Both amillennialism and postmillennialism take the position that the Gospel age is the, so-called, millennial or 1000-year period. With some exceptions, they view the millennium as a non-literal and elongated 1000-year period. According to their eschatology, Christ returns, physically, after the millennium, but he reigns spiritually today from heaven. Some who share this point of view also claim that Jesus returned spiritually in 70 AD to judge Jerusalem and destroy the Temple via the Roman armies. It is this group’s eschatology I wish to address in this study, because they use Matthew 24:36 as a dividing verse, which, allegedly, separates Christ’s 70 AD spiritual coming from his, alleged, future physical coming.
The position I hold to is the millennium is spiritually interpreted, and was a very short period of time, occurring between Jesus’ first coming and his spiritual coming in 70 AD, when he came to judge unbelievers and vindicate his faithful disciples. This coming was manifest, not in his person, i.e. he wasn’t visible, but his coming was manifest in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. Matthew 24:30), which he, clearly, predicted he would do (Matthew 26:64; cf. 23:37-38).
The point I wish to make in this study is that the spiritual return of Christ in 70 AD, admitted to by at least some amillennialists and postmillennialists, was also the time of the resurrection of the dead (cf. Revelation 20:11-12). Both of these groups’ eschatology puts the resurrection of the dead in the future and at the, alleged, physical Second Coming of Christ, which I take to have already occurred, not physically but spiritually, in 70 AD. Resurrection and judgment are inseparably tied to Jesus’ appearing (2Timothy 4:1), which was future in Paul’s day, but in the past from our perspective. With this in mind, consider what Jesus claimed about the Great Tribulation—which by the way is in the section of the Olivet prophecy, which the groups mentioned above say occurred prior to 70 AD:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)
An interesting point, here, is that Jesus isn’t simply pulling predictions out of his proverbial hat. No! that’s not what he’s doing here. He is quoting from Daniel. Notice
And at that time Michael shall stand up, the great ruler who stands for the sons of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation; until that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:1-2; emphasis mine)
Notice how Jesus’ great tribulation agrees with Daniel’s time of trouble. Both say there never was a time like it. Jesus went on to say neither would there be a time like it afterward. However, we need to understand the context of both Jesus’ and Daniel’s remarks. Neither are speaking of world events in the sense of gentile calamities. Both are speaking of the Jews. In other words, Daniel 12:1 should be understood as since there was a Jewish nation:
“…since your people have been a nation…” (LEB);
“There will be a time of distress unlike any other from the nation’s beginning up to that time…” (NET);
“since the beginning of the nation until then.” (TLV).
Thus, the Great Tribulation points to a unique trouble in Jewish history, not world, gentile, history.
Another point that needs to be considered is that Daniel says “at that time” your people shall be delivered” but not the whole nation. Rather, it is: “everyone found written in the book.” This puts us at Revelation 20:11-12 when the books were opened and the dead were raised and judged out of the books, and Daniel agrees, as we see in Daniel 12:2: the dead shall awake, some to everlasting life, and others to everlasting contempt.
Once one places the Great Tribulation in the first century AD, it destroys the teaching that Jesus will physically return sometime in our future, and with it a ‘need’ to divide the Olivet Prophecy at Matthew 24:36, because, according to both Jesus and Daniel, the Great Tribulation is inextricably tied to the resurrection of the dead and the ensuing judgment that must occur at Jesus’ appearing (2Timothy 4:1).