The parables of delay and the question of dual fulfilment

In response to my comments on the fulfilment of prophecy it was suggested to me (by other channels) that while much of Matthew 24 can ‘with difficulty’ be made to fit exclusively into an AD 70 framework, the same cannot be said for the parables of delay in 24:36 - 25:30. In other words, Jesus must be thinking about events that will happen in our future and for which we must in the same way be prepared. I disagree, but before I say why, I want to say briefly that I regard this not as a Preterist argument but fundamentally as a defence of a historically grounded evangelicalism – as belonging to the affirmation of a thoroughly biblical understanding of the evangel as a statement, or even statements, about the historical existence of a ‘new creation’ community.

The first problem with the view that Jesus has two temporally distinct outcomes in mind is that Matthew 24:36 begins: ‘But concerning that day and hour…’. The issue of the timing – and thus the problem of delay – is connected with the preceding events. The parables presuppose the narrative of a catastrophic judgment on Jerusalem that will take place within a generation (24:34), which is interpreted by Jesus as a fulfilment of the symbolism of the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven – that is, as a vindication of a suffering community of righteous Israel. There is no temporal disconnection in the narrative: Jerusalem will be made desolate by its enemies within a generation (Jesus could hardly be more explicit); immediately after that tribulation the sign of the Son of man will be seen; but the exact timing is unknown, so the disciples cannot afford to be complacent. The passage gives no reason thus far to seek a second fulfilment beyond the horizon of the Jewish War.

As in the days of Noah

The ensuing parables – they are only parables, remember – simply reinforce the third stage in this argument. The disciples cannot know how long they will have to wait for the dramatic change of circumstances that will demonstrate to the world the rightness of their belief in a new temple, a new covenant, a new age. The judgment of Jerusalem, the vindication of the Son of man, will take the Jews by surprise, just as humanity was taken by surprise at the time of the flood – by which, incidentally, Noah was vindicated for building the lifeboat by which his little community survived.

In Daniel’s vision the coming of the Son of man marks the symbolic climax to a complex historical narrative. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that when Jesus speaks of the coming of the Son of man as a surprise event, he has in mind the build up to war that is alluded to in the earlier part of the discourse.

A thief in the night

The same argument applies in relation to the saying about a thief in the night, but especially significant here are passages in the prophets which use the image of a thief (in the night) to describe judgment on Jerusalem through military invasion, which strongly suggests that Jesus has a similar narrative in mind:

I brought them upon him at the time when I visited upon him, because grape gatherers came, who shall not leave for you things gleaned. As thieves by night they shall place their hand. (Jer. 29:9-10 LXX = Jer. 49:8-9 MT)

If thieves came to you, or robbers by night, where would you be cast aside; would they not steal what is sufficient for themselves? And if grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings? (Obad. 5 LXX)

The following passage from Joel is important because it also has the cosmic imagery which Jesus uses in Matthew 24:29 to express the geo-political and religious significance of the destruction of Jerusalem.

They shall seize the city and run upon the walls; they will scale the houses and enter through windows like thieves. The earth shall be disturbed before them, and the sky shall be shaken. The sun and the moon shall grow dark, and the stars shall shed their brightness. (Joel 2:9-10 LXX)

Virgins late for the party

This parable is attached to teaching that emphasizes the responsibility of the servant who has been set over his master’s household while he is away to treat his fellow servants justly and not associate with drunkards (Matt. 24:45-51). If the servant becomes complacent about the ‘coming’ of his master and abuses the other servants, he will be condemned with the hypocrites, consigned to a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That is, these disciples will be judged as though they were Pharisees – as hypocrites who purport to be good shepherds of Israel but who in fact ‘shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces’ (Matt. 23:13). They will be like the five virgins who turn up at the wedding without oil and are turned away at the door.

The parable of the talents

This popular parable makes the same basic point. Jesus again warns his disciples to watch, because they do not know the hour or the day (25:13). Nothing in the construction of his argument suggests that he also had in view circumstances far beyond the historical horizon of that first generation of Jewish followers. The same conclusion is reached. Those who fail to remain true to their calling in these difficult decades will find themselves ‘judged’ along with the Scribes and the Pharisees, excluded from the community of redeemed Israel.

