5

Matthew 10:23 (KJV)

"When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

In this passage, Jesus says that he would return before his disciples have finished going through the cities of Israel. Using an exegetical approach, what did Jesus mean by this statement?

  • @NigelJ I've edited the question. By the way what does OP mean? – user20490 May 14 at 21:43
  • It means Original Poster (the first person in a chain of postings) or the Original Post (the first post in a chain of posts). Since, here, the question is the first post, then the question and the questioner become the 'OP'. – Nigel J May 15 at 4:39
1

I am sure that this answer is incomplete but I include it in the hope that it will progress the discussion.

There are several indisputable facts about the "coming" of Jesus as recorded by the NT writers:

  • The New Testament writers looked forward to a future day when Jesus would return, Matt 16:27, 24:30, 31, 38, 39, 42, 26:64, Mark 8:38, 13:26, 27, Luke 21:25-28, John 14:3, Acts 1:11, 1 Cor 1:7, 4:5, 11:26, Phil 3:4, 20, 1 Thess 1:9, 10, 3:13, 4:16, 17, 5:23, 2 Thess 2:1, 2, 8, Titus 2:12-14, 2 Tim 4:8, Heb 9:28, 10:25, 37, James 5:7-9, 1 Peter 2;12, 2 Peter 3:8-10, 1 John 2:28, 3:2, 3, Rev 1:7, 3:11, 22:12, 13, 20, 21, etc. The coming of Jesus is VERY common indeed, and it is always described as future and immanent even in the first century.
  • The NT writers also understood that the period AFTER the resurrection of Jesus was the "last day", "final hour", "last days", etc. Acts 2:17, 2 Tim 3:1, Heb 1:2, James 5:3, 1 Peter 1:5, 20, 2 Peter 3:3, 1 John 2:18, Jude 18, etc.
  • The NT writers describe this coming of Jesus in very dramatic language saying that "the heavens will be shaken", the Son of Man will "appear with power and great glory", "the elect will be gathered", "every eye will see him", etc. See Matt 24:30-34, Mark 13:25-30, Rev 1:7, Luke 21:26-32, Acts 1:11, etc. The NT also compares this "coming" with the visibility of lightening, a dazzling light! Luke 17:24.
  • Further, the NT writers clearly appear to understand the coming of Jesus to be immanent (in whatever sense) and soon: Rev 2:16, 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20, Matt 10:34, 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32.

Thus, the coming of the Son of Man appears unmissable and immanent. So what happened?

There have been (historically) several attempts to resolve this most prominent of NT prophecies that include:

  • The "coming" has already occurred but few noticed - this is hardly consistent with the dramatic descriptions we read in the NT
  • The coming has been inexplicably delayed (as pointed out in places like 2 Thess 2:1-5, 2 Peter 3:8, 9) but that still does not explain the explicit material about "this generation" and "all the towns of Israel" as listed above.
  • It is a failed prophecy and we should be mature enough to admit that. If this is a failed prophecy made by the central figure of Christianity, Jesus Christ Himself, Lord Messiah, creator of heaven and earth, then we should all abandon the Christian faith entirely. (I do not intend to embrace this explanation either!)
  • We have misunderstood the prophecy - this again, ignores the very plain language in which it is consistently and repeatedly couched.
  • Look for other places where prophecies have apparently "failed" to see what we can learn from them. Let us explore this a little more.

Failed Prophecies

There are numerous "failed" prophecies in the Bible - here is a sample:

  • Ex 3:8, 15:17, 23:23 – God promised to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites who left Egypt. But the adverse report by the spies caused them to rebel, so God said, “not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home.” (Num 14:30) God even called this, “my breach of promise” (Num 14:34 KJV).
  • 2 Kings 20:1 – Hezekiah’s sickness resulted in a prophecy from Isaiah that he would not recover. However, in 2 Kings 20:2-6 Hezekiah pleads with the Lord who decides to reverse the prophecy and adds another 15 years to his life.
  • Jonah 3:3, 4 – Jonah prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. Yet when the people repented, the prophecy was reversed (Jonah 3:5-10).
  • 1 Kings 21:20–26 – Elijah prophesied that Ahab would be destroyed. But when he repented the outcome was reversed (1 Kings 21:27, 28).
  • 2 Sam 7:16, 16, Ps 132:11 – God promised David (and confirmed it to Solomon in 2 Chron 7:18) that his throne would last forever. That David’s royal throne was destroyed about 500 years later, in 586 BC, is a historical fact. However, the prophecy was no less certain because it, as with all such prophecies was conditional as recorded in 1 Kings 6:11, 12, 8:25, Ps 132:12, 2 Chron 7:17, 18.
  • In Jer 17:4, God’s anger is kindled against wicked Judah and will burn forever. Later in the same chapter (v25) He promises to love them forever.
  • the “forever” Davidic line of kings, l Kings 2:3, 4; 8:25, 9:4,5; l Chron 28:4-9; 2 Chron 6:16; 7:17-22. The Davidic dynasty lasted until their capture of Zedekiah in the 6th century BC and was never re-established.

So, here is my (rather pathetic, incomplete and somewhat unsatisfying) attempt to explain the "coming" of Jesus prophecies in the NT and their "immanence". The conditional nature of many (not all) prophecies is explicitly stated in Jer 18:7-10 and illustrated in the dual prophecy of the permanence (Jer 17:24 – 26) or eternal destruction (Jer 17:27) of Jerusalem. The outcome is dependent not only on the sure word of the prophet (and the God who inspired the prophet) but also the fidelity of the people.

Secondly, 2 Peter 3:8, 9 also tells us that our human, earthly timing is not God's timing and we must be patient. The time of His return is unknown (Matt 24:32-41, 42-51, Acts 1:7); BUT it might be only a heart-beat away for any of us, so it is more important to "be prepared" at all times (Matt 24:42-44).

It is possibly significant that Jesus also said that, "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Perhaps that is what has caused the delay?

  • "in all the world".... at the time of the writing of Matt. 24, that phrase was the same as in Luke 2:1.. ."all the world" & meant the inhabited earth of the Roman empire, as all outside that was of no account - See "Frequent Mistakes Part IV - Where Was All The World" shreddingtheveil.org/2018/02/01/… – Gina May 12 at 22:36
  • Did Christ really not know the time of His return? Hebrew idioms /phrases matter, of which "no one knows the day or the hour" was the way they spoke of the Feast of Trumpets on the 1st of Tishri. In Matt 24. re: the destruction of the temple, Christ used the phrase His disciples would immediately know meant the 1st of Tishri. Josephus records the temple was completely torn down by the 1st of Tishri AD 70. See The Signs of The Feasts -Part II: Christ Told His Disciples..." shreddingtheveil.org/2018/07/21/… – Gina May 12 at 22:41
  • Excellent. Well-informed and not at all 'incomplete'. Much appreciated. +1. – Nigel J May 12 at 23:03
  • 1
    @Gina - If you want to pull the "inhabited world" trick, and then restrict it to the Roman world alone, that is OK but it does not solve the problem. – user25930 May 12 at 23:38
  • I didn't pull the inhabited world "trick". Thayer's Gr Lexicon, Strong's Concordance at #3625 "oikoumene", & many English translations have it. The NIV "of the entire Roman world"; NLT "throughout the Roman empire"; NET "register all the empire"; Ellicott's Commentary at Luke 2:1 " is taken, as throughout the New Testament, for the Roman empire.". The problem is a set of blinders that have been placed over people's eyes. Can you consider this question, pls - when were the last days? – Gina May 13 at 11:01
0

Another interpretation is that the Gentiles would all be converted - or at least preached to - before all of Israel would finally be converted.

