Passion Week Eschatology
Jesus was soon departing His disciples, who were pretty excited to defend Judaism and the Temple to Jesus, following His excoriating the Pharisees (Mt 23). Leaving Jerusalem, the great temple stones became the focal point and object lesson (Mt 24:1)
Destruction was coming to Jerusalem and the Temple in less than forty years (Mt 24:2). As the all-knowing prophet of God, it made sense for Jesus’ disciples to want to probe future things, even the end things (Mt 24:3). In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus told of the things to come in the present generation. He also told of things in the distant future that would mark the end of human history and the destruction of the earth.
The second advent of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the biblical study of end things, which has the technical term, “eschatology.” Jesus, being omniscient, is our most reliable source for future prophetic fulfillment. Clearly, the disciples were taught more eschatology than this passion week discourse atop the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
End things are mired by false teachers and false Christs (Mt 24:4). Jesus comforted His disciples regarding the various threats to them from natural disaster, human intrigue, etc. Jesus’ encouragement was familiar “Do not be afraid (Mt 24:6).”
Jesus warned that the world’s hatred for Christians would intensify, even as it did toward the Jews approaching A.D. 70. Just as the world was in disarray, so the church would experience great pressures in the advance of the gospel to the whole world (Mt 24:9–14). As we read Matthew’s account, we cannot help but notice that Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70 is a type for the end of the world.
As Jesus continued to explain the events that would soon fulfill the prophecy of Daniel (Mt 24:15–20), He seamlessly transitioned to the distant future (Mt 24:21–28). The expectation of Christ’s return would be the fodder of speculators. Simply put, Jesus assured His disciples that there was to be no fear of missing Christ because upon His return it would be the most obvious event imaginable.
Christ’s return on the Day of the Lord will be a judgment/salvation combination. With great glory, Jesus’ return will be preceded by a sign (Mt 24:30), amidst great upheaval in nature (Mt 24:39). The world at war with the Lord’s anointed will not delight in His approach (Mt 24:30).
The return of Christ will not be a secret event. It will have trumpets and shouts to accompany His triumphal entry from the heavens to the earth. The King of kings is coming with palmary grandeur far exceeding Roman general Titus in A.D. 70. Jesus is the judge of heaven and earth and He is coming to judge the living and the dead (Gen 18:25; 2 Pet 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). His saints and angels will be with Him.
Only God the Father knows the day of Christ’s return (Mt 24:36). The event is likened to Noah’s completion of the ark (Mt 24:37–39). The door to the ark was shut and the wrath of God was poured out upon the world. Noah’s flood was water, but Jesus’ day will be a flood of fire upon the rebellious earth (Mt 24:37; 2 Pet 3:10–12).
On that day, judgment will come to unbelievers, while salvation will be for elect, believers, who will escape the wrath of the Lamb. All people everywhere and from every generation of human history have the call to repent and to ready themselves for His return in glory.
The sudden, unexpected return will be terrifying for those who are not prepared. Therefore, disciples of Christ in every generation are to faithfully prepare for Christ’ return (Mt 24:42–47). Those who do not ready themselves are called, “evil slaves” by Jesus. These hypocrites will have eternal anguish amidst eternal punishment.
Jesus taught the parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1–13) and the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14–30). All people must be ready to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, which is His glorious throne (Mt 25:3; Rev 20:11). The judgment separates the righteous from the unrighteous (Mt 25:31–46).
To His right are God’s elect, who have performed righteous deeds prepared for them and executed by the will and doing of the Holy Spirit. To His left are the accused ones who did not do the deeds that ministered to the saints in need.
Jesus contrasted the two ends with the terms “eternal punishment” and “eternal life.” Eternal fire awaits the uncharitable (Mt 25:41). With this knowledge afforded to us, what kind of people ought we to be?
Having put on Christ and making no provision for the flesh, we are to be dressed in readiness, waiting upon the Lord. With the indwelling Holy Spirit, as the oil in our lamps, we are being made ready by His grace.
As Jesus headed for the cross, He warned both of imminent and distant trouble for His disciples. Trouble came to every generation, everywhere, but God’s people were not afraid of men and the gyrations of their world system, rather, the Christians occupied themselves with good works, as a means of displaying the kingdom to come at Christ’s second advent. Amidst the remembrance of the passion week events, let us not forget Jesus’ teaching passion week eschatology.
Post Falls, Idaho
March 28, 2021