MATTHEW 24: HEAVEN AND EARTH WILL PASS AWAY

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. – Matthew 24:35

As we continue our study of this chapter, we must keep in mind it’s context, and the disciples question seen in Matthew 24:1-2, 3

Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

In this series we see that Jesus had given many warnings about Jerusalem’s fall and the fact that the kingdom of God would be taken from them. The disciples reacted with questions to weighing the possibility and impact.

We could put the disciples’ question this way, “When will the temple be destroyed and what will be the sign of your presence in power and glory as Messiah and the end of the Jewish age?”

Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple which was the very center of the Jewish world. In referring to the passing of that system it was in direct contrast to his world that was to be established. You see, one world was to pass, the Old World of the Law; and a New World was to be created, the World of grace and His kingdom. It will never pass away for it is forever and ever.

According to statistics the modern city of Jerusalem has eleven gates, of which only seven gates are open. The eastern gate has been long sealed shut symbolizing the denial of entry to the Messiah into Jerusalem. This is a great contrast to the New Jerusalem which John saw that will have twelve open gates, gates that will never be shut.

When Rome destroyed the ancient Temple of Israel in AD70, it left only the outer retaining wall of the Temple Mount platform and complex. This outer wall shell, is known to Jews as the Kotel ha-Ma’aravi, and to most Westerners as the Western Wall or (wailing wall). Jews from around the world gather there to pray at the Wailing Wall for centuries. It is a fact that Jews place many scraps of paper called kvitlachthat  contains prayers into the crevices of the 65-foot high wall, hoping for answers to prayer.

The Jews continue till today to pray for the peace of Jerusalem just like their fathers did in the Old testament. They have been praying three times a day for thousands of years now saying “To Jerusalem, thy city, shall we return with joy,” and also quoting the Psalmist’s oath: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.”

The books of I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles, as well as almost every one of the Old Testament prophets of Israel convey to us detailed information of how her unfaithfulness to covenant with Yahweh caused Israel to be taken into exile in Babylon and why the magnificent First Temple came to be destroyed.

The major prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah were sent by God to warn Israel of their downfall. The first temple was burnt down after great loss of life on the 9th of Av, 586 B.C. A restoration was spoken of by God through his prophets and it was fulfilled by a gradual restoration that culminated in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

600 years later Jesus the Messiah arrived, Israel once again enjoyed a modest place among the nations of the Middle East. But something was happening which was well noted by the Jews. Something that we can look back and notice what Paul was saw in 2 Corinthians 3:7

“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:”

Israel’s great military competence that she had enjoyed under King David was gone. The Kingship for Israel had been a vassal state under foreign dominion for centuries. It was no longer the glorified kingdom that they once had. Their hope for the Messiah was misplaced in one that would restore all that. They were oblivious of the plans of God through the covenant with Abraham; To bless all nations.

The only thing that remained were the sacrifices and offerings that characterized Judaism. The priesthood was corrupted and even denied the people the place to worship God through difficult barriers they placed as heavy burdens. There was so much internal politics that saw them divided into factions amongst the Herodians, Hellenists, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Scribes.

As the writer of Hebrews once said
“with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.” (Hebrews 10:6) NIV

When the disciples the Disciples bragged about the splendor of the Temple to Jesus in Matthew 24 they received a shocking response that would go down as Jesus longest prophecy. He spoke about the end of that Jewish age that would also see the temple and city burnt down just like it happened in 586 B.C. Unfortunately most of Christianity see this as the end of the world and so disregard the relevance of message to the original and intended audience.

C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon in a sermon which he delivered in 1865 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vo. XXXVII, p. 354), said:
Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away and we now live under a new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.

