Opinion

Welcome to My World of Dealing with Bible Prophecy ‘Experts’

I don’t claim to be a Bible prophecy expert. All I claim to be is someone who has looked at Bible prophecy passages and compared them with other similar passages. I’ve done this for more than 40 years.

One critic of a video I posted was critical of my comments claiming he had studied Bible prophecy for ten years and knew I was wrong. I commend anyone who has studied anything for ten years. But studying something for ten years does not mean that such a long-term study has netted accurate results. The same is true for someone who has studied a topic for 40 years. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, that is, the proof of what the Bible is saying is in the Bible.

Another critic did not like my response when I said that the position he was advocating did not have anyone “of repute” (solid reputation) to support him in his views, this included reputable Bible commentaries and lexicons. When I posted numerous examples of what I meant, he ignored the dozens of commentators and lexicons and moved on to another topic. There’s an extensive list of them in my book Wars and Rumors of Wars.

One of the reasons I write books and articles is so I don’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over again. I often point people who ask me questions to a book or article I’ve written. Some people are incensed when I do this.

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“Why should I have to buy one of your books for you to answer me?” Because one answer almost always leads to another question. And then another. Then another. Essentially, I end up repeating what’s in books or articles I’ve already written. If a person isn’t willing to take the time to read what I’ve spent many hours studying, researching, and writing, I don’t believe I’m obligated to spend even more time going over the same material.

I’ll often test the waters to see what type of person I’m dealing with. For example, I received the following comment from someone who was responding to a comment I made regarding time texts using words like “near,” “shortly,” and “quickly”:

Have these things happened?
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come [Matt. 24:14]. … 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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:14, 29-31 ESV

I’ve answered a multifaceted question like this numerous times in Last Days Madness, Is Jesus Coming Soon?, and Wars and Rumors of Wars. I decided to comment on Matthew 24:14 to see how he would respond. His response would give me an indication of whether it was worth spending time with his other points of contention. Just so you know, it wasn’t worth except that I got this article out of it. Here’s what I wrote in response:

Let’s look at Matthew 24:14. You say this passage has not been fulfilled. I say it has. What does Matthew 24:34 say: “This generation will not pass away until ALL these things take place.” This would include v. 14 since EVERY time “this generation” is used in the gospels it always refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. The Greek word often translated as “world” in v. 14 is oikoumenē, not kosmos. The same word is found in Luke 2:1 and other places and is often translated more accurately as “inhabited earth” or the political boundary of the Roman Empire. Rome could only tax its subjects, not the entire world. [In other places I point out that the gospel of the kingdom only had to be preached as far as Rome could tax. If the gospel had been preached to that extent, then what Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 was fulfilled before that generation passed away.]
Let’s see what the Bible says about the preaching of the gospel to the whole oikoumenē:

● Col. 1:6: “the gospel … which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.

[This verse alone should have satisfied any argument in response since it states that the gospel had been preached “in all the world,” and the word for “world” is kosmos which is broader than oikoumenē. The Bible often uses the word kosmos (world) in this way, and so do we today.]
● Col. 1:23: “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”

[“This is obviously a figure of speech indicating the universality of the gospel and its proclamation, not that every person on the globe heard Paul preach. In Acts 2:5 this phrase describes countries without including, for example, anyone from North or South America (cf. Also Gen. 41:57; 1 Kings 10:24; Rom. 1:8).”1 Paul tells the Romans that “their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world” (10:18; see Ps. 19:4).]

● Rom. 1:8: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”

[The word translated “world” is kosmos. This means if Jesus had used the word kosmos in Matthew 24:14, this verse would have confirmed what Jesus said about the gospel being preached before that present generation passed away.]

● Rom. 16:25-26: “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith.”

● 1 Tim 3:16: “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”

Did he comment on these verses? No. He wrote the following in response:

Let’s get real. Are you saying the Great Commission has been fulfilled? Verse 15 [he means verse 14 of Matthew 24] makes the meaning clear. It is for all nations. And are you saying the end has come? Verse 15 [he means verse 14] clearly states that after the message has gone to all the world, the end will come. This is exactly the same message of Matt 28:19 and Acts 1:8, except here to avoid any confusing it takes all nations to the “remotest parts of the world.”

I did “get real” by comparing Scripture with Scripture. You can’t get any more real than that.

