that day, Gog will entertain a malicious design for the destruction of God’s people. We are told that Haman had an “evil scheme” against Israel (Esther 8:3).

And you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, who live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates (Ezekiel 38:11)

Gog will go up against the people of God at a time they are dwelling safely, i.e., securely and confidently, in a land of un-walled villages, meaning a land of open places, as opposed to fortified cities, i.e., towns without walls, and having neither bars nor gates. In Esther, we learn that there were Jews who were living peacefully in “unwalled towns” (Esther 9:19 KJV) when Haman conspired against them. Hence, the battle of Ezekiel occurs when Jerusalem and the other towns where God’s people were living still had no walls. This rules out an interpretation in the days of the Maccabees or later, since Jerusalem has had walls ever since Nehemiah built them. However, at this point in Esther’s story, no walls have been built. Nehemiah has not yet started that work.

To capture spoils and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the ruins that are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who live at the center of the world (Ezekiel 38:11)

Gog’s motive is described here, and that is to seize upon the goods and plunder the substance of these people, who live at the center of the world (what may be meant is that the people of God have an exalted position, and are the center of attention, in reference to other nations, which Gog is envious about). Haman’s words suggest this. “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws..” (Esther 3:8). Moreover, we are told that Haman’s desire was exactly this, to “seize their possessions as plunder” (Esther 3:13).

Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoils? Have you assembled your contingent to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to capture great spoils?’”’“Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, ‘This is what the Lord God says: “On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it15 You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding horses, a large assembly and a mighty army; 16 and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I show Myself holy through you before their eyes, Gog.” (Ezekiel 38:12-16)

Sheba, and Dorian, and the merchants of Tarshish were the great trading communities of the South, East, and West respectively (Ezekiel 27:15, 20, 22, 25). All are depicted as following in the wake of Gog. By coming against Israel, who is living securely, and defenseless, Gog, and his well-equipped forces, is taking on Israel’s God; God says it is “My people”, “My land”, that Gog is assaulting. The only reason that Gog and his armies are brought against Israel is that the Lord will demonstrate His greatness and holiness before their eyes, by defeating them. The planned destruction of the Jews is reversed in both in Ezekiel and Esther and judgement comes upon the enemy (Ezek. 39:3; Esther 9:2).

‘This is what the Lord God says: “Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them? (Ezekiel 38:17)

Gog and Magog cannot be a new people or modern day nations, who are unmentioned before the time of Ezekiel because earlier prophets had predicted such an invasion of Israel in a future time under the leadership of Gog. Haman appears to represents the ancient spiritual struggle between Amalekites and Israel (Ex. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19). Hence, if Gog and Magog are Amalekites, then this verse makes more sense. Many prophets spoke of Amalek including Moses (Ex. 17:16), Balaam (Numb. 24:20), Samuel (1 Sam. 15:1-3,17-23), Deborah (Judges 5:14), Gideon (Judges 6-7), an unnamed prophet (Judges 10:11-14), David (1 Sam. 30) and Asaph (Psalm 83). They prophesied of multi-generational warfare in Exodus 17:16; Numb. 14:43; 24:20; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 14:48; 15:18.

It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” declares the Lord God, “that My fury will mount up in My anger” (Ezekiel 38:18)

However, when Gog comes against Israel, he is coming not to bring judgement on Israel, but to be judged by God’s wrath.

In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will certainly be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals of the field, all the crawling things that crawl on the earth, and all mankind who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; and the mountains will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground.  (Ezekiel 38:19-20)

When God’s zeal and wrath is let loose on the enemies, it will be akin to a mighty earthquake that will cause the earth (land) and its creatures to tremble in His presence. In the Old Testament, earthquakes, mountains being thrown down, and turmoil among the enemy nations when God visits in judgement is not unusual. Such language is often used figuratively to describe the grandeur of the judgement. For instance, Micah speaks of “Mountains melting”, “Valley’s splitting” (Micah 1:4) for events that transpired before the first coming of the Messiah. Isaiah speaks of “every mountain and hill be made low” (Isaiah 40:4) in view of the first coming Messiah. In Isaiah 29:6, God’s visit accompanies thunder, earthquake and great noise, and flame of devouring fire on the enemies of Judah. Hence, it is not required to read this literally, as there is a precedent for interpreting some of these judgements symbolically.

And I will call for a sword against him on all My mountains,” declares the Lord God. “Every man’s sword will be against his brother.With plague and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and brimstone. (Ezekiel 38:21-22)

The sword, plague (affliction), bloodshed, torrential rain, hailstones, fire and brimstone: These are alsoemblems and symbols of God’s presence, and of the judgments about to be executed on the persecutors (Isaiah 30:30; Psalms 11:6).

So I will prove Myself great, show Myself holy, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.”’ (Ezekiel 38:23)

God will show His power, and holiness, not just by the destruction of Gog and his coalition, but by the protection of his restored people.

There is more evidence in Ezekiel 38 and 39 to show that Haman does fit the description of Gog. For instance, a) There are an enormous number of dead in both passages. (Ezek. 39:12-16; Esther 9:12-16). b) Both passages show that the Jews were authorized to plunder those who fought against them (Esther 8:11; Ezek. 39:10). c) The seven months wait in Ezekiel 39:12-16 is equivalent to the time from Purim till the Feast of Tabernacles when cleansing waters are made with the ashes of the heifer (Esther 9:26-32). d) Haman’s name appears in Ezekiel’s prophecy as Hamon (39:11,15,16). Again, this slight change in pronunciation (which is common with other names) can be explained by the language differences. The phrase, “the valley of Hamon of Gog” would then be equivalent to Haman of Agag (or “Haman the Agagite”).  d) Haman was hanged from the 50-cubit-high gallows (Esther 7:9-10), potentially becoming “food to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field” (Ezekiel 39:4).3

See also:

  • Our chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse, commentaries on the book of DanielRevelation.