After Jesus resurrection and the commissioning of the Apostles to preach the word of salvation that could not be provided in that Old covenant age. This message also provided their escape from the coming catastrophe known as the pouring out of the wrath of God. Look at what the Hebrews author said

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: (Hebrews 6:18)

The Apostles made them know that they oblivious of God’s plan and even killed their covenant partner. They told them that had totally missed the special appointed time of her visitation from God, a visit personified in the manifestation of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. See what Peter says:

17 And now, brothers, I know you acted in ignorance, as your rulers did too. 18 But the things God foretold long ago through all the prophets – that his Christ would suffer – he has fulfilled in this way. 19 Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, 20 so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you – that is, Jesus. … 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must obey him in everything he tells you. 23 Every person who does not obey that prophet will be destroyed and thus removed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets, from Samuel and those who followed him, have spoken about and announced these days. (Acts 3)

About 40 years later, (32AD-70AD) and exactly as prophesied by Jesus Christ, the magnificent “Herod’s Temple” was completely destroyed, leaving not one stone upon another. Majority of the Jews were caught in this avoidable catastrophe that was spoken of for over 2,000 years.

Hebrews 12:25ff spoke of the passing of the “heaven and earth” so that the unshakable kingdom might remain. It says they were at that time “receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,” vs. 28.
Since the heaven and earth were to be shaken/removed so that the unshakable could remain, and since they were at that time receiving the unshakable kingdom, it follows that the “heavens and earth” was being removed at that time.

This is not the physical heaven and earth, but the Old World of Israel, created and sustained by the Law was about to be completely destroyed when Jerusalem and the Temple fell in 70 AD.

When God spoke to Isaiah about the coming destruction upon Babylon after they had brought to ruins and captivity, this is the prophetic/apocalyptic language he used;
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand!
It will come as destruction from the Almighty.
7 Therefore all hands will be limp,
Every man’s heart will melt,
8 And they will be afraid.
Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them;
They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth;
They will be amazed at one another;
Their faces will be like flames.
9 Behold, the day of the LORD comes,
Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
To lay the land desolate;
And He will destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not give their light;
The sun will be darkened in its going forth,
And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

13 Therefore I will shake the heavens,
And the earth will move out of her place,
In the wrath of the LORD of hosts
And in the day of His fierce anger. (Isaiah 13)

This is the same language employed by the Apostles in the first century with regards to the prophecy of the destruction of national Israel that stood as an enemy of God in the dawn of the new covenant. Israel had become apostate again and this time just like their fathers were killing the prophets and people sent to her. Jesus did quite a statement on this in Matthew 23 of which he said in vs 29-36

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, andsome of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Notice he said it would come in THAT generation. In chapter 24 he also says that the passing away of the heaven and earth would be linked to his statement in vs 34

“Assuredly, I say to you, THIS GENERATION will by no means pass away till ALL THESE THINGS take place.”

The writer of Hebrews states about the shaking of the heavens and earth that was to happen in their time and generation. This is not a literal shaking as being popularly propagated. This is one of the major reasons why the predictions about the end of the world has failed and will keep failing.

Rather the author is referring to the removal of a world, kingdom and the end of an era. This time the end of the Jewish world founded the law and the prophets and Mosaic age.

He tells them in chapter 12 not to be stubborn to the voice that speaks from Zion and not Sinai. This is after his revelation of the fact that they were no longer stationed at Sinai but now in Zion where God and the angels had resettled. The interesting thing is that the voice that speaks is the Blood of Jesus. This is why he says it speaks better things than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake[h] not only the earth, but also heaven.”[i] 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12)

The shaking of that former heaven and earth will herald the establishment of God’s kingdom where grace would be the life of worship and not the Mosaic law.

This is the same connection that Peter draws to speak about the destruction of the heavens and earth in alignment with the Hebrews writer.
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[
12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10,12-13)

He also confirms that removal of that former heaven and earth will see the establishment of a world where righteousness dwells. This is why the grace message is the voice of the kingdom. For it declares that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel which is the power of God.

It will be just a total disrespect proper exegesis for us to declare that God intends to destroy the literal heavens and earth in order to prove his judgment on all men. This is not the grace message and certainly negates the impact of the finished works of Jesus in spreading the glory of the kingdom all over the face of the earth. The old world has been removed so that the one that cannot be shaken will remain eternally. Halleluyah!

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