Ponder Eternity, Eternally

Collectively Considering with Scripture as our Rubric

#21 What Is the Sign of Thy Coming? February 24, 2007

June 24, 2007

Joseph Smith – Matthew (Matthew 24)

I suggest you read a side-by-side version of the KJV & the JST. Here’s one for you.

You may also wish to read Doctrine and Covenants 45 as background for understanding the Joseph Smith version better. I will be following the JST in the following notes.

Some insightful questions taken from Julie Smith’s “Search, Ponder, and Pray,” pg. 263 are:
1. Why did this passage need extensive revision? Do you think the subject may have led scribes to make changes?
2. Why did Joseph Smith make so many changes to the order of the material? What difference does it make when the verses are arranged differently?
3. Note the definition for “end of the world” that is found in the JST but not the KJV.

I suggest you read the side-by-side chapter as linked above, and ask yourself throughout WHY each change was made. Require an answer of yourself. “I don’t know,” is a perfectly acceptable answer if it’s honest vs. lazy. 🙂 The better answer, however, is “I don’t know, but I’d like to know.” This is a motivator to further pondering which, ultimately, will yield the best answer.

It might be helpful for you to be aware that this lesson focuses on what is termed “eschatology.”

Of historical note & obvious relevance to the present day, is the tradition that believes in the escape of the early Christians from the destruction of Jerusalem which is prophesied by Jesus in this chapter. Here is some of that tradition:

“The city [Pella] earned its name in church history in AD 66 when Pella became a refuge for Christians who were fleeing Jerusalem because the Roman army was coming to quiet a Jewish revolution. Pella continued as a strong Christian city after that and hosted many monasteries throughout the prosperous Byzantine period.” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume Four, Page 672.

Eusebius, one of the early church fathers wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church of Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and His apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers from the earth.” Ecclesiastical History, 3:5:3.

Pella was at that time a city in the Decapolis. In modern times it is known as Tabaqat Fahil. It is located in the foothills of the eastern slope of the Jordan Valley about 100 km to the northwest of Amman and about eighteen miles south of the Sea of Galilee. Pella flourished until the late Byzantine period when a decrease in the water supply, an invasion by the Persians, and an epidemic of bubonic plague resulted in a reversal of its growth. A devastating earthquake in CE 747 ended its long history as a city of major influence in the region.

There seems to be a theme going here: “How do I avoid deception?” As you read, see how the scriptures answer this question. (Clue: v. 11, 27, 37, 46.)

v. 1-4: This is the fifth & last discourse in Matthew’s Gospel. Why do you think Jesus began his public ministry with the Sermon on the Mount & ends his public ministry with the Olivet Discourse, or sermon coming from the Mt. of Olives? The Mt. of Olives is a ridge a little more than a mile long, beyond the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem and rising about 200 feet above the city. While sitting on it, Jesus’ audience had a view of the temple. Is this relevant?

Why are the disciples concerned with the buildings of the temple (v. 2)? In verse 4 is the destruction of the temple synonomous with the destruction of the Jews? Why or why not? This prophecy was literally fullfilled when Titus destroyed Jerusalem & the temple. Stones were even pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire. Excavations in 1968 uncovered large number of these stones, toppled from the walls by the invaders.

In what way is the destruction of the wicked the end of the world? From Jim F.’s notes: “The phrase “sign of thy coming” can also be translated “miracle of your appearance” and “end of the world” can be translated as “fulfillment of the age or generation.” Do either of these help you understand the disciples’ questions with more depth?”

It appears that two questions are being asked by the disciples: 1. When is the destruction? 2. When are you coming back? Answers to the first question are found in v. 5-10 & answers to the second question are found in v. 21 – 55. Do you agree? Are these questions relevant to us today? How? How do we MAKE them relevant vs. succumbing to “Last Days Fever” with symptoms of frenzy and fear overtaking us?

v. 5-10: Why does Jesus say this? In what way do false Christs create affliction? What does verse 10 mean? Who does “many” mean?

v. 11: What does “steadfast” mean? Remaineth implies they were at one time in the right place. What is that place? What kind of salvation is spoken of here?

v. 12: What does “abomination of desolation” mean? Another way to say this “the abomination that causes desolation.” The primary reference in Daniel was to 168 B.C., when Antiochus Epiphanes erected a pagan altar to Zeus on the sacred altar in the temple of Jerusalem. See v. 32. See Dan. 27:9, Dan. 11:31, Luke 21:20. What do these scriptures teach us? What is the catalyst to this happening in the days of the early saints and in modern times? What is the holy place where we’re to stand when we see the signs? Where did the early saints stand at this time? See D&C 101:22. Note the last line of this verse. What does it teach about the value of the scriptures & how we’re to know the signs of the times?