Referenced & Adapted

1. Duguid (1999). The NIV Application Commentary, Ezekiel

2. Peterson (2022). https://providencechristiannm.com/difficult-passage-ezekiel-38-part-1/

2. Kayser (2002). https://kaysercommentary.com/Sermons/Old%20Testament/Esther/battle%20of%20Ezek.md

Origins of ‘Preterism’ and ‘Futurism

Is it true that ‘Preterism’ and ‘Futurism’ were Jesuit interpretations of prophecy that were contrived during the counter-reformation? SDA’s and some others (even wickipedia articles) essentially promote that Jesuit scholarship rallied to the Roman cause by providing two plausible alternatives to the historical interpretation of the Protestants. Luis de Alcazar (1554–1630) of Seville, Spain, devised what became known as the “preterist” system of prophetic interpretation, pushing the antichrist as already come. In order to remove the Catholic Church from consideration as the antichrist power, Francisco Ribera (1537–1591) proposed that most of Revelation refers to the distant future just prior to the second coming, the “futurist” system.  

So, are the above statements true? No, that is a lie perpetrated by Seventh-day Adventists and others to stifle investigation through guilt by association. While Alcazar and Ribera championed and popularized those views from the 16th and 17th century, the idea of an antichrist that had already come, and also a future coming anti-Christ was not a new idea among the early church fathers before the reformation. John himself states simultaneously that the “antichrist is coming” and that “now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18; cf. 1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). 

Preterism (moderate) sees most of the prophesises fulfilled in the first few centuries. Historicism teaches that much of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are to be fulfilled over long ages of church history. Futurism views much of the prophecies of Daniel, and Revelation to be yet future.

The early church fathers had differing views on end times. Here are a few samples of early Church views on anti-Christ:

Irenaeus (AD 189) believed in a single future antichrist who will sit in the temple of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 years.

“By means of the events which shall occur in the time of the Antichrist it is shown that he, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God, and that although a mere slave, he wishes to be proclaimed as king. For he, being endued with all the power of the devil, shall not come as a righteous king nor as a legitimate king in subjection to God, but as an impious, unjust, and lawless one . . . setting aside idols to persuade [men] that he himself is God, raising himself up as the only idol. . . . Moreover [Paul] has also pointed out this which I have shown in many ways: that the temple in Jerusalem was made by the direction of the true God. For the apostle himself, speaking in his own person, distinctly called it the temple of God [2 Thess. 2:4] . . . in which the enemy shall sit, endeavoring to show himself as Christ” (Against Heresies 5:25:1-2 [A.D. 189]).

“But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months and will sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire” (ibid., 5:30:4).

Hippolytus (AD 200) saw a future Jewish antichrist and a rebuilt temple before the second coming.

“We find it written regarding Antichrist . . . ‘Dan is a lion’s whelp, and he shall leap from Bashan’ [Deut. 33:22]. But that no one may err by supposing that this is said of the Savior, let him attend carefully to the matter. Dan, he says, is a lion’s whelp. And in naming the tribe of Dan, he declared clearly the tribe from which Antichrist is destined to spring. For as Christ springs from the tribe of Judah, so Antichrist is to spring from the tribe of Dan” (The Antichrist 6 [A.D. 200]). 14).

“Above all, moreover, he will love the nation of the Jews. And with all these [Jews] he will work signs and terrible wonders, false wonders and not true, in order to deceive his impious equals. . . . And after that he will build the temple in Jerusalem and will restore it again speedily and give it over to the Jews” (Discourse on the End of the World 23-25 [A.D. 217]).

Hippolytus separated Daniel’s 70th week from the 69 weeks, and placed the last 7 years before the end of the world (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist 43).

Tertullian (AD 210) believed in a present day “antichrist” and a future coming “antichrist”.

The man of sin, the son of perdition, who must first be revealed before the Lord comes, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped; and who is to sit in the temple of God and boast himself as being God. . . . According indeed to our view, he is Antichrist; as it is taught us in both the ancient and the new prophecies, and by the apostle John, who says that ‘already many false prophets have gone out into the world,’ the forerunners of Antichrist, who deny that Christ is come in the flesh, and do not acknowledge Jesus, meaning in God the Creator” (Against Marcion 5:16 [A.D. 210]).

Ephraem of Nisibis (AD 306-373), a major theologian of the early Eastern (Byzantine) Church, writes:

All the saints and elect of God are gathered together before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.” He describes the imminent rapture, followed by 3½ years of great tribulation under the rule of Antichrist, followed by the coming of Christ, the defeat of Antichrist, and the eternal state. His view includes a parenthesis between the fulfillment of Daniel’s sixty-nine weeks and his seventieth week in Daniel 9:24-27. (source: https://tms.edu/m/tmsj13e.pdf )

Brother Dolcino (AD 1307), a leader of the Apostolic Brethren in northern Italy writes:

The Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds of the said three and a half years; and after he had come, then he [Dolcino] and his followers would be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist” (source: https://tms.edu/m/tmsj13e.pdf )

Peter Jurieu (1637-1713) was a prominent theologian and apologist in the French Reformed Church. In his work, Approaching Deliverance of the Church (1687), he taught that “Christ would come in the air to rapture the saints and return to heaven before the battle of Armageddon. He spoke of a secret rapture prior to His coming in glory and judgement at Armageddon.” (source: https://tms.edu/m/tmsj13e.pdf )

Augustine (AD 354) alluded to Nero as a type of antichrist.

“Some think that the Apostle Paul referred to the Roman empire, and that he was unwilling to use language more explicit, lest he should incur the calumnious charge of wishing ill to the empire which it was hoped would be eternal; so that in saying, ‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work,‘ he alluded to Nero, whose deeds already seemed to be as the deeds of Antichrist” (The City of God on II Thessalonians 2:7, XX.19.3).

