Exploring the New testament Notes

Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
UNIT 8: Prophecies of Jesus and Their Fulfillment

A Baha’i Perspective on the Biblical Prophecies Related to Christ’s Return

An interpretation of Matthew 24:1-22 is offered below, based on the Biblical evidence that the prophecy had a historical fulfillment at the close of the Jewish Dispensation during the first century AD Several spiritual fulfillments followed through the centuries as God’s people underwent cyclical crises and spiritual reawakenings. The latest fulfillment marked the advent of the Baha’i Dispensation in modern times.

Literal and Spiritual Interpretations of Matthew 24:1-22

24:1 And Jesus went forth and went away from the temple, and his disciples came to him to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
24:2 And he answering said to them, Do ye not see all these things? Verily I say to you, Not a stone shall be left here upon a stone which shall not be thrown down.

v. 1-2 Literal meaning Symbolic meanings
temple Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. 1) Jesus’ body, (John 2:19-21) which in turn is a symbol of...
2) Christian congregation. (Ephesians 5:29-30.)
stone Building blocks of temple Disciples of Christ. Christ was the chief cornerstone, the foundation upon
which the other “stones,” the disciples rested.
1 Peter 2:4-9; Ephesians 2:19-22; also Matthew 21:24.

The city of Jerusalem and its Temple were literally destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman armies under General Titus. This event marked the end of the Jewish dispensation with the demise of its most precious institution and the loss of control of the Holy Land. . A similar demise of the Christian institutions has occurred since the late 18th century. Whereas Christian kings once ruled Europe and its colonies and dominated its philosophy, secular governments and philosophies now predominate.

24:3 And as he was sitting upon the mount of Olives the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be, and what is the sign of thy coming and the completion of the age?

v. 3 Symbolic meaning
return Coming of another with similar divine mission or prophetic role

Example of returns in this figurative sense include:
1) Christians accept that the promised return of Elijah (Malachi 4:5) was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist, Matthew 17:11-13 which reads, ’Jesus replied, “To be sure Elijah comes and restores all things. But I tell you Elijah has already come and they did not recognize him”...Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.’ (See Some Answered Questions, 132-134.)
2) Muslims accept that the return of Moses was fulfilled in the person of Jesus and of the return of Jesus was fulfilled in the person of Muhammad. (See Kitab-i-Iqan 20-21; 150-151.)

24:4 And Jesus answering said to them, See that no one mislead you. 24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they shall mislead many.

Flavius Josephus in his history called “Wars of the Jews,” Book 6, paragraph 54, tells of three false Messiahs as being one of the reasons for the uprising against Imperial Rome that led to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. A second revolt against Rome occurred in AD 135 under Bar Kochba who also claimed to be the Jewish Messiah. Thus literal war and false Messiahs were closely linked.

24:6 But ye will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that ye be not disturbed; for all these things must take place, but it is not yet the end. 24:7 For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places.

v. 7 Fulfillment for Jewish Dispensation - 1st century AD Christian Dispensation
war There were several distant wars (rumored of rather More significant than literal warfare was the greater
than directly experienced) that preceded Roman spiritual damage caused by the religious conflicts.
destruction of Jerusalem including Parthian wars Christian fought Christian and divided the Church over
in southwest Asia; specifically the war waged by numerous doctrinal issue starting in the first century AD.
Asinaeus and Alinaeus against the Parthians to James 4:1-2 refers to bitter dissensions within the
the east of the Roman Empire, the Parthian Christian congregations as physical battles, “What causes
declaration of war against King Izates of the fights and quarrels among you?...You kill and covet...
land of Adiabene. There were also uprisings that you quarrel and fight.” These divisions grew more
took place in the Roman provinces of Gaul and contentious after the death of the apostles. The most
Spain. notable schisms involved dispute over the Trinity between
Arians and Athanasians, the Gnostic movement and the
Closer at hand than the distant Parthian wars iconoclastic conflicts. These were followed by splits
were the battles between Jews and nationals in between Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches.
Syria and Samaria. Further, violent conflicts set believer against believer.
During the Crusades Christians murdered Jews, Muslims and Christians slew one another in great numbers, and people of the Book were irreconcilably estranged.

famine Acts 11:28-30 reports a literal famine that Spiritual famine refers to shortage of spiritual
occurred throughout the Roman Empire during guidance per Amos 8:11, “...I will send a famine into the
the reign of Emperor Claudius and tells of land, not a famine for food or a thirst for water, but a
relief efforts organized by the early famine of hearing the words of the LORD.”
Christian Church.
quakes There was an earthquake on the island of Crete The shaking up and disruption of religious life that
during the reign of Claudius Caesar, another accompanies the end of one religious age and the
overthrew the city of Laodicea during the reign beginning of another is compared to an earthquake in the
of Emperor Nero. As reported by the Latin Baha’i writings. See Book of Certitude 44-48 and Epistle
historian, Tacitus there was also one in Rome. to the Son of the Wolf 132. Compare Revelation 16:18-20.
In his Wars of the Jews, Book 4, chapter 4,
paragraph 5, Josephus tells of a dreadful
earthquake as occurring in Judea itself.
24:8 But all these are the beginning of troubles. 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to tribulation, and shall kill you; and ye will be hated of all the nations for my name's sake.

In the first century AD, persecutions of Christians included murder of Stephen (Acts 6:7 - 7:60), Saul’s attacks on Christians (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2); Nero’s blame of Christians for burning of Rome in AD 64 lead to another wave of persecution. As a result, Christians were publicly executed in the Roman gladiatorial games.

