Does Matthew 24:23-26 Teach A Future Coming of Christ in His Kingdom?
This is a great question. It could be answered like attorneys answer many questions. Well, it depends. But on what? It depends on the time perspective you have when viewing the prophecy.
When one reads the text from the time perspective in which Jesus spoke, it certainly was future. On the other hand, if the text is written from a 21st century perspective. It is now a past event. The fulfillment of this text occurred in the first century during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
How does one conclude such in the light of the wording of the text?
The Context of Matthew 24
Matthew 24 begins with a discussion between the disciples and the Lord about the overthrow of the temple. This is a continuation of the discussion of Matthew 23, where Jesus told the Pharisees their house would be left to them desolate. He referred to Dan. 9:27.
The disciples ask a question: “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age? The word “coming” is better translated “presence” from parousia; “end” is best translated completion or consummation.
Understanding references to the consummation in Daniel 7-12, the disciples wanted to know when the end would come. Jesus gave several signs, to indicate when these things would be fulfilled. Briefly, we take a look at a few.
The Signs of Matthew 24
- False Christs
- Rumors of wars
These were all common leading up to Jerusalem’s fall. They can be easily verified by historians such as Josephus. However, they were the “beginning of the birth pangs”. Full term of the “pregnant” prophecy was not to be fulfilled at the first sign of these events.
The Signs of Matthew 24 Continued
- More false prophets or antichrists
- Worldwide evangelism
- The abomination of desolation
- The great tribulation
- The fall of the Jewish nation
- The sign of the Son of man in heaven
We are clearly told that the “end” or “consummation” would come when the gospel was preached in all the inhabited earth (oikoumene), as a witness to all the nations, Matt. 24:14.
Many believe the apostolic commission is yet to be done. They, in essence assume and conclude that the apostles failed. Thus, they reason that the end cannot come until a yet future worldwide evangelism occurs.
The Gospel Has Been Preached to All the World
It can be demonstrated clearly that the gospel was in fact preached to all the world in the days of the apostles, in the first century. Several terms are used to confirm this was done.
- Preach to all the inhabited earth: oikoumene: Fulfilled per Rom. 10:18
- Preach to all the nations; Matt. 28:18: Fulfilled, per Rom. 1:8 16:25-26
- Preach to all the land (ge) Acts 1:8: Fulfilled per Rom. 10:18
- Preach to all the world (cosmos): Fulfilled per Col. 1:5-6
- Preach to all the creation (ktsis): Fulfilled per Col. 1:23
These verses clearly establish the completion of the apostolic mission. For more information see “Into All the World” by Don K. Preston, D. Div.
More could be said of the add’l signs, but due to space we will omit them for now and include them under the eschatological umbrella of Matt. 24:34.
See Here or See There!
Now, we address specifically the statements found in Matt. 24:23-27. These verses are used to teach that Christ did not return in 70AD. Those who reject his first century coming ask us, “Where is he?” Since we reason that he has returned, they want to know why they can’t physically “see” Christ.
Further, they claim that anyone who says they “see” him must be a liar.
First, it must be noted that there is no such teaching in the Bible of an eschatological (end times) coming of Christ, apart from his kingdom. In other words, Jesus’ final coming is in his kingdom.
The Scriptures teach that Christ would return in his kingdom before some who stood in his presence died. (Matt. 16:28) That means they would yet be alive when he returned. Either they are living today, Jesus lied, or he came as promised. We believe and teach the latter.
Matt. 24:23-27 and Luke 17:20-24
Secondly, Matt. 24:23-27, is a parallel text to Lk. 17:20-24. However, Luke begins the narrative of Jesus’ coming with the kingdom and ends with the coming of Christ, 26-37 (day of the Lord).
Matthew begins his narrative with the coming of the the Lord, and ends with the coming of the kingdom (Matt. 25). Now observe what Luke writes about the kingdom.
First, the kingdom of God does not come with observation. That means it is not visible, but “invisible”. It is not seen by one’s naked eye. Compare the language Luke uses with that of Matthew and notice it is identical. “Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk. 17:21).
The coming of the kingdom of God is within you. Now if Christ comes in his kingdom, it must of necessity be the case that his coming is “within you” also. In fact, Christ within or “in you” was the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Again and pardon the redundancy, but the kingdom “within you” was therefore, the hope of glory.
Secondly, the coming of this kingdom follows the “days of the Son of man”, i.e. a time after Jesus has ascended to heaven. It is the time when the disciples are looking for his return, i.e. eagerly awaiting his presence, just as in Matthew 24.
Thirdly, he tells them that if, during that time, if someone says to them, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them. In other words, don’t be deceived.
Now, it may be asked, why, if Jesus’ coming was spiritually understood by the disciples, whey they would go after someone who claimed he was in the desert or the secret chambers. It is a well known fact, that men in desperation, do desperate things. Josephus records, how many were lead astray by false prophets during the siege upon Jerusalem.
Also, many Christians turned back like Demas, (2 Tim. 4:10) who forsook Paul, and others per Galatians, Hebrews, 2 Peter and John’s epistles. Simon, the Sorcerer, deceived people who believed he was God before his conversion (Acts 8:9-11). Theudas, mentioned in Acts 5:34-37, and in Josephus, led many astray.
Given the nature of the people who left Egypt under the power of God, we can see that human nature is very fickle when unguided by divine wisdom and conviction.
Fourthly, the imminent coming of the kingdom, and hence Christ’s coming applies here. See 2 Tim. 4:1, where Christ was about to judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom. Jesus comes in the glory of his Father to sit upon the throne of his glory, Matt. 25:31.
But when does this kingdom come? It is certainly after the time of Pentecost. “So likewise you, when you see all these things come to pass, know that the kingdom has drawn near, Lk. 21:31. What is the context of Luke 21. It is likewise, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
Fifthly, the references to the respective days of Lot and of Noah demonstrate clearly that Lk. 17 is all about the end times, and that the coming is related to the day of the Lord. The destruction in Noah and Lot’s days, were examples and warnings to the terminal generation of Israel.
On the last day of the days of Lot, fire and brimstone rained down in judgment. On the last day of the days of Noah, a flood of judgment came and took them all away.
Likewise, it happened in the days of the Son of Man. As in Matthew, he who was in the house was not to return for his goods and those in the field were not to return back.
That parallels the fleeing of Matt. 24:15-17 which is spoken of as relating to Jerusalem’s fall in the first century. This day of the Lord is the coming of the kingdom without observation.
Sixthly, Jesus taught his generation would not pass till all those things were fulfilled. “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away, till all these things take place. Matt. 24:34; Lk. 21:32.
Thus, all the signs of Matt and Luke were fulfilled before the first century generation passed.
Summary and Conclusion:
It is therefore totally out of chronological sequence to apply the statements of “Look here!” or “See There” for Christ’s coming has occurred.
Those who believe and teach from a Preterist paradigm cannot be deceived by any form of futurist teaching that Christ will yet return and that very soon. (See Eph 4:14-15).