Commodian (AD 260), a Christian poet, writes of the Antichrist, when Nero will return from hell:

“Then, doubtless, the world shall be finished when he shall appear. He himself shall divide the globe into three ruling powers, when, moreover, Nero shall be raised up from hell, Elias shall first come to seal the beloved ones; at which things the region of Africa and the northern nation, the whole earth on all sides, for seven years shall tremble. But Elias shall occupy the half of the time, Nero shall occupy half. Then the whore Babylon, being reduced to ashes, its embers shall thence advance to Jerusalem; and the Latin conqueror shall then say, I am Christ, whom ye always pray to; and, indeed, the original ones who were deceived combine to praise him. He does many wonders, since his is the false prophet” (Instructions, XLI).

Irenaeus (AD 189), a church father comments on the number of the Beast, warned against “making surmises, and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved” (Against Heresies, V.30.3).

He understood John’s vision to have occurred “almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign“, a tradition repeated by Eusebius (AD314) in his Ecclesiastical History (III.18.3) and by the church fathers (e.g., Clement of Alexandria, The Rich Man’s Salvation, XLII; Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse, X.11; Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, IX; Sulpicius Severus, Sacred History, II.31)—which is to say, sometime before AD 96, when the emperor was assassinated and just a few years before John himself died of old age, having been banished to the island of Patmos, where Revelation was written. Source: University of Chicago/paper

Jerome (4th Century), in his Commentary on the Book of Daniel, expressed this idea:

And so there are many of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity. (Source: https://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_daniel_02_text.htm)

John Calvin did not write a commentary on Revelation, but in his Commentary on Daniel, he identifies the little horn of Daniel 7 as Roman Caesar’s:

“It is sufficiently clear, therefore, that this exhibition ought to be referred to the first advent of Christ. I have no doubt that the little horn relates to Julius Caesar and the other Caesars who succeeded him, namely, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and others” 

(Source: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/daniel/7.htm)

In Calvin’s Institutes, the little horn is Antiochus:

“In another passage, the Spirit, portraying him in the person of Antiochus, says that his reign would be with great swelling words of vanity” (Dan. 7:25). Source: (Calvin’s Institutes IV:7:25)

Calvin also accused the Pope of being the Antichrist not based on Daniel 7 or 8, but because of his “tyranny,” “destruction of the truth,” “corruption of the worship of God,” “breaking of His ordinances,” and the “dispersion of the order of His Church.”

Martin Luther, who had grave reservations about Revelation as a canonical book, subscribed to historicist ideas in his later years and found resources for an anti-Catholic message in the Bible. Martin Luther was probably unaware of the previous attacks on the papacy when, in 1517, he drafted his 95 Theses. However, for Martin Luther, the popes were not only the antichrist. For him, popes were the “spirit” of antichrist, while the “Turks” (Muslims) were the flesh. In reading Daniel 8, Luther also saw Antiochus Epiphanes as the forerunner of the great antichrist.

In the first few centuries of the Church, the Roman Caesars from Nero to Diocletian became “antichrists,” and Rome was “Babylon.” Some also saw a future literal anti-Christ, and rebuilt temple (all this before the arrival of Papacy).

Yet, centuries later, with the arrival of Muhammad, the idea of antichrist took on a distinctly Muslim flavor.

John of Damascus (6th century) wrote in his Against Heresies about the “deceptive error of the Ishmaelites, the forerunner of the antichrist.” 

As early as 634 A.D., in The Doctrine of Jacob, a Jewish merchant from Palestine who had converted to Christianity laments over the Arab invasions. He writes: “What can you tell me about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens? He replied, groaning deeply: “He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword.” Truly they are the works of anarchy being committed today and I fear the first Christ to come, whom the Christians worship, was the one sent by God and we instead are preparing to receive the Antichrist.

Another eyewitness to the initial Arab attacks was Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 634 A.D., Bethlehem had already fallen to the Arab invaders, so he was forced to give his Nativity sermon in Jerusalem. His most detailed description of the Muslim invasion came in his Epiphany sermon, in probably 636 A.D., a dire moment, as the Arab army had surrounded Jerusalem itself. He spoke of the “God-hating Saracens, the abomination of desolation clearly foretold to us by the prophets.” Jerusalem fell in 637 A.D., and in due course they established Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, meant to forever cement the idea that Islam had supplanted Christianity and Judaism, even in the very heart of the Judeo-Christian world.

Peter the Venerable (12 the century), saw Muhammad as the precursor to the Antichrist (source: Wikipedia).

During the 13th century, works by scholars such as Peter PascualRiccoldo da Monte di Croce, and Ramon Llull, depicted Muhammad as an Antichrist while Islam was shown to be a Christian heresy (source: Wikipedia).

Kenneth Setton (an American historian) wrote that Muhammad was frequently calumniated and made a subject of legends taught by preachers as fact. For example, in order to show that Muhammad was the anti-Christ, it was asserted that Muhammad died not in the year 632 but in the year 666 – the number of the beast – in another variation on the theme the number “666” was also used to represent the period of time Muslims would hold sway of the land (source: Wikipedia).

Islam undoubtedly punctuated Martin Luther’s wholehearted belief that he was living amidst the Last Days, so Martin Luther wrote, “The pope is Antichrist, so the Turk (Muslims) is the very devil … both shall go down to hell”.

Luther was not the first to attribute antichrist characteristics to the papacy. Back in 991, Bishop Arnulf of Orleans, applies that title to papacy. 

Luther and others went on to identify the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church as the “Antichrist” and “Whore of Babylon” during the Protestant reformation. This was the central conflict of Luther and the reformers of the Protestant Reformation. Hence, Protestantism redirected and divided the views of the antichrist away from where it had been for the first centuries. After Luther, for many centuries until the middle of the 19th century, the dominant view in the church was the Historicist school of thought which was held by such people as John Knox, William Tyndale, Isaac Newton, and many others. Today, SDA’s champion the historicist view, continuing with much of the ideas held by the Protestant reformers.

Now, was John Calvin influenced by Jesuits for writing that the little horn of Daniel 7 refers to Caesars? Were the early church fathers influenced by Jesuits for holding a flavor of preterist and futurist ideas of antichrist? Far from it. As you can see, the SDAs and others who propagate that preterist and futurist ideas of antichrist (in opposition to Popes being the antichrist) were a Jesuit invention in the 16th century is utterly false. Preterist ideas were more common than futurist ideas, but they were nothing knew among several early church believers.