In modern times, persecution of believers by unbelievers has continued down through the centuries culminating in the execution of the Bab and the imprisonment of Baha’u’llah.

24:10 And then will many be offended, and will deliver one another up, and hate one another; 24:11 and many false prophets shall arise and shall mislead many; 24:12 and because lawlessness shall prevail, the love of the most shall grow cold;

Under pressure from all these hardships and out of fear, believers would turn on each other and betray one another to the persecutors. In the Baha’i Dispensation such treachery was seen in the betrayal and attempted murder of Baha’u’llah by his own brother, Mirza Yahya.

24:13 but he that has endured to the end, he shall be saved.

War, famine, plague, earthquake, persecution, false Messiahs, and strife within the community of believers would create a severe test. Only those who maintained their godly perspective throughout these tests would have God’s favor.

24:14 And these glad tidings of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole habitable earth, for a witness to all the nations, and then shall come the end.

Kingdom message was preached in the first century fulfillment throughout the Jewish world, as Peter, Paul and others spread the Christian message to all major centers of Jewish population. (Colossians 1:23).

After the age of exploration (AD 1420-1620), world view was expanded to include the entire globe. The Christian message reached all areas of the earth at roughly the time of the early days of the Baha’i Revelation AD 1844-1863.

24:15 When therefore ye shall see the abomination of desolation, which is spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in what is a holy place, (he that reads let him understand,)

Daniel 9:26-27 foretold, “...Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary...upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate.” Pagan roman armies surrounded and attacked Jerusalem in AD 66. In AD 70 the city and its Temple were destroyed. (Luke 21:20) To mark their victory, the Romans sacrificed to their gods on the site of the ruined temple. The abomination of idolatrous sacrifice is an historical allusion to idol of Zeus that desecrated the Temple during the Maccabean period, a century and a half earlier. (Compare apocryphal 1 Maccabees 1:54).

In a spiritual sense, these abominations are ungodly influences that threaten well-being of Christian (and Islamic) institutions. From the fourth century AD forward, corruption with ungodly political and philosophical ideas lead to undermining the love of God and divine teachings. Christianity was corrupted by Constantine and later Roman emperors. The Umayyads played a similar role in the corruption of Islam. (See Some Answered Questions 51). Subsequently, national and political animosities arose between Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Muslims.

To this day, many unbelievers point to religious strife in Ireland and the Middle East as reason to disavow religion altogether. In the West, Christian Faith has been undermined by intellectual attacks that argue for atheistic philosophies. Starting with the French Enlightenment these have included secular materialism, Marxism, Darwinism, Higher Criticism of Bible (Wellhausen, et al.), and anti-Christian philosophers such as Bertrand Russell. These attacks on Christian faith have desolated Christendom’s power and influence, transforming the Christian societies in Europe and the Americas into largely secular ones.

24:16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;

Romans first attacked Jerusalem in AD 66 and withdrew due to an urgent call from Rome, giving obedient Christians the opportunity to flee the city before the Romans returned in AD 70. Historians record Christian refugees in Pelea, Trans-Jordan.

In a figurative and spiritual sense, divine victory would require a spiritual mountain-like refuge against the attacking forces of disbelief. Compare Psalm 18:2; 62:6-8; Isaiah 2:2-4. Baha’i Revelation provides adequate bulwark against the forces of disbelief though its teachings of the logic of faith in God, reconciliation of science and religion and essential harmony of all religions.

24:17 let not him that is on the house come down to take the things out of his house; 24:18 and let not him that is in the field turn back to take his garment.

Literal flight required being unencumbered by material possessions.

Spiritual detachment from ‘houses’ and ‘garments’ is required to resist the outward trappings of religion and/or worldly success and cultivate a true spiritual inner-life.

24:19 But woe to those that are with child, and those that give suck in those days.

Inescapable responsibilities would present a challenge making the believer’s course more difficult.

24:21 for then shall there be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be;

Greatest tribulation in Jewish age was this destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. According to Josephus there was mass starvation and bloody infighting among the Jews during the siege. People ate dung, drank their own urine. Mothers ate their own children. Over one million Jews died and only 97,000 survived as prisoners of the Romans.

To a spiritual person, physical death is not the ultimate calamity. Worse is spiritual deprivation which results in the death of one’s connection to God. The greatest threats to Faith in God in human history have come through fratricidal religious conflict and intellectual attacks in modern time.

Baha’u’llah explains the great tribulation as the most grievous oppression, as “...the time when men shall become oppressed and afflicted, the time when the lingering traces of the Sun of Truth and the fruit of the tree of knowledge and wisdom will have vanished from the midst of men, when the reins of mankind will have fallen into the grasp of the foolish and ignorant...What ‘oppression’ is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should not know where to go for it and from who to seek it?” (Book of Certitude 29-31)

24:22 and if those days had not been cut short, no flesh had been saved; but on account of the elect those days shall be cut short.

The premature end of the tribulations allow believers to survive.

The attack on Jerusalem in 70 AD was interrupted allowing Christians to escape.

In the modern spiritual fulfillment, the attack of materialism on spirituality was effectively disempowered by Baha’i Revelation. If the forces of unbelief such as religious factionalism, materialism and atheism were allowed to progress unabated, faith in God would not have survived. For the sake of a few remaining devoted souls, the Bab and Baha’u’llah provided a powerful new revelation that can successfully counter the attacks of unbelief.