Comments

I was "the other channels" which Andrew refers to. The actual words I used in the conversation with Andrew were: "Matthew 24 can, with difficulty, be shoehorned into an AD 70 only fulfilment" (Andrew's status update comments, facebook, Saturday 3 October), and although I'm trying to avoid bringing discord into the otherwise harmonious unanimity of opinion on this site, I wanted to post a small reply.

First, just to say that I do think Andrew is radically altering the content and meaning of 'evangelion', the gospel, in defining it as: "a statement, or even statements, about the historical existence of a ‘new creation’ community." To find out what that statement is, you need to look very carefully at what Andrew is actually saying.

The difficulty with giving Matthew 24 an exclusively first century fulfilment is not new, and the arguments produced by Andrew are similar to those of J. S. Russell and the Preterist movement in the 19th century.

What makes me hesitate in seeing an entirely 1st century fulfilment of Matthew 24 begins in verse 27, where the appearance of the true messiah is contrasted with the appearance of false messiahs in verses 24-26. The destruction of the temple (by Jesus, the true messiah) does not provide an equivalence; with the one, the false messiahs can be seen and heard; with the other, there is fulfilment of prophecy (in the destruction of the temple) but no appearance of the messiah - except in a metaphorical sense (his 'appearance' was in the fulfilment of the things he said, which demonstrated his authority before God).

Then in verse 29, the words "Immediately after the distress of those days, 'the sun will be darkened etc" are a curious way of describing what should be associated directly with the distress of those days, not afterwards (even allowing for a metaphorical understanding of the words themselves). Mark makes the break in the time scale even more emphatic with the emphatic "But" (Mark 13:24).

Things become more complicated as we proceed. In verse 30b, is the suffering which accompanied the destruction of the temple intended in the words: "the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory"? It doesn't seem to fit with Jesus's sorrow over the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-38.

Also in verse 31, why is a gathering of the elect described, "from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other", rather than a dispersal - which is what would have occurred in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem? (Or is the angelic trumpet call intended to announce the commencement of a much longer period of gathering?).

In verse 36, why is the hidden timing of 'that hour' emphasised so strongly? If all the events were to take place entirely within a generation, the timing could have been approximated, as was the  case with the destruction of the temple. Does verse 36 really refer to that event?

Finally the parables. Yes, the Jews may have been taken by surprise, just as in the days of Noah, in the sense that the destruction of the temple may have seemed unlikely (but not inconceivable as it had happened before). Whether the Jews were really only 'eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage' up to the days when the Romans invaded Israel, took Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and the followers of Jesus were preserved, slightly stretches the probability of the comparison. 

Yes there are references to thieves coming through the window in the night (of Edom, not of Israel or Jerusalem) in Jeremiah 49:8-9 and Obadiah 5 (both referring to the same event, and probably the same prophecy). Yes, and Andrew didn't mention this, the same image is taken up by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, where, in the wider context of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, there is a similar ambiguity. (Yes, you can see the destruction of Jerusalem there; no - the literal, physical raising of the dead described in that passage certainly cannot be pressed into the service of an AD 70 only fulilment).

The virgins late for the party raises problems in abundance with the AD 70 only fulfilment. It's not just a party, but a wedding celebration, with the virgins waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom. Was the destruction of Jerusalem intended then to be viewed as a wedding celebration? Further, the groom goes into the city, and shuts the door on those who were unprepared, so that they were left outside. In AD 70, those who were unprepared were left inside the city, and could not get out! 

Of course, this can be explained, in one sense, as those who were left outside the covenant, and those who were safely included in the covenant, but it is an oddly inappropriate picture to associate with AD 70 and the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in particular, which Jesus is clearly focusing on from Matthew 23:37-38 and (much of) Matthew 24 in particular.

Even more significantly and importantly, any reference to a wedding celebration in an eschatological setting like this cannot avoid being connected with the imagery of the eschatological wedding intended by YHWH for Israel, and fulfilled for the people of God in Jesus. The eschatological wedding is always something that is (our) future in the NT, and not fulfillled in AD 70. Yes, it's only a parable, but the imagery dictates the meaning.