This is the interpretation offered by Hilary of Poitiers (310-368):

He then tells them to flee out of one city into another. This means that his message would first go beyond the borders of Judea and pass into Greece. Then the messengers would be harassed and the various apostles would suffer among the cities of Greece. At last the message would be established among all the Gentiles. He also wished to indicate that the Gentiles would believe in the apostles’ preaching but that Israel alone would not believe until his own return. For this reason he said, “You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes,” that is, after the conversion of all of the Gentiles. Israel will be left, and when he comes in splendor, it will fill out the number of the holy and be established in the church.1


Perhaps noteworthy hers is that although the Greek τελέσητε generally means "finished", the majority of English translations prefer "gone over" or "reached". Matthew 10:23 is the only instance of 26 occurrences in the King James Version where the verb τελέω is translated as "go over". Almost everywhere else it is translated as "finish" or "fulfill" or "accomplish", perhaps most notably:

ὅτε οὖν ἔλαβε τὸ ὄξος ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπε, τετέλεσται, καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost (John 19:30)


1. On Matthew, X.14

0

Matthew Poole's Commentary lists the three common interpretations (my numbers added):

Till the Son of man be come. There is a wonderful variety of interpreters’ senses of this text, founded upon the various comings of Christ mentioned in holy writ. He was already come in the flesh, so as it, speaking of a time to come, could not be meant of that: nor can it be understood of his second coming to judgment, for they have gone through the cities of Israel long ago.

  1. Christ is therefore said in Scripture to come, when he appeareth in some great work of providence, whether of judgment or mercy. This makes some interpret it of the destruction of Jerusalem; in which sense some think the coming of Christ is mentioned, Matthew 24:1-51.

  2. Some, of the resurrection of Christ, from whence they say Christ’s epocha commenced.

  3. Others understand it of the effusion of the Spirit in the day of Pentecost; this they ground on John 14:17,18, where they think Christ’s coming, promised John 14:18, is the coming of the Spirit, promised John 14:17.

In addition to these three, I believe the context permits two others. The passage is part of the instructions Jesus gives in sending out the twelve Apostles named in Matthew 10:1-4:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. (10:5-8)…When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (10:23)…When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (Matthew 11:1) [ESV]

The statement comes within the instructions of being sent out and it could simply be a prediction of what the twelve will experience during (i.e. before they finish) the assignment. Interestingly, Matthew never records the return of the twelve. However, Luke records what the seventy-two experienced when they returned from a similar assignment:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Luke 10:17-24)

The 72 were sent out without restriction of what cities to go. If the 12 who were sent only to the lost sheep of Israel had experiences similar to the 72, then the prediction (10:23) could be considered fulfilled during their assignment. That is, before they finished going to the lost sheep of Israel, they healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed lepers, and cast out demons and with their own eyes they saw things which is explained by the "coming of the Son of Man."

Along the same line, Jesus could have fulfilled this during the assignment:

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (11:1)

Matthew says Jesus sent the twelve and then He went to preach and teach in their cities. This could be understood as Jesus following the twelve. In other words, first a city received a visit from the twelve, then Jesus, the Son of Man followed. So before the twelve had finished going through all of the towns, the Son of Man came (to the same towns).

0

Concerning Matthew 10:23, Albert Schweitzer thought this showed that Jesus first believed the Kingdom would break into history at any moment, before his disciples returned from their first mission. Schweitzer considered this the "first delay of the parousia". But the disciples did return before the "Son of man" showed up. Only then did the resolve grow in Jesus to force the issue by bringing his message to Jerusalem, perhaps seeing himself in the "suffering servant" role. Schweitzer's hypothesis is described by Theissen in "The Historical Jesus" (p. 243). Somewhat speculative, but seems consistent as an eschatological interpretation.

-1

The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is often called the coming of the Son of man. See Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; Matthew 24:44; Luke 18:5.

There would have been cities or parts of Israel that had yet to be preached to by the time the Roman's destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70AD.

Simply to me, it means there was still work to be done by the apostles in Israel when the Lord would return to recompense the wickedness of the nation by the means of the Roman hosts.

