Theme: Always be ready to persevere 
In this week’s lesson we hear about Jesus’ discussion of the end times and how we should respond
Matthew 24:32-35
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”


We began yesterday by introducing the phrases in this passage that are difficult to interpret with consistency. There are two easy ways to solve these problems, but they have not commended themselves to all commentators.
First, we can place all these events together at one point in time and locate that point at the end of history. This view has the advantage of taking the time references literally. The fall of Jerusalem, the signs in the sky, and the return of Jesus occur in tight chronological sequence. All are yet future, and the fall of Jerusalem is made to fit events outlined in other biblical books like Revelation. This is an understanding common among dispensationalists, for whom the distress of Jerusalem is linked to the great tribulation and precedes the battle of Armageddon and the subsequent reign of Jesus Christ on earth for a thousand years, the millennium. In this view “this generation” is either referring to the generation living at the time of the final attack on Jerusalem or is understood to mean “this race,” meaning that the Jews will not cease to exist as a race until this happens.
The main reason many people have not been persuaded by this handling of the details of Matthew 24 is that they cannot believe that verses 15-22 are not a description of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. But they also have a problem with “this generation.” Most commentators say that this can hardly mean anything other than the generation living at the time Jesus spoke these words.
The other easy way to solve the problem of the time references in Matthew 24 is also to put these events together but to place them in the first Christian century in connection with the fall of the city to the Romans. In this view the coming of Christ referred to in verses 30 and 31 is his return in judgment on Jerusalem, and the signs of his coming are understood as Old Testament images of historical but earthshaking events. “The end of the age” (v. 3) is understood to mean the end of the Jewish age which is followed by the age of the church. This means that nearly everything in Matthew 24 and 25 is about God’s judgment on Jerusalem, even Jesus’ strong, reiterated warnings to watch and be ready for his return. So also is nearly the whole of the book of Revelation. This view is know as preterism, which means “what has already taken place.”
Preterism has been affirmed recently in a guarded way by R. C. Sproul1, but it has a history of defenders going back quite a few years. One earlier proponent is J. Stuart Russell on whose work Sproul largely depends.2
Why hasn’t this view commended itself to everyone? One obvious reason is that it is hard to see how Christ’s coming on the clouds, with power and great glory, with the angels gathering his elect from the far corners of the earth, can be said to have been fulfilled at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, even granting that the language about the sun being darkened and the moon not giving its light may be figurative.
There is this problem too—probably the most significant of all. If everything (or nearly everything) in these chapters is about the fall of Jerusalem, then the disciples’ question about the end of the age is not really answered, at least not as almost anyone, including the disciples, would have understood it. The chapters which most Christians have always looked to as assuring them of the Lord’s return and encouraging them to be ready and watching for it is not about the Lord’s future return at all. In fact, Jesus has virtually nothing to say about his second coming
Nor do any of the other biblical writers, including the author of Revelation.
1 “R. C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998).  
2 Stewart Russell, The Parousia: A Study of the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lords Second Coming (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983).


Explain the two theories that provide answers to the problem of interpreting Jesus words.
Why is the first theory sometimes disregarded? And the second?


Why do you think that Jesus did not make these details crystal clear for us?

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