The parable of the talents also suggests an event beyond our future. The destruction of the temple was not a day of reckoning and rewards for those who had acted faithfully or unfaithfully in the handling of the master's/God's resources. Of course, in one sense, the wicked servant might have been compared with unbelieving Israel, and the faithful might have been preserved for greater responsibilities at that time, but the parable as a whole is far more suggestive of the judgement which is to come. There never was anything like a personal encounter between the Master/Jesus and his followers at the destruction of the temple. The parable doesn't work like that at all. There will be such an encounter with Jesus at the final judgement.

Finally, there is the parable of the sheep and the goats. Although this does not describe a delay in the same way as the preceding parables, it does introduce judgement, which in context, if Andrew is right, should concern the judgement on Jerusalem in AD 70. The lanaguage of the parable is nothing like this. "All the nations will be gathered before him" - verse 32. The separation is described as of those standing before the judgement throne of the son of man, not the chaos of destruction which came on Jerusalem and Israel in the Jewish wars.

The weight of the evidence seems to me to undermine an exclusively 1st century fulfilment of Matthew 24-25, attractive as that would be for simplifying the argument.

 

24:27: I’m not sure I get your point about the false prophets. The saying is part of the narrative of the desolation of Jerusalem – and both Acts and Josephus make it clear that there were many false saviours out and about in the period leading up to the final capture of Jerusalem. Jesus is simply warning the disciples not to follow them – their salvation or vindication will not take that form; it will be revealed in the vision of the Son of man. In other words, it will be the story of faithful obedience to Jesus that will get the people of God through this crisis of divine judgment, not a reckless going after the various messianic pretenders with their promises of either military or divine deliverance from the Roman armies.

24:29: I take the cosmic imagery to signify not so much the distress of the war but, as in the Old Testament, the massive disruption to the established order of things that the war represented. Disorder on earth is reflected in the heavens. In any case, ‘immediately after’ does not mean ‘indefinitely after’.

24:30: the desolation of Jerusalem and the suffering of the Jews is part of the story (cf. Dan. 12:1-3) that is summed up in Daniel’s symbolism of a human figure coming on the clouds of heaven to receive a kingdom. The judgment and the vindication of Jesus and his followers are two sides of the same coin.

24:31: The gathering of the elect is part of the retelling of the prophetic story of the ending of exile. I think the central point, though, in Jesus’ teaching is that the disciples, the elect, will be included in the vindication of the Son of man.

24:36: Surely ‘that day and hour’ refers to the taking place of ‘all these things’, which is explicitly said to be within a generation (24:34). It seems to me that we can only preserve a split fulfilment of these prophecies if we tear apart the fabric of Jesus’ argument. It is constructed as a single piece. There is nothing to suggest that Jesus had in mind or meant to communicate a significant disjunction between a prophecy of the end of second temple Judaism and a prophecy of the end of world history. As I mentioned in the original post, there are clear logical and temporal connectives all the way through that make it very difficult to split the argument in the way you suggest.

The ten virgins and the talents: no, the destruction of Jerusalem is not a cause for celebration; but the vindication of the community of Jesus’ followers certainly was. We have moved beyond the symbolic narrative context of Matthew 24:4-44 and the question of how the disciples will survive the turmoil of the end of the age. The issue here is not whether they will endure but whether they will fulfil their commission as servants.

These are parables. They do not describe a literal future event; rather they speak of the seriousness of the vocation that the disciples have as servants of Jesus – they cannot afford to be counted as no more useful in this time of crisis than the Pharisees. The same is true for the parable of the talents. The kingdom of heaven – that is, the kingdom and authority that will be given to the Son of man community – will be like ten virgins who took their lamps, it will be like a man going on a journey. Jesus does not make reference to a final judgment here. He is talking about the conditions that will culminate in the coming reign of Christ and the martyrs in place of the pagan powers that for so long opposed the God of Israel.

The sheep and the goats: there is, of course, a judgment described here, but it is linked closely with the immediate experience of the disciples: it is a judgment – and arguably a symbolic judgment – of the nations according to how they treated the least of Jesus’ brothers. It is still part of the overall narrative of the disciples taking the good news of the coming kingdom out into the world in the period leading up to the end of the age (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). This looks beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, but again it is prophetic language that is entirely consistent with and continuous with the story that Jesus has been telling about the future of the community of his followers over the coming decades.