v. 13: What is the order of action outlined between v. 12 & 13? Is “mountains” literal or symbolic? Pella, to which the Christians in Jerusalem fled, is located in the Transjordan mountains.
v. 14-17: Why the haste? Is this literal or symbolic? What does this teach about watching & readiness? I’ve always hated v. 16 because I’ve been either pregnant or had a baby for the last 19 years and felt pretty helpless in the last days, according to this verse. How are we to understand it? Is there anything positive in reading it if you’re in this condition? Does this mean we shouldn’t have children so that we can always be ready to flee? Why would people in this situation be forced to suffer more than others? Does v. 17 help here?
v. 18: Verses 18 – 21 are transitional verses. What do they transition between? What does “of God” mean? Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 & 132 AD. Over 1 million Jews were killed in Jerusalem. Another 1/2 million were killed outside Jerusalem.
v. 19: What does this foreshadow?
v. 20: How are the afflictions of the Jews shortened? Does this apply to other situations? See 2 Ne. 30:2; 3 Ne. 21:22-24.
v. 20 & 22: What does it mean to be “elect?” How does this answer the initial question about being deceived? In what ways does this apply to the early saints in this dispensation? What is the difference between being deceived & afflicted? Are the elect exempt from both?
v. 23: Is there any way to avoid all these calamaties? Does this contradict v. 17?
v. 24-26: What is Jesus warning us about here? How are we to know of his coming?
v. 27: What does this parable mean? Is this an ugly or beautiful scene? What usually is attracted by a carcass? Why would eagles be drawn to a carcass here? Where else in the scriptures do you read of carcasses & eagles?
v. 30: Is this any different than v. 11? This is the 3rd time Jesus has said WHY “the love of men shall wax cold.” What does this mean, to “wax cold?” Is it those who should be loving who are waxing cold or is it the ones who should be loved waxing cold?
v. 31: Why does this verse begin, “And again…?” What is a sign of His coming here? How might the gospel be preached throughout all the world?
v. 32: Why does this verse begin, “And again…?” Why are things repeated? Isn’t once enough?
v. 33: Are these literal or symbolic signs?
v. 34: Who are those of “this generation?” Is Jesus’ audience the same here? Does verse 12 impact your answer?
v. 35: What does it mean to “pass away?” In what way do the earth & heaven pass away that the Lord’s words do not? What is to be fulfilled?
v. 36: What is the sign of the Son of Man that is to appear in the heavens? Is this similar to the sign of his birth? Why will the tribes of the earth mourn instead of rejoice?
v. 37: What must we do to avoid deception?
v. 38: How do we interpret & apply this parable? Is this linked to the previous parable of the fig tree? Another one. Is this scripture symbolically relevant: 1 Kings 4:25? What about this one: Proverbs 27:18? How about Hosea 9:10? What do these all have in common?
v. 39: What should the elect be watching for? What does it mean to be near or at the doors? What doors? Who is going to open these doors?
v. 40: Does Jesus know? How does his knowing or not knowing impact things?
v. 41-43: What was it like in the days of Noah that will be at the time of his coming? Did the people in Noah’s day have warnings of the flood? Did it catch them by suprise? Why did they drown?
v. 44-46: These words echo the same words that Jesus spake back in Luke 17:35 from lesson 18. How are these two episodes, teaching the same things, the same or different? v. 47-54: How do we watch? Using this parable, what are we to do to be counted as a faithful servant? Is the word “faithful” important here vs. good or profitable? What does the faithful servant do in contrast to the evil servant? Is the word “evil” important here vs. slothfull, unprofitable, lazy, etc? How does faithful contrast with evil? What is the reward to both of these servants?

What does it mean to be “cut asunder?” From Jim F.’s notes: “The Mosaic Law speaks of being “cut off from among the people” (verse 55) in many places (e.g., Exodus 30:33 and 31:14, as well as Leviticus 18:29). Is that also a version of this disagreeable metaphor, though one that, perhaps, we’ve gotten so used to that we no longer recognize its original meaning? Or does it mean something different? From what people will the wicked be cut off? How will they be cut off? In what variety of ways do we see or will we see this happen?Why are the hypocrites included with the evil servant?”

This chapter is speaking a lot about covenants, but in veiled ways. If being elect means to have made covenants, what constitutes the non-elect? Which is worse, to make and brake a covenant or to never have made a covenant?

In conclusion, as I’ve studied eschatology these words by Bruce R. McConkie have been the most helpful: “No preparation we make to ready ourselves for the 2nd Coming is in vain. Christ comes to every generation and has already come. Each will be judged based on our acceptance or rejection of Him.”–DNTC, 3 Vol. 1:674-77.


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