  • 2
    Not one of the texts you quoted (Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; Matthew 24:44; Luke 18:5) says anything about Rome, or Titus: nor do they equate the destruction of Jerusalem with the coming of the Son of Man. Where did this idea come from? – user25930 May 12 at 11:23
  • I agree with you @Mac'sMusings. But rather than comment and (presumably) down-vote, can we expect the "correct" answer from yourself, shortly ? – Nigel J May 12 at 12:41
  • @Nigel J - I am not sure I have a "correct answer". Perhaps I should attempt an incomplete answer but this set of prophecies is very difficult but that should not make us tolerant of patently wrong or desperate hermetics. – user25930 May 12 at 20:41
  • Matthew 24 is entirely about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the events that would precede and proceed it. – www.gffg.info May 12 at 21:10
  • Every single commentary on biblehub agrees: biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/24-27.htm – www.gffg.info May 12 at 21:15
-1

No, it verifies the time of His coming. But, it does impact the traditional teaching of men who have misplaced the time of the Lord's coming which was prophesied from the OT, and was imminent for those living in the first century AD. The Bible never uses the phrase "second coming" anywhere in the scriptures. That phrase is an assumption of man, and a false teaching.

It is derived from a misapplication of Heb. 9:28 which is often taken out of context.

"26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Heb. 9:26-28, KJV)

The context of these verses speaks of Christ's appearance at the "end of the world" to put away sin by His sacrifice. When was He sacrificed? The answer is obviously the first century AD, as I believe in 31 AD, but others will say 30, or 33 AD. However, as His sacrifice was to put away sin, and as it happened in the first century AD, then the phrase "end of the world" is misleading.

The ASV translates it as the "end of the ages", as does the CJB, the ESV and the NKJV. The NET uses the "consummation of the ages"; the NIV has the "culmination of the ages", and the YLT has "at the full end of the ages".

An "age" was ending, and that age was the Mosaic age, and the age of animal sacrifices at that temple in Jerusalem (John 4:21).

Men have assumed this phrase to depict the end of all time, and literally the end of the entire world. But, that cannot be the meaning when the words are kept with the context of our Lord's sacrifice - "once....hath he appeared to put away sin".

The phrase "second coming" is not used. The words are "second appearance", and only those who had a first appearance of the Lord, those who had seen His first appearance, to those who had walked with Him, touched Him, witnessed His crucifixion and resurrection... those of the first century AD. They were the only ones who could have a "second" appearance of Him. No other generation has visibly seen Him even one time.

So, the phrase "second coming" is terribly and wrongfully misused.

The time factor has to be considered. As His second appearance was not going to be for the putting away of sin, then we know that His first appearance was to deal with sin. As His first appearance / manifestation (1 Pet. 1:20) occurred in the first century AD, then those of the first century AD were the ones who would see Him the second time. As His first appearance dealt with the sin issue, His second appearance would be for their "salvation" or better, their deliverance from persecution, their rescue.

Now that we can place the time of His second appearance in that same generation of those first century AD saints, then Matt. 10:23 makes perfect sense. His disciples would not finish their mission to all of the then known and existing "cities of Israel" before the Lord's return.

As His return was promised to them of that generation (Matt. 24:34), then His return was not to end the entire world, nor to end all time. The end that was prophesied from OT scripture was the "end of the desolations of Jerusalem".

Daniel's prayer in Dan. 9:18-19,

"18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: ...for thy city and thy people are called by thy name." (KJV)

The context of Daniel's prayer was stated in Dan. 9:2, in the second year of the king Darius, of the second gentile world power (Medes & Persians) of the image Daniel had interpreted for Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. ch. 2 -

"...that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." (KJV)

Gabriel appeared to Daniel, and stated the purpose and time and people in Dan. 9:24.

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." (KJV)

The prophesy was for Daniel's people - the Jews who returned from the captivity - and for Daniel's holy city - Jerusalem. The time was in the same context of Daniel's prayer for the end of the desolations of Jerusalem which he had found in Jeremiah's books, and which Gabriel corrected for Daniel.

The end of Jerusalem's desolations would not be upon their return from Babylonian captivity but the "end" would be seventy sevens of years - 490 years. Daniel thought he had been asking for the end of the 70 years of captivity, but the way he expressed his prayer to God was for the "end of the desolations of Jerusalem", and God answered the question Daniel asked.

The end of the desolation (destruction) of Jerusalem was defined in Dan. 12:7.

