In a significant manner, Gary Demar’s book Last Days Madness has brought sanity to the historical nature of predicted eschatology. The famous atheist Bertrand Russell once wrote: “I am concerned with Christ as he appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narratives as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, He certainly thought that His Second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time.” Russell and many others have felt the immensity of Jesus’ comments in the Olivet Discourse. Due to their presuppositions, this led to the ardent denial of the truthfulness and reliability of Christ’s words.
There is a sense in which all of eschatology has implications. That is, it affects our lives in a variety of ways. Dr. Gary North writes about the eschatology of economics. Professor George Grant has dealt marvelously with the eschatology of education. So at the beginning we acknowledge that one’s understanding of the future affects one’s understanding of the now. Unfortunately, most Christians have never developed or thought through the implications of their own eschatology due to 1) A simplistic knowledge of Scripture, 2) An anti-holistic world view (meaning a fragmented view of life), and 3) Lack of consistency in one’s own spiritual life. All of us are indeed guilty of these flaws; nevertheless we are called to put on a new set of glasses by which we can view the world.
The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) offers us a host of signs connected to the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds. In verses 4-34 Jesus elaborates on the questions of his disciples. He is compassionate towards them and heavily feels the profundity of their inquiry. Jesus’ language as in many other places is clear and direct. He uses imagery that is common to his Jewish audience and carefully articulates the coming events or the signs of the times. Gary Demar boldly accuses those who would interpret these passages as futuristic. As a brilliant researcher and historian, he traces the pitiful displays of exegetical incompetence in literally hundreds of prophetic writers throughout the centuries. As he argues, much of these mistakes arise from a “purposeful” or “flawed” attempt to read the Bible in light of what Professor Greg Bahnsen has called “newspaper exegesis.” In a subtle fashion, however, this writer believes that Demar has also dismantled Hoekema and others’ attempt to futurize the impending judgment on Jerusalem. The most common mistake in Hoekema’s treatment of the Olivet Discourse is his refusal to see the specific fulfillment of divine wrath upon Jerusalem (though Hoekema does acknowledge some elements of fulfillment in AD 70). In pages 116 and 117 in the Bible and the Future he writes, “this generation cannot be restricted to the Jews living at the time Jesus is saying these words.” This, he argues, from Matthew 23:35-36 implying that since the “blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah” indicate past and present sins, hence “this generation” cannot be restricted to the first century Jews. Notice however, that Jesus has been building a cumulative case against the Jews. In other words, He is bringing together the disobedience of their fathers and their present denial of the Messiah. This reaches a powerful and climactic moment when in the end of Matthew 23 he declares “your house has been left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:37). Jesus gives a historical argument that leaves the Jews of his day speechless and utterly guilty. Now divine wrath must be manifested and the chosen generation to receive his full wrath is “this generation” (Mat.23: 36). The vindication of God is as certain as the permanence of the temple has been for Jews for centuries. Their house is left desolate; it is naked and hopeless. This is the context in which Jesus answers the questions of his disciples. In the Olivet Discourse, Bertrand Russell’s skepticism is refuted and Jesus’ future vindication confirmed.