The verses I listed above answer his objection. He never deals with the use of oikoumenē instead of kosmos in Matthew 24:14 or that Paul declared that the gospel had been preached to “every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:26), even “to all the nations” (Rom. 16:26; also, 1 Tim. 3:16e), and was “believed on in the world [kosmos]” (1 Tim 3:16f). Here is his comment: “And I am not even touching on the lack of history to support the events you reckon have taken place! Assertion is never evidence!” The history is the text of Scripture (Rom. 1:8; 16:26; Col. 1:5-6, 23; 1 Tim. 3:16). Is he saying that these words by the Apostle Paul aren’t history?

The Bible is the best interpreter of itself. We need to let it speak for itself and not force a constrained hermeneutic on it. Consider John Murray’s commentary on Romans 1:8 that’s typical of most commentaries on this passage:

“Throughout the whole world” [kosmos] has been regarded as hyperbole. This is not perhaps the most felicitous way to expressing the apostle’s thought. Paul did not mean, of course, that the whole world distributively, every person under heaven, had heard of the faith of the Roman believers. His terms could not be pressed into that meaning even if most literally understood. But the expression here witnesses to the extensive diffusion of the gospel throughout the known world during the apostolic age (cf. Col. 1:23; Acts 17:30, 31).2

Here’s the comment on Rom. 1:8 from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:Throughout the whole world.—A hyperbole, which is the more natural as the Apostle is speaking of Rome, the centre and metropolis of the world as he knew it.”

There’s this from Matthew Poole’s Commentary: “Throughout the whole world, that is, through many parts of it; it is a figurative speech: see … John 12:19 [“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.’”] Or else, by the whole world may be understood the Roman empire, which ruled at that time over a great part of the known world. See … Luke 2:1.”

My critic writes that Matthew 24:14 “is exactly the same message of Matt 28:19 and Acts 1:8.” Matthew 28:18-20 is describing the discipleship of the nations. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus is describing the “preaching” of the “gospel of the kingdom,” the very thing Paul was still doing (Acts 28:31) before the events of AD 70 took place. The events of Matthew 24:14 took place before “this generation” – their generation – passed away. Jesus does not put a time limit on the Great Commission. Does any of this mean that we don’t keep preaching the gospel? Not at all. The context of Matthew 24 is about the destruction of the temple and the signs associated with it. Jesus is not describing events that relate to another generation.

What about Acts 1:8, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth”? This passage does not say that this must happen before that generation passed away. Since the above passages (Rom. 1:8; Rom. 16:26; Col. 1:5-6, 23; 1 Tim. 3:16) were written at least 30 years after Jesus said these words in Matthew 24:14, the gospel had been preached to what was then “the remotest part of the earth” as it was known in their day. And like clockwork, the temple was destroyed soon after.

The expert claims that when the things Jesus prophesies in Matthew 24 take place, “the end will come.” Since the end has not taken place, he argues, the things prophesied by Jesus could not have taken place. For him, the end is the end of the world or some distant eschatological event. He doesn’t say what it is. But the context of Matthew 24 is the “end of the age [aion]” (24:3), not the end of the world (as the KJV translates aion. The ESV, the translation the critic used, gets it right: “age” not “world” but gets it wrong on Matt. 24:14 and Luke 2:1, translating oikoumenē as “world.”). And when was the “end of the age”? It was approaching in that generation. It was the end of the Old Covenant age manifested in the destruction of the temple that took place in their generation. Paul writes:

  • Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Cor. 10:11).
  • Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26).
  • When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear (Heb. 8:13).
  • We could add to these Hebrews 1:1-2: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

My critic changed the subject by disagreeing with me on my interpretation of “this generation,” that every time it’s used in the gospels it refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. Here was his response:

As a starting point, I do not agree that this generation refers to those alive at that time. … I tried before to listen/read your argument, but you lost me at this point. “This generation” frequently in Matthew has reference to “generation of wickedness,” or genealogy, i.e., generation of type of people like the Jews. Historical use of this word did not carry the same meaning then as it does now. I, secondly, emphatically disagree with your assertion that all those events have taken place. … History is devoid of support for your position. It is only in Preterist circles that your version is accepted as true.

At this point, I knew I was wasting my time. He’s incorrect on his understanding of the meaning of “this generation.” I listed numerous commentators throughout the centuries who easily refute his claim. Again, he dismissed them by not responding to the overwhelming evidence. He’s not alone.

“This generation,” without exception always refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. Yes, the generation of Jesus’ day is described as “wicked: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah” (Matt. 16:4). Consider the following and ask yourself this question, What generation is Jesus describing?