"...and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." (KJV)

Within the same prophesy that had begun in chap. 9, and for the same "holy people" defined in Dan. 9:24 - the Jews - when the power of the Jews were scattered then "all these things" of the prophesy from Dan. 9:24 would be finished. All of those things spoke of Christ's putting away the transgression of the Jews, to make an end of sins - that is the animal sin offerings that became profane once Christ was sacrificed, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness.... all that began at the cross of Christ and was all finished at the destruction of Jerusalem.

None of those things which Gabriel told Daniel would go beyond the scattering of the power of Daniel's holy people, which happened in AD 70 at the full destruction of that temple... the culmination of the Mosaic age.

The "end of the world" was not the end of the entire earth; but it was the end of their world as they knew it, the end of their world which had revolved around that animal sacrificial temple in Jerusalem which had become profane once Christ was sacrificed on the cross.

So, Matt. 10:23 fits perfectly within the time frame of Christ's second appearance in that generation of the first century AD. But, it was not His "second coming", because He has "come" in judgment of both the world (Gen. 6-7), and nations (Egypt, Babylon, Israel, Idumea, Tyre, Assyria, etc) many times before.

A "coming" means the presence of the Lord, the people feeling His presence and seeing the outcome in the results of His judgment against the wicked.

"7 Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord." (Jer. 8:7, KJV)

God's "coming" was a time of judgment against the people, and the destruction of Jerusalem was a time of judgment against those wicked who had crucified the promised Messiah, the promised Savior. But, it was not His second judgment coming, as there had been many times of judgment before, and there have been many times of His judgment of wicked people since.

Time... the time factor is important.

For more on the time of His coming in that generation, please see the posts at my blog (Shredding The Veil), especially the ten parts of It's Not The End of The World, the eight parts of The Signs of Revelation; Daniel and the End Times; the seven parts of Frequent Mistakes, and the three parts of The Signs of the Feasts. You might begin here.

All bold emphasis is mine.

  • 1
    Gina - you are normally quite lucid but here I have trouble following you. How on earth do you say that the destruction of Jerusalem is Jesus appearing a second time?? When did He APPEAR? – user25930 May 12 at 11:41
  • We were not there in AD 70, so we cannot personally attest to any sightings. However, there are records as Josephus and others recorded of armies and chariots in the clouds during the Roman-Jewish war and the siege of Jerusalem. Rev. 1:7 statement that "every eye shall see Him" could have been a literal prophesy, as well as meaning that every eye would see the result of His judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem. He promised Caiaphas that Caiaphas would see Him coming in the clouds (Matt. 26:64). The 2nd appearance was a promise to that generation, not to ours nor to any future one. – Gina May 12 at 13:33
  • We have a very big problem, Mac's b/c of the universal error being taught that the book of Rev was about the end of the world... the end of time... & 1 final last great judgment day. That is a belief system being read into the text, & it is hard to overcome a lifetime of indoctrination. I know, as we have all been exposed to it. But, after this...judgment, means after we each die, we each face our own judgment. I explain this in deeper detail at my blog - Frequent Mistakes Part III - The Last Day, and Part VI- The End of The World. ShreddingTheVeil.org. Please take a look at them. – Gina May 12 at 13:43
  • leaving my personal biases aside (which I agree are many) I was merely asking about how you make the coming of the Roman empire against Jerusalem into the coming of the Son of Man? If this event was supposed to be fulfilment of the prophecies in Heb 9:28, then how? It did not bring salvation, Jesus did not appear (if He did it was only to a very few and was not "all eyes" (Rev 1:7) etc. I do not mind innovative interpretations provided such is documented. – user25930 May 12 at 20:38
  • Innovative is not the correct perspective. Sticking strictly to the definitions of the original Greek & Hebrew. Salvation in Heb. 9:28 is Strong's Gr 4991, & means “welfare, prosperity, deliverance, preservation, salvation, safety”. The root word is “sozo”, Strong’s Gr. 4982 which means to rescue, save. Christ dealt w/ the matter of sin during His 1st appearance, his sacrifice at the cross. Those converts to The Way had eternal, heavenly salvation once immersed / baptized, but their physical rescue, or delivery was also taken care of at the destruction of the temple. – Gina May 12 at 22:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.