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Are Matthew 24 and Luke 21 the Same Teachings? Part 2

by Dave Bussard

In last column, we looked at the scriptural evidence for the fact that, while both Matthew 24 and Luke 21 contain strong similarities, the bulk of these two sections of scripture are different teachings given at separate times. Both passages teach of the future return of Christ, but I believe the “tribulation” described in Matthew 24:9-22 is the period of time where the abomination of desolation will stand in the holy place at the midpoint of the yet-to-happen 70th Week of Daniel. The “persecution” described in Luke 21:12-24 speaks of the historical attack on Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.

In this column, I’ll deal with some of the objections to this view.

The Language Issue and Thirteen Distinctions

“But the language is so similar in Matthew and Luke that I refuse to believe that they are speaking about different events” is a statement I’ve heard more than once when this issue arises. Certainly, there are many similarities between the two accounts, but what if, by chance, the Matthew and Luke teachings represent two separate, but similar events? Why wouldn’t there be similarities, considering the fact that the destruction of the temple in 70 AD is very comparable to what will take place in Jerusalem in the future?

If a horrible event is about to take place, whether it’s 70 AD or 3030 AD, wouldn’t you be told to flee the city? Yes. Wouldn’t it be difficult for women and children no matter the year? Of course. Just because there are some similar words and phrases, however, we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the events in Matthew and Luke must be identical. In fact, it is when we look at the similarities under a magnifying glass that the differences shine through, and at that time, it becomes quite apparent that there are actually more differences between these two accounts than there are similarities.

While many of the following distinctions may not demand that Jesus delivered a teaching other than the one He gave on the Mount of Olives, the scale is heavily tipped when all distinctions are weighed collectively. Don’t just read the Bible. Put on your spectacles and investigate it with a fine tooth comb.

1. Matthew 24:3 records the disciples asking Jesus for the “sign of His coming, and of the end of the age.” But in Luke 21:7, notice that the disciples only ask to know when “will these things happen?” They also want to know what signs will appear before “these things” take place. The text does not show them asking for signs of His coming and the end of the age, as it does in Matthew 24. Instead, they’re shown seeking to know strictly when all the stones of the temple will be torn down, in accordance with Jesus’ prediction. This would make perfect sense if they were still in the same location they were in when Jesus told them about the all of the stones being thrown down in the first place. This is certainly not proof because Mark also leaves this question out, but it is interesting.

2. Concerning the tribulation, Matthew 24:9 says, “You will be hated by all nations.” Verse 14 mentions “the whole world” and “all the nations,” which would make sense if Jesus was speaking of a worldwide, end-times event. Worldwide language was used throughout the entire passage of Matthew 24. But concerning the persecution in Luke 21:17, the text only shows Him to say, “You will be hated by all,” not, “all nations.” Also, in Luke, there’s nothing said about the persecution relating to “the whole world,” as it does in Matthew. If Jesus were speaking of a localized attack on Jerusalem, it would be logical to omit mentioning that it affected “the whole world” and “all nations,” which is exactly what He did.

It’s very interesting that, in Luke, Jesus never uses worldwide language, that is, until He begins speaking of what takes place after the signs in the sun, moon, and stars that precede His coming. He then used universal language twice.

“…men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the whole world” (Luke 21:26).

“…for it (the day of Christ’s coming) will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth” (Luke 21:35).

Why would that be?

3. Speaking of the period of tribulation in Matt. 24:10, Jesus informs His disciples that, “many will fall away.” This certainly coincides with Paul’s teaching in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 concerning the “apostasy” associated with “the lawless one” in the end times. Why isn’t the falling away mentioned in Luke 21? Is it because He’s teaching about the soon to take place temple’s destruction and therefore intentionally avoiding the end-times context?

4. “Because lawlessness is increased... (Matthew 24:12).” It is scripturally clear that wickedness will continue to increase until the prophesied events of Armageddon are fulfilled. Once again, Matthew records information pertaining to end-times events, while Luke omits any mentioning of this increasing lawlessness. This is certainly no iron-clad argument, but it is an interesting observation to add to the pile of circumstantial evidence.

5. “Most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved..." (Matt. 24:12-13 ).

Because verse 13 is speaking about enduring in Christ in order to be saved, it should be concluded that the previous verse is speaking of people’s love for Christ growing cold: “Most people’s love [for Christ] will grow cold. But the one who endures [in Christ] to the end, he will be saved.”

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