I used to try and harmonize these verses. But there isn't a way to do it logically. Some of the language appears to reference past events (the destruction of Jerusalem), along with Jesus saying that his listeners would see the events. Yet we know from history that the son of man did not come through the clouds and set up a kingdom.

So where does that leave us? There are many variants, but four basic choices:

1) Try and harmonize the passages so they are taken as meaning all in the past or future. To do this in either direction, one has to take some verses out of their clear meaning.

2) Assert that some of the prophecy happened and some will happen in the future, which makes some sense because some verses seem to reference the past and others have no historical parallel. But it would be hard to understand why the author would leave his audience to try and discern something so convoluted and puzzling. Did the author anticipate how his warnings would be heeded by readers some 2000 years later? There is no sense in the text that the author disagreed with the imminence that is implied by Jesus' words.

3) Spiritualize everthing so that it is not talking about anything literal. That has the beauty of not forcing the language into meaning something literal but also is not likely to have been the author's intent.

4) Understand the passage in its time and place. The gospel was written/edited around the time that Jerusalem was destroyed. Jesus did speak of the end of time in some sense, so it wasn't much of a stretch to put words in his mouth that referenced the destruction of Jerusalem. But at the same time, the author believed the end of time was in fact near, so he had Jesus predicting that all this would happen in the lifetime of his readers.

As literal history, it doesn't make sense. It makes much more sense if one looks at it as a reflection of the conditions and culture of the author.

"Yet we know from history that the son of man did not come through the clouds and set up a kingdom."

uh?  The son of man did come through the clouds just as he said he would.  A simple journey through the OT shows the phrase "coming in the clouds" is a merely reference to God coming in judgment, not a literal physical being coming through physical clouds in the physical sky.  AD 70 was clearly a judgment against Israel just as Jesus said it would be.  Again, understanding general Hebraic thought and metaphor will take you a long way.

Jesus also set up His Kingdom just as he said he would.  He said it woudn't come with observation.  The Kingdom would be within you. 

Lk 17"20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Not hard to understand.  The Kingdom of God is here now.

"Spiritualize everthing so that it is not talking about anything literal. That has the beauty of not forcing the language into meaning something literal but also is not likely to have been the author’s intent."

just because something is spiritual doesn't mean it's not literal.  Jesus literally came, but it wasn't in a personal physical sense as people (futurist and you it seems) try to force it; although his coming did manifested itself in physical events ie. destruction of Jerusalem.  You confuse literal with physical.

"Jesus did speak of the end of time in some sense, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to put words in his mouth that referenced the destruction of Jerusalem. But at the same time, the author believed the end of time was in fact near, so he had Jesus predicting that all this would happen in the lifetime of his readers."

Again, you keep changing what the text says to find support.  The Bible never speaks to the "end of time".  It clearly speaks to the "time of the end" in reference to the time when the end of Israel's  old heavens and earth and the Old Covenant would be replace with a New Heavens and Earth and a New Covenant.  Thus, a world (kosmos, which is not physical) where righteousness would dwell, and where "the death" would have been destroyed.

The new Jerusalem is here now where those who are in Christ (the Church) rest.  Outside the New Jerusalem (the City) are the "dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie." Rev. 22:15.

-Rich

Your view fails for many reasons.

One is that it relies on the idea that the books were written as part of a whole. You apply Luke's definition of the kingdom to Matthew. But there is no evidence that Matthew knew Luke's opinion or if he did that he would agree. And there is less reason to think that he would expect his readers to be familiar with Luke, which almost certainly had not been written or widely distributed.

But even if I granted that Matthew knew Luke, I certainly would not agree that you are correctly interpreting Luke's definition of the kindgom. The comment attributed to Jesus about the kingdom was made to the "Pharisees." Was Jesus saying that the Pharisees were christians, and thus the kingdom was inside them? No, the best sense of what Jesus was allegedly saying was that the kingdom was "in your midst."