The men of Nineveh will stand at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now One greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and now One greater than Solomon is here. When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ On its return, it finds the house vacant, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and dwell there; and the final plight of that man is worse than the first. So will it be with this wicked generation (Matt. 12:41-45).

Jesus described that present generation as “this wicked generation” because Jesus, the One greater than Jonah and Solomon were in their midst. No other generation could make that claim. “This generation” refers to their generation.

Consider Matthew 23:36: “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Jesus is addressing that generation not some generation in the future. Why would Jesus move from the specific (notice the use of the second person plural throughout the chapter) to a non-specific generation in the future that had nothing to do with the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus? Those to whom Jesus was speaking “understood that He was speaking about them” (Matt. 21:45).

This generation” has been interpreted in several ways to get around the obvious: (1) the Jewish race, (2) a future generation, (3) “this kind of generation,” and (4) the generation to whom Jesus was speaking.

(1) The Greek word genea can’t be translated as “race” since it does not have this meaning. If Jesus had meant “race,” He would have used the Greek word genos. Genea is used throughout the gospels to refer to a period of time not a race of people or a nation (ethnos) (Matt. 1:17; 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:36; 24:34; Mark. 8:12, 38; 9:19; 13:30; Luke 1:48, 50; 7:31; 9:41; 11:29, 30, 32, 50, 51; 16:8; 17:25; 21:32).

(2) The problem arguing for a future generation is that “this generation” always refers to contemporaries. “This” is a near demonstrative adjective. If Jesus had a future generation in view, He would have said, “that generation.” A modification of this argument is that verse 34 should read, “the generation that sees these signs will not pass away until all these things take place.” To get this interpretation requires replacing “this” with the definite article “the” and adding “that sees these signs.” With this approach, we can get the Bible to say anything, even “there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

(3) Jesus does not say “this type of generation.” He says, “this generation.” Even so, the generation of Jesus day was that type of generation, described as a “perverse generation” (Acts 2:40; see Matt. 17:17; Phil. 2:15), because it was the generation that “crucified Jesus” (Acts 2:36, 33). If Jesus had wanted to extend “this generation” to refer to many generations, He could have said “on all generations” (Luke 1:48) or “generation after generation” (1:50), or “to all generations” (Eph. 3:21).

(4) We know the generation to whom Jesus was speaking: “so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that it [the kingdom of God: Luke 21:31] is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33). “This generation” (he genea haute) occurs 18 times in the gospels (Matt. 11:16; 12:41, 45; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12 [twice], 8:38; 13:30; Luke 7:31; 11:29 [in sentence form]; 11:30, 31, 32, 50, 51, 17:25; 21:32), and always refers to the generation to whom Jesus was addressing.

  • “All the alternative senses proposed here [in 24:34] (the Jewish people; humanity; the generation of the end-time signs; wicked people) are artificial and based on the need to protect Jesus from error. ‘This generation’ is the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries.”3
  • “‘[T]his generation’ (ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη) in the gospels always means the people of Jesus’ own time (11:16; 12:41-42; 23:36) not, as some have proposed, the generation of the last days in history, the Jewish people, the human race in general, or the sinful people.”4
  • “Mk. 13:24-30 may be interpreted as a prophecy of judgment on Israel in which the Son of man will be vindicated. The disintegration of Israel as the people of God coincides with the inauguration of the kingdom of the Son of man. Such an interpretation fits the preceding discourse and the introductory remarks of the disciples (Mk. 13:1ff. par.). It would not, however, pre-empt the judgment of mankind in general (See further J. Marcellus Kik, Matthew XXIV: An Exposition, 1948; R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 1971, 227-39.)5

There is unbelief in past generations, our generation, and there will be unbelief in future generations, but Jesus clearly identifies the people of His day as being part of a “perverse generation” (Acts 2:40) since it was only their generation that “delivered up [Jesus] by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” Peter is specific: “you nailed [Him] to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (2:23).

Why use the second person plural “you” if Jesus didn’t mean them? If Jesus isn’t referring to their generation, then what word could He have used other than “you” if He wanted to refer to them?

  1. Norman L. Geisler, “Colossians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty), John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 675. []
  2. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (Grnd Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959), 1:19. []
  3. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 988-989. []
  4. Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 899-900. []
  5. Colin Brown, “Generation,” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 2:37-38. []
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