Preterism traces its roots back to the second century, and there have been many prominent preterists (partial or moderate) since long before the Jesuit order was born. Historicism, which also had a long history on the periphery, only gained prominence during the Reformation as Protestant leaders “discovered” the papacy on the pages of almost every evil power in Daniel and Revelation, as they believed they lived in the very last days of apostasy. Apparently contrived from an anti-Catholic mindset rather than a critical evaluation of the facts, and good exegesis, Historicism’s fortunes waned as anti-Catholic fervor died down. Its highly subjective (such arbitrarily picking of dates to pinpoint fulfillments) and controversial nature led many to question if it was not based more on wishful thinking rather than actual fact. Due to its nebulous interpretation method and the fact that John’s original readers could not have understood the book of Revelation in a historicist manner, the historicist view is not widely held today. As historicism came to be viewed as unreliable because of having so many differing variations on interpreting the same symbols, and following the very public humiliation of the October 22, 1844, Great Disappointment, there was widespread abandonment of historicist view among protestants. Futurism’s more literalist approach gained favor among Christian denominations there after. Futurism (with varying degrees) has arisen to prominence over the past two centuries, and Preterism (partial, moderate, etc.) has also been making inroads.

While we do not side with any particular camp, the bottom line is, regarding antichrists, there are many antichrist spirits that have gone out into the world (1 John 2:18), and so will there be many coming through out the church age.

Interestingly, the only place in the New Testament where the word “antichrist” appears is in the Johannine Epistles, not in Revelation. Nowhere in Revelation is the “beast” ever called “antichrist”. In his first epistle John emphatically states (1 John 2:18) that we may know this is the last hour because of the existence and activity of many antichrists. He says: “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (2:18).

Note well that the entire period between the first and second comings of Jesus is called either the “last hour” as well as the “last days”. See Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2; 1 Pt. 1:20 (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11). Thus the “last hour” in 1 John 2:18 is not a reference to the final days preceding Christ’s return but a reference to the entire church age in which we now live.

For John, “antichrist” is anyone “who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22), or anyone “who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). The term “antichrist” is a combination of anti (against or instead of) and christos (Messiah, Christ).

We would be agreeable to say that the spirit of antichrist has revealed itself in Antiochus Epiphanes, Julius Caesar, Nero Caesar, and the papacy— and many others like Islam. This is consistent with the beliefs of the Reformers such as Calvin, and Luther, and the early church fathers, who applied the antichrist figure to more than one individual unlike what SDA’s try to portray! Besides, we believe the beast and Babylon powers of Revelation goes beyond Caesars and Popes as outlined in our Revelation commentary. See:

1) Our verse-by-verse complete Daniel Commentary

2) Our verse-by-verse complete Revelation Commentary

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This generation will not pass away (Matthew 24:1-51)

This is a study of Mathew 24:1-51 verse-by-verse. The context for this chapter is set in Matthew chapter 23:38, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!“. Hearing Jesus’ warning about the impending destruction and desolation of Israel’s Temple, the disciples are shocked as they ponder the Temple’s magnificence. Leading up to this point, Jesus has been teaching and speaking in Israel’s temple and outer courts in Jerusalem. He has just completed pronouncing seven “woes” of judgment against Israel’s religious leaders (Matthew 23:13). He concluded with a declaration that He was officially abandoning Jerusalem, and the temple to coming judgment (Matthew 23:37–38). Jerusalem has refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah and receive His protection. So the disciples heard all these things, and they leave, wondering how this whole place, all these big buildings, surrounded with walls, are going to come under judgement?  Starting in verse 1.

Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him (Matthew 24:1)

So as Jesus was coming out of the temple, the disciples came up to Him. Gazing at the temple buildings, they could not make sense how all these great temple buildings will be brought down. As they departing for the Mount of Olives, the disciples remind Jesus of the Temple’s magnificent splendor.

And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” (Matthew 24:2)

And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? All these things refer to the temple, and the holy city of Jerusalem itself.

Not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down. Jesus draws the disciples’ minds to the sobering reality of Jerusalem’s fate. Every magnificent stone will be thrown down.This is talking about the ruin to come upon Jerusalem. After the city was taken by Romans, Jewish historian Josephus, who fell into the hands of Romans at this time, says that Titus (before becoming Emperor, he gained renown as a military commander), “gave orders that they should now “demolish the whole city and temple”. This sad prophecy would come true in AD 70 when the Roman Empire attacked Jerusalem, dismantling the entire temple in the process.2

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. The disciples were curious to know more about the destruction to come, so they came to Jesus privately. Jesus and the disciples have now come to Mount of Olives, from which they had a magnificent view of the whole city. The passage that begins with this verse is often called the Olivet Discourse. Christ is sitting on the Mount of Olives as He teaches. 

Tell us, 1) when will these things happen, and 2) what will be the sign of Your coming, and 3) of the end of the age? The apostles ask three questions, but it is clear they believe all of these events will occur at the same time. Though grossly mistaken, they cannot imagine Jerusalem’s being destroyed unless it is accompanied by some kind of catastrophic end of the world. Jesus overlooks the apostles’ misconceptions and goes on to answer their questions by dividing His response into two parts. First, He deals with the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1–35), and then He turns His attention to His second coming (Matthew 24:36–25:46). Some commentators apply the end of the age to refer to the end of the Jewish age culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem. While this is possible, however, Jesus’ response shows the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of history are two different things as we shall see.

And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matthew 24:4)

So Jesus begins to answer the first question regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus cautions the disciples to beware of deception. They were to be constantly on their guard, because many would arise to deceive the people.

For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many (Mathew 24:5).

Many would lay claims to being the Messiah. Josephus (the Jewish historian) informs us that there were many who pretended to have divine inspiration; who deceived the people, leading out numbers of them into the desert.2This is the first sign, preceding the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem.

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end (Matthew 24:6).

