Tom Pittman's WebLog

2016 February 5 -- Which Day Is "That" Day?

He began his mini-series eschatology teaching two or three weeks ago. Me, I try to switch off when they start preaching about things they don't know, or that are built up on trying to make sense of a small number of Scriptures, and ignoring a bunch of others. If you read some verses, you come out pre-millennial, read others and you come out post-mill or a-mill. I liked what one preacher said in my hearing many years ago: "I'm a pan-millennialist ['pan' is Greek for "all"], because it will all pan out in the end." If you and I are living in obedience to Jesus Christ, it doesn't really matter what the future details are, because they  don't affect what we do today. The end of the chapter tells us to be careful how we live, so His Coming doesn't catch us doing Bad Stuff. Better not to do Bad Stuff because it's Bad Stuff, and not because we might get caught with our hand in the cookie jar.

Anyway, this guy was trying to argue that "that day" in Matt.24:36 is a different time from "those days" in verses 19 and 29. Verses 19 and 29 came and went in 70AD with the destruction of Jerusalem, but verse 36 is still future. There are people who argue carefully that the whole chapter refers to 70AD (we call them "preterists" or Seventh-Day Adventists), but most conservative (meaning they believe the Bible is true) theologians argue that it's all still future. Me, I'm pan-millennialist. I won't get caught with my hand in the cookie jar if my hand is never in the cookie jar.

What bothered me about this guy was his different hermeneutic for "that" (Greek 'ekeinos') between verse 36 and the previous uses of the same word in the same chapter. I would guess he does not spend a lot of time reading the Bible in Greek, because if he did, he wouldn't make that mistake. I'm reading in John 16 this morning, where verse 13 tells us "when that Spirit of Truth comes, he will..." Does Jesus mean that there are two different Spirits, the Comforter in verse 7, and then some other Spirit in verse 13? I don't think so, and I suspect this guy would agree. The Greek word 'ekeinos' is used all over the Bible to mean "the one I just now told you about, not some other guy."

Matt.24 is no different. The word 'ekeinos' appears ten times in that chapter, first in verse 19 "those days" referring to the days he began to describe in verse 4 in answer to the disciples' question "When?" He's still talking about the same period of time (not some other time, as my preacher friend probably would agree) in verse 19, and again (twice) in verse 22, then again in verse 29 when the sun and moon will be darkened and stars will fall, and "the Son of Man will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and will send out his angels with a loud trumpet to gather his Chosen..." Yup, all those things will happen "immediately" after "those days," the same days he was telling about earlier in the same chapter (and not some other time). Was there a loud trumpet in 70AD and were all the Christians gathered to the Coming of Jesus? I don't think so. That's the problem with Preterist theology, it doesn't match the facts of history. "Coming in the clouds" might be metaphor in verse 30, but what about the trumpet? Why weren't the Christians all gathered up to meet Jesus?

"Those days" is repeated again in verse 38, but this guy now wants to tell us that "that day" (verse 36) is now referring to some other, different day than what Jesus started to tell us about at the beginning of the chapter. Verse 36 is singular, the other five references are plural, is that significant? Probably: the general time (plural "those days") can be recognized by all the signs Jesus told about, but the particular instant in time ("that day and hour") is not known, not even by Jesus, but only the Father knows.

There is a use of the same demonstrative in verse 43 without a noun (which is not helpful in the present discussion), but the remaining three times 'ekeinos' appears in Matt.24, Jesus is telling about the faithful servant who is doing his duty when the Master returns. The servant is introduced in verse 45, then in verse 46 Jesus calls "that servant" blessed. Which servant, the one he just told us about in the previous verse, or some other servant? Why would we want to understand 'ekeinos' in verse 46 to be totally different from 'ekeinos' in verse 36? But if "that servant" in verse 48, the same guy, hypothetically were to behave badly, then the Master of "that servant" in verse 50, the same guy, there's only one servant described in all seven verses, the Master would punish him severely when He comes.

I noticed later that John 18:15 uses 'ekeinos' again in this same sense, not meaning "previous" but rather "the same guy." Peter and John ("another disciple") are following the arrested Jesus at some distance. John is known to the family of the High Priest, so he gets in the door without question, but Peter is stuck outside. So "that disciple" -- and just so you understand it's not the first one mentioned, not Peter, the Evangelist repeats that it's the one who is known by the family, the most recent disciple listed -- that guy goes and tells the girl at the door to let Peter in, like "he's with me." So she says to Peter, "Aren't you one of this guy's disciples?" and now "that guy" (Peter, not "this guy" Jesus, not "that other disciple" John, but the most recent guy who is not a "this guy", which is now Peter) says "Not me!" By and bye in verse 25, Peter is warming himself at the fire and [somebody] says to him, "you are, aren't you, one of his disciples?" and "that guy" (not the person who asked, who doesn't even have a noun or a pronoun in this sentence, nor the distant John who was "that guy" in verse 15, but the most recent male person mentioned, which is Peter at the front of the verse) that [guy] denies it again.

When we start cherry-picking different hermeneutics to fit our pre-determined theology, then the theology is not from the Bible, but the other way around. Don't do that.

Maybe the Christians in 70AD remembered what Jesus said and got out of town before the Romans came, maybe not, I don't know. I don't think this guy knows either, since the only contemporary historian of that event (Josephus) mentions Christians only once in his entire history, and not in that context. Three centuries later Eusebius said something like that, but he wasn't there at the time, and he didn't cite any eyewitnesses, so maybe he was inventing it to make the Good Guys look good. We don't know.

Maybe Daniel's "Abomination of Desolation" had multiple fulfillments. Certainly most people recognize it in Antiochus Epiphanes, so much so that atheists try to suppose the prophecy was written after the event. Jesus placed it in the future, which would be a second fulfillment. Was that 70AD? Is there a third? We don't know. Me, I'm a pan-millennialist. What I do today deserves much more of my attention than what God will do "in the sweet bye and bye." Jesus said not to worry about the future, it will take care of itself.


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