I was wondering what your take on Matthew 24:14 is. I’ve been reading
through it and, before reading any commentaries, I thought that perhaps
Jesus was teaching us that when we’ve accomplished the great commission,
reaching all the world with the gospel of God’s kingdom, he would come
back for his church and for judgment. I wondered if this was one of the
motivations for trying to plant churches in every nation. But since I
hadn’t heard anyone quote this scripture when discussing current
evangelizing efforts, I thought there must be a reason. After reading
Steve Kinnard’s commentary on the chapters of Mt. 23-25 and Mk. 13, as
well as two other commentaries, I began to question my own conclusions.
However, I found it difficult to accept that Jesus’ “coming on the clouds”
was meant to be symbolic. The language regarding the coming of the Son of
man seems to be too consistent throughout the chapter to exclude the
possibility that Jesus intended some overlap, or double-meaning when
answering the two/three questions asked by the disciples. Steve Kinnard
argues that Jesus was answering two questions: 1) When will the temple be
destroyed (24:4-35) 2) When will Jesus come again and what are the signs
of the end (vs. 36-51) My confusion is with the language. Jesus talks of
“the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great
glory” (v. 30) in the section Kinnard identifies as answering the first
question regarding the destruction of the temple. However, Jesus uses
similar language in the second section (“the coming of the Son of Man”, v.
37; “the Son of Man will come”, v. 44; “When the Son of Man comes in his
glory”, Mt. 25:31) but is supposedly answering a separate question.

I would happily defer to Steve Kinnard on this one, as I would imagine he
has studied this out thoroughly. However, I have spent a fair amount of
time thinking about Matt 24 and Luke 21, and will give you my “for what it
is worth” answer. I would say that on the whole, both Matt 24 and Luke 21
are principally about AD 70. If one considers Luke 21:20 it is almost for
certain that this verse is talking about the surrounding and eventual
destruction of Jerusalem under Vespasian (AD 69) and his son Titus (AD
70). Looking at Luke 21:20, one can see that the language is apocryphal
(its desolation is near). There is clear reference to the abomination of
desolation, prophesied in Daniel 9:27 “one who causes desolation will
place abominations on a wing of the temple until the end decreed for him
is poured out.” Daniel 9 is definitely a reference to the events in the
first century AD as you can see from its context and its fulfillment. You
should not be surprised at the highly symbolized description used in both
Matthew 24 and Luke 21. This is a pattern established throughout both the
OT and the NT. Consider the description found in Joel 2:28-32, with the
sun turning to blood, wonders in the heavens above and so forth. All this
is applied to the coming of the Kingdom of God on the Day of Pentecost in
Acts 2:16-21. The coming of God in a visitation or for judgment is
described in multiple places using vivid symbolism. Phrases such as stars
falling from the sky and so forth are used to symbolize the falling of the
enemies of God and so forth. This is the pattern followed in Matthew 24:29
(sun darkened, moon not give its light etc.) to describe God’s judgment on
an unrepentant Israel which occurred in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed.

But that brings us to Matthew 24:30,31. Here the scene appears to have
changed. “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky,
with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud
trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one
end of the heavens to the other.” Here we seem to have a change of
immediate subject to end times. The imagery no longer seems to be of
judgment on a nation but rather it appears to be an image of Jesus
returning and of Judgment Day. I would say on behalf of those who believe
the entire passage refers to AD 70, that the change in Matthew 24:30 is so
abrupt, I can see why they struggle with seeing a change of subject.
Nevertheless, from this point on, including the day and hour unknown
section and the parable of the ten virgins, that the subject has by this
point switched to end-times, to the second coming of Jesus and to Judgment
Day. Extra reason for the all-in-AD-70 interpretation is found in Matthew
24:34 where it says this generation will certainly not pass away until all
these things have happened. People who search for simple, logical answers,
will be tempted to interpret this verse narrowly, concluding that Jesus
coming on the clouds happened figuratively in AD 70. I disagree. I believe
there is one of these difficult double prophecies in Matthew 24 and Luke
21 (double in that they refer to AD 70 and to ultimate end times). The
prophecy switches subject mid-stream for reasons the author did not reveal
to us.

To summarize, I believe Matthew 24:1-25 is clearly about AD 70. I also
believe Matthew 24:36-25:13 is clearly about Jesus coming again and
Judgment Day. What Matthew 24:26-35 is referring to is controversial. The
simple answer is what Steve Kinnard proposes, which is that 24:1-35 all
refers to the destruction of Jerusalem . The more complicated and in some
ways harder to defend position, which happens to be mine, is that there is
at least mixed reference in 26-35, at least some of which refers to the
ultimate end times, not all to the destruction of Jerusalem.

That brings me to Matt 24:14. I believe in the context that he is
referring to the end of Jerusalem . Therefore, it is technically is not to
be used to show that if we finish evangelizing the world, Jesus will come
again at that time to bring in the Judgment Day. This may be a nice
preacher’s point. It may even be true that once the gospel has finally
spread throughout the world, Jesus will come back, but that is probably an
incorrect reading of the passage in its context.

So, I guess I agree with you. I agree that Matt 24:26-35 is not simple,
and that it may be a mixed reference to two “comings” of God, in AD 70 and
at the ultimate end of things on Judgment Day, but I would say that one
must be humble about such things rather than dogmatic, especially as this
passage contains no content of particular doctrinal importance or even of
importance of how to live your life whose meaning would be changed
according to your interpretation of 2:26-35. A strong case can be made in
either direction. Good luck in your further studies.

John Oakes, PhD

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