The forty years that intervened before the destruction of Jerusalem were full of these commotions in all directions. Four Roman emperors, Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, suffered violent deaths in the short space of eighteen months. In consequence of these changes in the government, there were commotions throughout the empire. Be not be alarmed when you hear of those commotions. The end of the Jewish economy; the destruction of Jerusalem will not immediately follow with these commotions, because the end of it is not yet.  

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)

For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. At Caesarea the Jews and Syrians fought about the right to the city, and twenty thousand of the Jews were slain. Italy was also thrown into civil war by the contests between Otho and Vitellius for the crown. 

Various places there will be famine. There was a famine foretold by Agabus (Acts 11:28), which is mentioned by historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius. It was so severe in Jerusalem, Josephus says, that many people perished for want of food. Four times in the reign of Claudius (41-54 a.d.) famines prevailed in Rome, Palestine, and Greece.2

Earthquakes. In prophetic language, earthquakes sometimes mean political commotions. Tacitus mentions of an earthquake in the reign of Claudius, at Rome, and says that in the reign of Nero, the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse were overthrown, and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed and almost destroyed by an earthquake.

But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs (Mathew 24:8)

This is a metaphor. A woman having birth pains, or contractions, may still be far from delivering the baby. Those pains contribute to the eventual time of birth (new age to come), but they don’t mean the child has actually arrived.

Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name (Mathew 24:9)

They will deliver you to tribulation. From the calamities of the Jewish nation in general, afflictions will also come upon Christians in particular. 

Will kill you. Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:59); James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:2); and, in addition to all that the sacred writers have told us, the persecution under Nero took place before the destruction of Jerusalem, in which were put to death, with many others, Peter and Paul. Most of the apostles, it is believed, died by persecution.

Hated by all nations because of My name. The Romans seem to have placed Jews and Christians in the same category, and to have bestowed on Christians the hatred felt for the Jews.

At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another (Mathew 24:10)

Many will fall away. The words point primarily to those who were believers in Christ, and abandoned the faith, either due to persecution or in rejecting the new aspects of new covenant truth presented by the apostles, or due to the delayed coming of the Lord.

Betray one another and hate one another. The apostates, who would fall off from the Christian faith, would prove treacherous to true believers, and give in their names to the persecutors. Bitter hatred of the Judaisers against Paul, and Christians are evidence of this.

Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many (Mathew 24:11)

The later writings of the New Testament bear repeated testimony to this feature of the ten years that came before the destruction of Jerusalem. John speaks of false prophets (1 John 4:1), and many antichrists (1 John 2:18) already existing at that time. 

Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. (Mathew 24:12)

No word could more fitly represent the condition of Judea in the time just referred to: brigandage, massacres, extortion, assassination, came to be common things. Prevalence of evil within the Christian community will have the effect of cooling the brotherly love of the majority of its members. 

But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Mathew 24:13)

Christians shall patiently bear all afflictions, to the end of his life, or to the end of sorrows. Patience and perseverance shall be crowned at the last day. “The end” here means primarily the destruction of Jerusalem, and the salvation promised is safety in that day of peril. It is believed that no Christians perished in the siege. It is a historical fact that Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, for some unknown reason, suspended the siege against Jerusalem, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies for an interval of time after the Romans had occupied the Temple, thus giving every believer the opportunity to obey the Lord’s instruction to flee the city. Josephus, the eyewitness, himself an unbeliever, chronicles this fact, and admitted his inability to account for the cessation of the fighting at this time after a siege had begun.2

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Mathew 24:14)

This gospel of the kingdom. The good news of the coming of Messiah’s kingdom. The gospel is the same gospel as you find in Paul. It is what God has ordained through his eternal Son, to pay the price of sin, to take on the effects of the curse, to release his people, to gather and transform men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation. It is the good news. It is the gospel, the life-changing focus on who Christ is and what he has done. That is the gospel.

Shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations. By the “whole world” means the then known world. The faith of the Christians in Romans was spoken of throughout the whole world even during the first century. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). When the Jews rejected the Gospel from them, the apostles turned to the Gentiles; and before the destruction of Jerusalem, it was preached to all the nations under the visible heavens. Thus, Paul declares that it was preached to every creature “under heaven” (Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:23)

Then the end will come. Not the end of the world but the end of the temple and city will come.

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) (Mathew 24:15)

When you see the abomination of desolation. Abomination of Desolation is literally, the abomination that causes desolation. In the Old Testament, “abomination” is an object of disgust, something that causes revulsion; an idolatrous offense or affront to the true worship of God. The Abomination of Desolation is referred to four times in Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11, which was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes (a Syrian king), who slaughtered 40,000 Jews and plundered the temple in 168 b.c. He sacrificed a pig on the altar of burnt offering, sprinkled broth from the unclean flesh all over the holy grounds as an act of deliberate defilement. He then erected an image of Zeus above the altar. It was a sacrilege of indescribable proportions indelibly imprinted on the minds of the Jews in Jesus’ day.

Which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand). Jesus envisioned something of a repeat performance in his day of what happened in 168 b.c. under Antiochus. When he says “let the reader understand” he means “let the reader of the Old Testament book of Daniel understand” the true meaning and fulfillment of the coming Abomination of Desolation standing in the holy place, the holy city and the temple in Jerusalem. The pagan Roman armies surrounding the holy places, the holy city is the abomination that causes [Jerusalem’s] desolation. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.” (Luke 21:20).

Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains (Mathew 24:16)

“Judea” includes not only Jerusalem but also the surrounding province that will be most eminently affected by the cataclysmic events of Rome’s onslaught. The term “mountains” is a general phrase and probably refers to any of the nearby hills or mountains within reasonable traveling distance. The third century historian Eusebius also suggests many Christians fled to Pella, a city beyond the Jordan in the region of Perea, about seventeen miles from the Sea of Galilee.

Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house (Mathew 24:17)

Jesus says when Christians see the fateful hour upon them, they are not to come down from their housetops to take anything from within. Haste is the issue. Believers are not to worry about their material possessions nor to sort through their belongings so as to decide which “stuff” they will drag from the city. 

Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak (Mathew 24:18) 

Manual labor in the fields just outside the city gates is hot, sweaty work. Thus, the “outer garment” is often laid aside or perhaps even left at home in the city. If one in the field notices the “signal” for flight to safety, he is not to return to retrieve his clothing. He is to flee immediately without regard for his material possessions. 

But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! (Mathew 24:19) 

Travel under the best conditions will be difficult given the haste. But Jesus says it will be even more difficult for expectant and nursing mothers. For them, travel will be slow and difficult, and no doubt beset by inadequate shelter and provisions. For this group it is a time of “woe.” Unlike Matthew 23:13 (woe to you, scribes and Pharisees), Jesus uses the term here to express His deepest compassion and empathy.

But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. (Mathew 24:19) 

Pray. Jesus tells His disciples to “pray.” They are to entreat God that He will make this traumatic time as easy as possible. Even though believers are innocent of the crimes of Israel and the rejection of the Messiah that brings this doom to their city, they are not exempt from its terrible effects.

That your flight will not be in the winter. In Palestine during the winter, roads were practically impassible because of mud; harsh weather and cold temperatures would also slow down one’s journey and make mountain hideaways unbearable.

Or on a Sabbath. On the Sabbath, gates would be closed; it would be difficult to obtain provisions (Jews prohibited anything more than a one-day’s journey on the Sabbath); buying and selling were not permitted; one travelling on a Sabbath would receive no assistance from the Jewish populace. The Puritans (the English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries), and present day Seventh day/First day Sabbatarians refer to this statement as an indirect argument in favour of continued Sabbath observance. Note that this warning was given “to those who are in Judea” (verse 16), not to disciples in other parts of the world. Jesus gave the warning here because he knew that the Jews would not allow the kind of escape in troubling times on the Sabbath. His warning was not a command to rest on the Sabbath any more than it was a command to rest in winter. These were simply inconvenient times to flee. Even a gentile Christian congregation not observing the Sabbath would be exposed to hardship and danger if its people attempted to flee on that day in a Jewish environment, in Judea.

For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Mathew 24:21) 

For then there will be a great tribulation. The afflictions which befell the Jews can be classified as great tribulations. Joshephus writes: “The greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those wherein cities have fought against cities, or nations against nations . . . it appears to me that the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to those of the Jews, are not so considerable as they were“.

Such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Many insist that this “great tribulation” cannot refer to the events of 70 a.d. because worse and more severe tribulations have since followed (World War II and the Holocaust, Stalin, etc.). Once one grasps the dimensions of what occurred in 70 a.d., one realizes that the savagery, cruelty, and the monstrosities that occurred were beyond comparison. Also, never so high a percentage of one city’s population was destroyed. Everyone was either killed or sold into slavery. As noted earlier, approximations are that 1,100,000 people were killed and 100,000 were enslaved. “Such as has not occurred…nor ever will” is language framed in terms of prophetic hyperbole, a common apocalyptic device used by the writers of Scripture. For Example: “There shall be a great cry in all the land of Egyptsuch as there has not been before and such as shall never be again” (Exod. 11:6).

Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short (Matthew 24:22) 

Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved. Jesus notes that unless God shows His mercy, none from the nation of Israel will be saved. The term “no flesh” refers to the physical nation of Israel and her physical salvation from the Romans. 

But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Christians will be caught in the crossfire. For the sake of the elect, meaning Christians, however, the onslaught will be divinely curtailed. Historians note that if Rome’s siege had continued much longer, the entire Jewish race would have been destroyed.

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him (Matthew 24:23)  

Jesus says, don’t look for the second coming of Christ in the chaotic events surrounding Jerusalem’s fall. Such troublesome times would prove to be a golden opportunity for false prophets to lead people astray with false expectations of Christ’s appearance. Hence, Christ warns His disciples, that they are not to follow any imposter back into the doomed city of Jerusalem.

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24)  

Christ’s apostles are to expect charlatans to arise and attempt to deceive believers with “signs and wonders.” Josephus gives anecdotal evidence for unusual occurrences about this time: a star resembling a sword that stands over the city and a great light that appears for a half hour around the Temple. Just as “false prophets” in the Old Testament are those who offer “alternative doctrines” or “false hope” in the face of doom, so these “false prophets” will do the same during Jerusalem’s final hours, even to mislead the elect – the Christians.

Behold, I have told you in advance.  So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them (Matthew 24:25-26)

Behold, I have told you in advance. The reason why he told them in advance of all these things was that they might be on their guard, and be prepared for those calamities.

So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms. Some might say the “Christ” has finally arrived to save Israel and He is hiding in the wilderness or in some secret room in the besieged city. Jesus wants His disciples to remember that He has already presented Himself to Israel as the true Messiah. Josephus actually records several instances of impostors who enticed people into the desert and elsewhere with promises of the Messiah’s appearance.2

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Mathew 24:27)  

The coming of the Son of Man here is not the second coming of Christ, but His “coming” in judgment that appears like a destructive lightning bolt against Jerusalem similar to when He came in judgement against Egypt. “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt” (Isaiah 19:1).The direction of this judgment from the east may reflect the Roman armies marching toward Jerusalem from an easterly direction. Josephus’s record of the march of the Roman armies through Israel approaching from the east. Or it may mean that His judgment will come in a rapid and unexpected manner, like the lightning comes from eastward and flashes even westward, that those who witness it will not miss it. It is not a secret event.2

Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather (Mathew 24:28)  

The meaning here is that the Son of Man will bring judgment on Jerusalem, by means of the Roman armies. In the Old Testament, to give someone’s flesh to be eaten by the birds was an expression of total defeat and their being put to shame. “And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air.” (1 Sam. 17:46-47). Vultures easily ascertain where dead bodies are and hasten to devour them. With the Roman army approaching, Jerusalem was like a dead and putrid corpse. Hence, the disciples are not to expect any “Messiah,” not even Jesus, to appear personally and save Jerusalem.

