Is ‘But’ the Continental Divide?

11 Jul
BUT - 2

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Some futurists, usually amillennialists and postmillennialists, with exceptions within those two groups, try to show a division in the Olivet Discourse at Matthew 24:36.[1] In my past few studies I have been showing how this position is untenable, without jumping through hoops and over a great many hurdles. In other words, the plain reading of the text will not permit the Olivet Discourse to be divided here in an effort to show Jesus’ spiritual coming in 70 AD (Matthew 24:4-34), and his alleged future physical Second Coming. In this study I hope to show that the word ‘but’ simply cannot be used to do such a thing.

Some Bible students holding this interpretation seem to want to leave verse-35 in a kind of limbo state, not really belonging to either the event ending with verse-34 or to the event beginning with verse-36. However, it should be immediately seen that with the shaking of the heavens in Matthew 24:29 and the sun and moon failing to give light we are presented with de-creation or apocalyptic language that many Old Testament prophets use to describe future events. That language fits the context of verse-35’s “heaven and earth passing away” and belongs with the event described in verse-29 (the destruction of the Temple – viz. Matthew 23:37-38 & 24:1-2). This is the only way it can be interpreted. Otherwise one must account for two heavens and earths passing away, one in 70 AD and the other at the alleged future, physical return of Christ. However, if one does that, then one no longer divides the Olivet Discourse at verse-36 (where the but is), but at verse-35 (where the but isn’t). If that’s the case, one loses the argument of the significance of the but in verse-36. In other words, we have no continental divide!

Therefore, we have a problem with this doctrine. If the heavens and the earth pass away at 70 AD, i.e. placing verse-35 with that part of Matthew’s account that predicts judgment upon Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, then the passing of the heavens and the earth have a spiritual fulfillment in the destruction of the Temple, because, obviously, the physical heavens and earth didn’t pass away at that time. If this is the case, then proponents of the idea that the heavens and the earth will either be destroyed or renovated at the alleged future Second Coming of Christ (viz. 2Peter 3:10-12), have no foundation for such a doctrine. After all, if the heavens and the earth passed away in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple, and this was done without affecting the physical heavens and earth, then why should 2Peter 3:10-12 be interpreted physically? And, if 2Peter 3:10-12 should be interpreted spiritually, why couldn’t Peter be describing events that transpired in 70 AD?

Finally, the word but (G1161) is a conjunction it is used about 15 times in Matthew 24 alone, and 12 times to introduce each verse. If but is that significant at Matthew 24:36, why isn’t it significant anywhere else in the chapter? Other than trying to salvage one’s eschatology, why must it be significant at Matthew 24:36? It seems to me that we ought to have more respect for the word of God and stop trying to force it to prove one’s human argument. The study of apologetics, whether to prove the validity of Christianity or the validity of the truth among one’s own brethren is an honorable endeavor. However, there is no honor in forcing Jesus to agree with a human argument. What is sola scriptura for, anyway?


[1] Some who hold to this eschatology are: The Pulpit Commentary; Robertson’s Word Pictures: Dr. Bob Utley’s Commentary; Matthew Henry’s Commentary; Barne’s Notes; and The Expositors Greek Testament.

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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in 70 AD Eschatology


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