Furthermore, most every other reference to the kingdom comes with a future time associated with it. If you pick out one badly translated snippet and ignore the sense of every other reference to the kingdom, of course it will come out wrong. For example, Luke's first chapter of Acts. The disciples asked Jesus when the kingdom was coming, and his response wasn't, "you idiots, I already told you that it was here already and inside your hearts!" He said in essence, "it will be here someday, be patient." So I seriously doubt that Luke would have agreed with the idea that the kingdom had arrived.

The same thing applies to your quoting the Revelation about the new heavens and earth. Yes, I was being imprecise when I used the phrase "end of time." But that's not the point. Luke and Matthew were not familiar with the Revelation, which was written to another generation of christians facing a different set of issues. To the gospel writers, the time of the end, when the kingdom was established, would happen in a place on earth and not in heaven.

This is what happens when you treat the separate books of the bible as one book and foist modern theology on them. You make them say things that would have been foreign to the authors. If you understand the authors on their own terms in relation to their own times, they don't support modern orthodox beliefs.

"no evidence that Matthew knew Luke’s opinion or if he did that he would agree"

Opinion?  Matthew was taught by Christ.  Luke is all over the place in Acts traveling with Paul, who understood exactly what the Kingdom was.  I think it is very easy to see they all had the same understanding of the Kingdom.  To be honest, it blows my mind you would even

Lk 17”20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the

"The comment attributed to Jesus about the kingdom was made to the “Pharisees.” Was Jesus saying that the Pharisees were christians, and thus the kingdom was inside them?"

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

1st, Christ told the Pharisees the Kingdom does not come with observation. Easy to understand.  It was  not to be physical.

2nd, Christ stated, "nor will they say".  Christ, in no way, was telling the Pharisees to whom he was talking to the Kingdom was within them.  Who was the "they"?  And the "they" would be a future entity that would not be saying (to the general person) "see here" or "see there", as in being able to see a physical presense of it.  Why, would the "they" not be saying that?  Because the Kingdom is within you. It was invisible.  Not a physical Kingdom with physical borads that could be ruled by those who are not part of God's Kingdom.  It would be out of the reach of say, a Gentile nation (Lk. 21:24).

"Furthermore, most every other reference to the kingdom comes with a future time associated with it. If you pick out one badly translated snippet and ignore the sense of every other reference to the kingdom, of course it will come out wrong. For example, Luke’s first chapter of Acts. The disciples asked Jesus when the kingdom was coming, and his response wasn’t, “you idiots, I already told you that it was here already and inside your hearts!” He said in essence, “it will be here someday, be patient.”"

Yes, it was still future to Acts.  While the Kingdom is presented as being on the seen in the Gospels, it had still not come in its fullness.  There was still the consumation.  The "already but not yet" concept has some merit to it when it is understood in light of the 40 year (AD30-70) transtion period of the Covenants.   This same transition is also seen concerning the Resurrection.  During that time period (the over lapping of the Covenants), Isreal's Resurrection was a progressive action.  This is why all throughout 1 Cor. 15 Paul uses present passives.  So when he states,

"42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power."

It is really,

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is being sown in corruption, it is being raised in incorruption. 43 It is being sown in dishonor, it is being raised in glory. It is being sown in weakness, it is being raised in power.

But, that doesn't agree with Christendom's understanding of the Resurrection, so the translators ignore the Greek, and "adjust" the text to fit what they think it has to say. But, that is beyond the scope of this exchange.

"which was written to another generation of christians facing a different set of issues"

That is incorrect.  It was not written to another generation.  It was written to the generation to whom Christ preached and the one he said would see all these things take place (Matt 24:34).

Oh, so the kindgom had come, but not in fullness! That clears it up.

But ...but, but, when Jesus said the kingdom was inside people, why didn't HE say anything about fullness? Maybe they were already full of it?

Jesus to the crowd: "The kingdom of God is inside you, well, sort of, just in part, but it will be completely full at some future point in time of which I can't be specific. It's here, but not here. The kingdom is on earth in time, but it's not really, at least not yet. Excuse me? What do you mean it doesn't make sense? It will to people in a few hundred years! Wait, wait, where is everybody going?"

Theology is the attempt to piece together contradictory facts. But thanks for playing.

Rich, it's really sweet that you are dedicated to your faith.