But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken  (Mathew 24:29)  

But immediately after the tribulation of those days. The tribulation of which Jesus speaks is the same sufferings described previously, those that Rome will visit upon the Jewish nation (Matthew 24:19–22).

The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. In the Old Testament, such language was used to portray not what is going on in the heavens but what is happening on the earth. Natural disasters, political upheaval, turmoil among the nations, etc., are often described figuratively through the terminology of cosmic disturbances. In Isaiah 13:9-10 we read of the impending judgment of God on Babylon, which he describes in this way: “The stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:9-10)”.

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Mathew 24:30) 

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky [heaven]. Jesus was not telling his disciples that He would appear in the sky. Rather, He told them that they would see a sign concerning “the Son of Man”. A sign, sēmeion in the Greek, is a symbol pointing to some reality. What is meant here is that the Son of man will give a proof of himself, whom Jews did not acknowledge: as proof, not in any visible appearance, but in judgment so visible from heaven, such that those who rejected Him shall be forced to acknowledge He is the resurrected Messiah, who is reigning in heaven.

Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn. The word translated “tribes” (phule) has the tribes of Israel in view. The Greek noun translated “earth” (ge) can refer generally to the tangible ground, the whole earth, or more specifically to a particular land area. In context, the land of Israel, i.e., Palestine (Mathew 2:20) is in view here. Hence, all the “tribes or people” of the land of Judea shall mourn at the great calamities coming upon them, and this is the proof that they rejected Him, and He has come in judgment upon them.

They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. This “coming” is not a visible, physical appearance by which Jesus returns to earth (although that will most assuredly occur at the end of history). Rather, the generation living at this time will “see” the Son of Man coming in judgement. Those who have refused to accept Him as King and Savior did indeed “see” Him come on the “clouds” of judgement. Coming in clouds represents God coming to earth in judgement. Isaiah 19:1 says, “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.” Obviously, the Egyptians did not see the Lord in a personal, visible way, but in powerful judgment. Psalms 97:2-3 says, “Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.” Power and great glory is manifested when the Lord comes on “clouds” of judgement.

And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Mathew 24:31)

And He will send forth His angels. Angels (aggelos in Greek) signify “messengers” such as found in Luke 7:24 or Luke 9:52. “After John’s messengers (aggelos) left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John” (Luke 7:24). This appears to be a reference to human messengers such as the apostles, and their successors in the Christian ministry, that God will send to gather His elect during and after the coming judgment.

With a great trumpet. The Jewish assemblies used to be called together by the sound of a trumpet. “Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out” (Numbers 10:2). Here, Jesus, uses language familiar to the Jews, and describes the gathering together of His people, by alluding to a sounding of the gospel trumpet, by sending His messengers. Isaiah 27:13: “It will come about also on that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:13).

They will gather together His elect. God shall send forth his messengers, with the trumpet of the gospel – whatever he chooses: human messengers, or the angels themselves – and gather Christians into a place of safety at this time, so that they shall not be destroyed with the Jews. The “gathering together” of God’s elect here is not a reference to the end-time harvest but the gathering of his people to safety (see also a pararrel passage: Zechariah 14:1-21) and “to the world-wide growth of the church” that increased exponentially after the destruction of the temple and has been on-going since then to this present age. It is true that angels, trumpets, and the gathering of God’s elect shall be part of the final end (that is at the Second Coming of Christ) is beyond question (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). But the context of these verses points to the destruction of Jerusalem, and gathering of the elect from coming destruction to safety and world-wide growth.

From the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. The phrase ‘from one end of the sky to the other’ does not indicate that the place of the action is in the sky (or heaven) above. The phrase often signifies nothing more than from the uttermost parts of the earth to the uttermost parts of heaven or “horizon to horizon”. “If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee (Deuteronomy 30:4). Likewise Isaiah 45:22 says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” Hence, this verse has no reference to Christ’s second coming but is prophetic of the time when safety will be extended to believers during the Roman siege, and salvation to all beyond the borders of Israel to outermost parts of the earth.  In Luke 13:29, Jesus said, “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” Bringing together people from the four winds by God’s messengers is to show that the gospel dispensation will become universal in scope due to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near (Mathew 24:32)

Now learn the parable from the fig tree. Jesus says consider the fig tree. Because this discourse is given while Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives near the village of Bethphage (house of figs), the fig tree is appropriate to the illustration.

When its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves you know that summer is near. Just as a budding tree signals the nearness of summer’s warmth, the things Jesus predicts signal the heat of God’s judgement upon Jerusalem.

So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door (Matthew 24:33)

When you see all these things. “All these things” refers to all the things about which Jesus has warned so far: false Christs, wars, rumors of wars, famine, pestilence, earthquake, etc. It encompasses all that is connected with the fall of Jerusalem. It encompasses everything from verse 4-31.

Recognize that He is near, right at the door. When Christians see “all these things” coming to pass, they will know “it” is near.

Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (Mathew 24:34)

“This generation” is the immediate generation under the sound of Jesus’ voice. Every event regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, the Roman atrocities toward the Jews, abomination of desolation, coming of the Son of Man in judgment, gathering of the elect by God’s messengers for safety, and the advancement of God’s kingdom to the uttermost part of the then known world (Colossians 1:6) are to be fulfilled within forty years from the time Jesus spoke these things. Forty years is the time span generally used to mark a generation in Jewish thought.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away (Matthew 24:35)

Although to the human mind nothing seems more stable than heaven and earth, Jesus says His words are more sure. ‘By heaven and earth will pass away’ also may refer to the imminent end to the social, religious and economic structure of Israel’s covenant relationship with God. Based on Jewish understanding, the temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met. Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality. 

With this verse Jesus ends His discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem. In minute detail, He has answered the first question asked in verse 3, “When shall these things be?” In the next section, Jesus will turn His attention to events for which there will be no specific signs. Unlike the terror that is soon to befall Jerusalem, the end of time will come with no warning. In fact Jesus tells His disciples that of “that day and hour” no man can predict.

