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Emphatic Elements in the Greek: Matthew 24 (part 5)

The following is section two from a series on emphatic elements in the Greek New Testament, written by biblical language expert Justin Alfred. Previous blog entries in this series:

Section V – Matthew 24:29-31

“But 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 the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, 30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 ‘And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31).

According to the eschatological chronology given prior to this passage, this is unequivocally referring to the period of time “immediately after the great tribulation” that we see being described in Daniel and Revelation covering a seven or three and one-half year time period, depending upon whether one adopts a pre or mid-tribulation rapture position:

Daniel 7:23-27

“Thus he said:’The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 ‘As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 ‘And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time (i.e., 3 ½ years – my note). 26 ‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27 ‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:23-27).

Revelation 11:1-13

“And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 ‘And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months (i.e., 3 ½ years – my note). 3 ‘And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days (i.e., 3 ½ years – my note), clothed in sackcloth.’ 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and if anyone would desire to harm them, in this manner he must be killed. 6 These have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain may not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 And those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. 11 And after the three and a half days the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.” And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. 13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven'” (Revelation 11:1-13).

Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (i.e., 3 ½ years – my note) . . . . 13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14 And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time (i.e., 3 ½ years – my note), from the presence of the serpent. 15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17).

Jesus’ prediction will not occur until after the Great Tribulation

The clear and unmistakable point to be made, therefore, is that all that Jesus is referring to in Matthew 24:29-31 will not occur until after the Great Tribulation.  This is quite significant with regard to the Preterist view, which maintains that most (Partial Preterists), if not all of the above prophecies (Full Preterists) were fulfilled in 70 AD when Jerusalem was sacked by the Roman troops under Titus.[1]  However, NEVER in history, either biblical or extra-biblical history, have we any record of the events mentioned in Matthew 24:29-31 occurring AT ANY TIME!

Further, it is also important to note that the following prophetic words in Matthew 24:29 come from Isaiah: “But 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 the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”  Also, consider this from Isaiah 13:10: “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light.”

This prophecy was given in connection to the ultimate fall of Babylon to the Medes in 538 BC.

Thus, some have viewed Isaiah 13:2-16 as not necessarily limited to the destruction of Babylon in 538 BC, but rather as a picture of God’s overall judgment against sin and against those who reject His love, grace, mercy and truth, which would include Babylon and any other country or people who resolutely God and His truth in favor of their own self-deification (e.g., Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union, etc.).[2]  Indeed, Isaiah 13:11 is addressing the “world” as a whole: “Thus I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud, And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless” (Isaiah 13:11).

Land, water, and air will be destroyed

It is also interesting to note that the Hebrew word for “world” used here is תֵּבֵל (tēbēl – tevel), and it appears to come from the Akkadian word tœbalu (tabalu), which means “dry land,” and the Akkadian verb from which it derives appears to be abœlu (abalu), which means “to dry up or day out, and to present food offerings.” Furthermore, the Akkadian verb apœlu (apalu) also means “to present food offerings.”  Thus, our English word “tablet” is derived from this word, as “dry land” in the Semitic culture of that day referred to “flat land.”  Be that as it may, the significance of this word as the derivative of the Hebrew word תֵּבֵל (tēbēl – tevel) is important because Isaiah 13:11 is saying that “all arable and life giving, productive sources of human existence (i.e., land, water, and air)” will be destroyed, which is exactly what we read in Revelation 16:

“And I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.’ 2 And the first angel went and poured out his bowl into the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image. 3 And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died. 4 And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; 6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it.’ 7 And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.’ 8 And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. 9 And men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues; and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory. 10 And the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast; and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, 11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. 12 And the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 (‘Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.’) 16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called HarMagedon. 17 And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air; and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, ‘It is done.’ 18 And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19 And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe” (Revelation 16:1-21).

The picture given to us, therefore, is once again that all of these things will take place “immediately after the great tribulation,” not before.  Thus, the Full Preterist View is inconceivable at best, and the Partial Preterist View has very little solid scriptural support as it attempts to use far too many metaphors and similes—in my opinion—in order to justify its positions.  This is turn brings us to Section VI in Matthew 24,which of course we will cover next week.

Stay tuned!

Questions or comments? Join the conversation below!

[2] George A. Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1956), 254-255.