And I know you will take this as an insult that it is not meant to be, but when you say things like, "Opinion?  Matthew was taught by Christ.  Luke is all over the place in Acts traveling with Paul, who understood exactly what the Kingdom was..." you demonstrate that you have not even a shred of critical thinking.

There is not a chance in a million that the gospels were written by people named Matthew and Luke. There is no evidence for it. The first reference to any gospel authors is late second century. And that was by a guy Eusebius referred to as a "poopyhead," or something like that. Do you believe that there naturally are four gospels because there are four corners of the earth and four winds? If there was a Matthew who traveled with Jesus before he wrote his book, why for the love of god did he have to copy Mark? (Which is a rhetorical question.)

Cheers.

Just to clarify: I'm not at all sure that the disciples had in mind a  'coming' ('parousia') of Jesus in which he was not seen in person, in their question in Matthew 24:3. Therefore in Matthew 24:30, it is by no means assured that Jesus meant an exclusively metaphorical 'seeing' of Jesus in the judgement of Jerusalem and its temple. That is why, in Matthew 24:30-31, I think a rather larger mountain peak is looming behind the mountain peak of judgement on Jerusalem and the temple, and which then comes into view.

A 'parousia' is the visitation of a dignitary, emperor or the like, to a city, preceded by his heralds and outriders. I think that N.T. Wright and others have got it wrong when they insist that the picture in Daniel 7:13, of the son of man 'coming' (LXX 'erchomenos') into the presence of the Ancient of Days is the precise picture which Jesus is drawing upon in Matthew 24:30. In fact, in terms of Jesus's own narrative, the Daniel 7:13 picture is the ascension, which took place in Acts 1:9, and is referred to in Acts 2:33, a fulfilment of Psalm 110:1, and without getting too hung up on the precise chronology, was mirrored on earth by the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost - Acts 2:33b.

Could AD 70 have been a 'parousia' of judgement? Possibly, but it is somewhat different from the picture of the son of man entering the presence of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13. Either Jesus was entering the presence of God, or he was 'visiting' Jerusalem with judgement, but he can't have been going in two directions at once!

'Parousia' is used four times in Matthew 24; once in the disciples' question put to Jesus (verse 3); again in verses 27 and 30 (the mountain peak behind the mountain peak), and in the 'days of Noah' parable (verse 39).

I suggest that in the disciples' question in Matthew 24:3, "What will be the sign of your coming ('parousia') and of the end of the age?", there is no fully formed narrative paradigm imported from Daniel, and Daniel 7:13 in particular. "End of the age" is used in one other place in Matthew, which is the parable of the weeds, Matthew 13:24-30, and its interpetation in Matthew 13:36-43. Once again, there seems to be the possibility of dual fulfilment: as in one sense, the destruction of the temple in AD 70 was 'the end of the age', but the parable itself is suggestive of the end of the age beyond that, which can affirmed in various ways, but is affirmed especially in verse 30.

Verse 30 of the Matthew 13 parable ("Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father") echoes Daniel 12:3 ("Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the stars"), but here it is Daniel which provides the context, as the only explicit statement of the resurrection in the Old Testament, when "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." - Daniel 12:2. This picture of the resurrection is, in the light of the New Testament, our future as well as theirs, and locates the Matthew 13 parable, and its "end of the age", in our future as well as in the future of those who heard the parable in Jesus's time.

To return to the disciples' question in Matthew 24:3; the first part implies a 'parousia' in which Jesus will 'come' in triumph as conquering messiah (which was, if anything, the expectation of Israel at that time), to avenge the destruction of the temple. The second part of the question implies the end of the age of pagan oppression of Israel, which was also the expectation of Israel, whose climax might be seen in the vengeance of a (third) ransacking of the temple. Jesus does not contradict the expectation, but redefines it in his allusion to the Daniel narrative, which paints a picture of a time of distress to come soon - fulfilled in the Roman invasion which led to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 - and a more distant time.