Remember, the question the disciples had asked Jesus back in verse 3 was a) When will “these things” be, i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple? b) When will you return and consummate the age? The disciples thought the two events would be simultaneous. Jesus says, “No, the destruction of Jerusalem will be in your lifetime, in your generation. I’ll even give you signs that will warn you of its nearness. But the day of my second coming will not be preceded by specific signs. It will come only after a period of delay of undetermined duration. Everyone of this present generation will be aware of when Jerusalem will fall, but no one knows the day or hour when the second coming will occur. Continuing from verse 36.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mathew 24:36)

But. The use of the word “but” implies a contrast between verse 36 and what has previously been said. Our Lord is clearly moving from the subject of Jerusalem and its temple to that of his second coming.

That day and hour no one knows. In the first half of the sermon, Jesus gave specifics concerning events preceding and leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem; he gave instructions on how to escape; he even gave them one sign (abomination of desolation) in particular that would unmistakably indicate the imminence of the city’s fall. But now, in response to the second half of their question, he says: “No human knows or can know” the day and hour of His second coming.

Not even the angels of heaven. Even angels cannot reveal it.

Nor the Son but the Father alone. Jesus is not saying that He’s ignorant of the hour of His second coming, but rather, He simply will not reveal it neither will the angels, who generally announces God’s plans. The Greek word “eido” which is translated as ‘know’, can be translated as “cannot tell” or will not reveal. In the ancient Jewish wedding custom, the groom’s father arranges the wedding. During a period of betrothal, the groom prepares a bridal chamber at his father’s house while the bride waits at her house. It is only when the groom’s father is satisfied with his son’s preparations that he gives his permission to his son to go and get the bride, and bring her to the bridal chamber. With this custom, Jesus is saying that He cannot reveal it, neither can angels, because according to the wedding protocol, it is reserved for the Father only to announce that the preparations of his son are complete, and the time for the wedding has come.

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37)

Jesus now takes His disciples’ minds back to the familiar account of Noah (Genesis 6-9). In so doing, He establishes the veracity and historicity of the biblical account of the flood. 

For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark (Mathew 24:38)

All seems normal before the flood. People go about their daily activities of eating, drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage. The people conduct their daily lives as if no judgment will come, as if Noah is a crazy man, and as if they will live forever. 

And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:39)

Those of Noah’s day heard and understood the warning, but they did not believe God was serious. “Took them away” refers to the wicked of Noah’s day. It is not “Noah and his family” who are taken from the earth but rather those who refuse to heed his preaching. This point is vital in understanding the next two verses. Those “taken away” in the following verses are the wicked, not the righteous.

Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. (Mathew 24:40-41)

Jesus here gives two examples of activities of daily living. One picture is of two farm workers tending crops in the field. The other picture is of two women, one on each side of a grinding wheel, preparing flour from grain. While people may be intimately connected by their jobs and daily activities in this life (that is, in the field, at the mill), judgment will find each on his own. The second coming will come so suddenly that no last minute preparation will be possible. The wicked will be taken away to meet their doom just as the flood took the wicked of the then known world.

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming (Mathew 24:42)

Because there will be no harbinger for Jesus’ second coming, He enjoins vigilance. The Greek word “watch” (gregoreite) means more than simply looking at something. It means to be awake, to be on guard as a soldier assigned to a night watch. The three parables that follow masterfully illustrate this point.

But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. (Mathew 24:43-44) 

On a moral level Jesus has nothing in common with a thief. Yet the illustration is appropriate because just as the thief gives no advance warning so Jesus’ coming will be unannounced. The only way a homeowner can rest assured is to be on guard constantly.

 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? (Mathew 24:45)

The faithful and wise servant is the one who is vigilant. This man is just a servant, but he has been given great responsibilities as well. So, the picture is not merely that of a steward over material goods but one who is in charge of other servants as well. 

Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions (Mathew 24:46-47)

God did not design man to be idle either physically or spiritually. Work is necessary in both the temporal and spiritual realms. Those whom the Lord will reward are those who are vigilant and who are diligent in the work of the Lord. Moreover Jesus will promote them to positions of greater responsibility in the kingdom that He will establish after His second coming in the new heavens and new earth that He will create.

But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards (Mathew 24:48-49)

Jesus raises the possibility that the same servant who has the potential for faithfulness has the same for being a scoundrel. The choice is up to the servant, and what he chooses to do in his lord’s absence is up to him. In this case, the same servant abandons goodness and follows the evil that apparently is in his heart all along. He begins to carouse at the master’s expense instead of keeping the household in order and exercising a prudent economy. He seemingly forgets that someday there will come a day of reckoning.

The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know (Mathew 24:50)

Jesus says, “at an hour which he does not know.” This statement is further proof that Jesus’ second coming will not be accompanied by specific warning signs. Therefore, constant preparedness is vital. Every day must be lived as if it were the day of the Lord’s return. 

And will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51)

Jesus may be using hyperbole because He goes on to say this evil servant will have his portion with the hypocrites and will be cast in a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Presumably then he will still be alive. Some scholars believe “cut him in pieces” refers to severe scourging or perhaps to mutilation of some other sort. Whatever the case, the meaning is that this wicked servant will experience the most excruciating punishment. What awaits this wicked servant is “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46).

Final thoughts: It may well be that future events associated with the second advent of Christ at the end of the age are prefigured by the destruction of the temple and the city in 70 a.d. The mistake that many make, however, is in trying to project the historical details of 70 a.d. into a comparable and proportionate conflagration in literal, historical Jerusalem at the end of the age. They fail to realize that the events of 70 a.d. are a prototype on a microcosmic scale of what will occur on a macrocosmic scale when Jesus returns.

Referenced & Adapted:

  1. Storms, Sam. (MATTHEW 24 AND THE OLIVET DISCOURSE: https://www.samstorms.org/all-articles/post/matthew-24-and-the-olivet-discourse—part-i).

2. Study light commentary. (MATTHEW 24: https://www.studylight.org/commentary/matthew/24.html