The allusion to false messiahs during this (1st century) time of distress assumes that, by contrast, the true messiah will return in person. That reappearance is described in Matthew 24:27-31, a parousia in the classical sense of the word, when Jesus will return as the conquering Messiah and Lord; at that time, he will gather his followers from their worldwide dispersal - a dispersal that is doubly emphasised: "from the four winds" and "from one end of the heavens to the other". This is indeed a 're-telling of the prophetic story of the ending of exile', just as the prophetic story itself was far more than a history circumscribed to the intertestamental period or the 1st century. It is a mountain peak that emerges beyond the mountain peak of the AD 70 events.

Matthew 24:36 - In the 1st century, the hiddenness of the hour of judgement on Jerusalem would hardly have been an issue; the followers of Jesus knew it would come in their generation, ie within 30 or 40 years of Jesus's death. The hiddenness of the time of Jesus's parousia, his return to this earth, is a much more significant issue, and the injunction against speculation far more justified, as the wreckage of adventist movements and sects has proved.

To briefly return to the parables: the lifestyle of those who were taken by the flood in the days of Noah describes a situation very different from Israel when the Roman invasion began and the destruction of the temple took place. Israel at that time was in a ferment of insurrection and revolution. The time of the flood describes spiritual apathy and the legitimate concerns of everyday life illegitimately becoming people's entire preoccupation. ('Taken' indicates 'taken in judgement' rather than 'taken by the rapture' - which, of course, is nowhere mentioned here).

The relevance of the story of the thief breaking into the house is unlike Rome invading Israel in AD 67, central to which is that the owner of the house had not been keeping watch, and by way of warning, those expecting the parousia of Jesus are to keep watch.

The similar unexpected return of the Master is central to the story of the wicked servant.

Andrew hasn't addressed the issue of the eschatological wedding of the people of God in the parable of the ten virgins, which is our future as well as those who heard the parable.

We just disagree about the parable of the talents. I don't really think that my concession that the servant who buried his talent might represent faithless Israel is even a particurlarly likely interpretation. I don't think faithless Israel comes into the parable at all. It's just not a parable which corresponds closely to the events of AD 70.

So Andrew: why don't we just leave it there? You aren't going to agree with much (or any) of this, and in a sense it doesn't matter. I guess what I have laid out is as good an argument for this view of Matthew 24 as any. I rather hope that this interpretation is better than some. I don't call it 'dual fulfilment', but that, I suppose is what it amounts to. I don't think it is tearing apart the fabric of Jesus's argument, as I think, in the larger context, there is a broader and more distant horizon in the gospels (including Acts) than you allow, and which also informs these chapters of Matthew.

A post-script to the above: I realise I could have laid myself open to misunderstanding in one or two things I said.

In the paragraph 'returning to the disciples' question in Matthew 24:3', I did not intend to imply by 'third ransacking of the temple' any future recapitulation of 1st century events. It was a misleading statement. I had in mind the destruction under the Babylonian invasion, then the desecration under Antiochus IV (it wasn't a ransacking really), then the Roman destruction.

Also, the 'end of the age' in that paragraph, referring to the question the disciples put to Jesus, could be seen from their point of view to represent the time of the destruction of the temple; the phrase obviously has another time-frame in verses 27-31 (in the interpretation I am offering), which would be the time-frame more immediately obvious to us, from our historical stand-point. Here, the phrase picks up echoes of the Jewish idea of 'this evil age' (the age described in apocalyptic literature, and the age which Paul refers to, as in Galatians 1:4).

'This evil age' did not end with the appearance of Jesus the messiah in the 1st century, as in Jewish apocalyptic expectations it should have done. The 'evil age' continues until the return of Jesus (verses 27-31) in the future yet to come. However, 'the age to come' has been breaking in on 'this evil age' throughout the interim period (which we inhabit) and will continue to do so until that return. This makes sense of the N.T., references to 'this evil age' in Paul's letters, and the tasting 'of the powers of the age to come' in Hebrews 6:5.

In the paragraph describing Jesus's reference to the days of Noah, I was referring to the conditions which Jesus described which characterised people in those days; hence 'spiritual apathy' and legitimate concerns of everyday life illegitimately excluding any other concerns. This sort of detail contrasts with conditions which could be said to characterise Israel at the time of the Roman invasion, and therefore reinforces the use of the word 'parousia' in Matthew 24:39 as a return of Jesus yet to take place, and not as a way of describing the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, or Jesus's heavenly authority reflected in that event.