NT Sunday School Lesson 21: Matthew 24 (JST)

MsIt is sometimes helpful to have the Joseph Smith revision (JST) and the King James translation side-by-side, so I have put both versions of chapter 24 together in a PDF file for those who would like to use it.

Traditional Christianity finds this chapter ambiguous: in some ways it seems to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D.; in some ways it seems to refer to the Second Coming. It seems to me that Joseph Smith makes it more clear which passages refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and which refer to the Second Coming. You may also wish to read Doctrine and Covenants 45:60-75 as background for understanding the Joseph Smith version better.

I’ve marked references to the JST with “JST.” Other references are to the KJV.

From Matthew 21:3 to Matthew 24:2, Jesus has been in the Temple confronting the Temple hierarchy and other community leaders, a confrontation that seems designed to bring about his death. Why does the discussion of the destruction of the Temple and the end times occur now?

Why is the JST version of part of Matthew 23 and all of Matthew 24 included in the Pearl of Great Price? Why is the last part of Matthew 23 included as part of this chapter?

JST Verse 2: In the corresponding Greek text, the disciples want to show the temple buildings to Jesus. Apparently they are struck by it majesty or beauty. In the JST version, they ask Jesus to show them (tell them) about the buildings. What difference do you think that difference makes?

Jesus’ sermon to the elders of Jerusalem and the temple hierarchy appears to go from Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 22:46, followed by a sermon to the multitudes (Matthew 23:1-12) that turns into a sermon directly condemning the leadership once again (Matthew 23:13-39). How does that series of sermons bring on the disciples’ question in this verse? What are they curious about? Why do you think they have come to Jesus privately?

JST verses 3-4: Does the fact that Herod’s Temple was still under construction help explain the puzzlement of the disciples to which Jesus refers? What is Jesus prophesying?

JST verse 4: What are the disciples two questions? Does Jesus answer both of them? Do the disciples repeat themselves when asking some questions? If so, why?

What does it mean to say that “the destruction of the world” and the “destruction of the wicked” mean the same? Given that identity of meaning, how many different events can “the destruction of the world” refer to? If I die before the Second Coming, can it have meaning in my life? The phrase “sign of thy coming” can also be translated “miracle of your appearance” and “end of the world” can be translated as “fulfillment of the age or generation.” Do either of these help you understand the disciples’ questions with more depth?

JST verses 5-55: This is Jesus’ last sermon to the disciples before the crucifixion. When do they seem to have understood it, before his death or afterward? If more afterward than before, why was it important for him to tell him these things before the crucifixion rather than during the forty day ministry between his resurrection and his ascension?

In JST verses 6-7, what is Jesus’ first concern?

The JST version moves the verses that correspond to the traditional translation of Matthew 24:6-8. (Verse 6 is found in JST verse 23, verse 7 is found in JST verse 29, and verse 8 is found in JST verse 19.) Why might that be so?

How are JST verse 7 and JST verse 8 parallel? How are they different? When will the events of JST verse 7 occur? the events of JST verse 8?

Does JST verse 9 prophesy the same thing as JST verse 6? Does JST verse 10 speak of the same events as JST verses 7 and 8 or of different events? Are JST verses 9-10 perhaps a synopsis of verses JST 5-8?

JST verse 11: What is Jesus’ answer to the problems he has described in verses JST 5-10? How does the JST help us understand what it means to “endure to the end”?

JST verse 12: Why do you think that the JST moves the equivalent of verse 14 in the King James version to JST verse 31?

Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11 refer to the abomination of desolation. Up to this point in time, those living in Judea had understood Daniel’s prophecy to refer to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus IV (168 B.C.), when he set up an image of Zeus in the Temple and is said to have sacrificed a pig on the Temple altar. To what is Jesus referring in this verse? Was the previous understanding wrong? What does it mean to “stand in the holy place”? Where is that place literally? What might it signify symbolically? Why does Matthew add the warning “Whoso readeth let him understand”? That suggests a hidden meaning in what Jesus has just said. What is that meaning?

JST verses 13-17: To whom is this advice directed, to the disciples or to the saints in general?

How do you reconcile the advice to flee (JST verses 13-17) with the advice to “stand in the holy place”?

If you were on the roof of a Palestinian house in Jesus’ day, why wouldn’t you be able to take things from the house with you? If you were in a field, stripped down to a loin cloth if a man or a light shift if a woman, to where might you be tempted to go to get your clothing?

Why does Jesus tell them to pray that their flight not be on the Sabbath? What does that warning tell us about Jesus’ attitude toward the rabbinic interpretations of the Law? (Compare Matthew 23:2-3.) How would you explain that attitude, given his withering criticism of the Pharisees and scribes (rabbis) and their belief that he frequently violated the Sabbath?

JST verses 18-20: In JST verse 18 is Jesus referring to Israel as the disciples might have understood it or Israel as we understand it? What covenant is he referring to when he says that the days of tribulation will be shortened “according to the covenant”?

JST verses 21-22: Why does Jesus repeat in lengthier form what he has already told the disciples (in JST verses 5-6, 9)?

Are the false Christs and prophets in the church or exterior to it? How do you justify your answer?

What does it mean to be elect? The Greek word that Matthew uses can also be translated “chosen.” Who are the elect or chosen? For what are they chosen? What does it mean to be chosen “according to the covenant”? What covenant do you think Jesus has in mind here? How would the disciples, first-century Jews, have understood the covenant? Is that the same covenant that we have in mind when we refer to “the covenant”?

JST verse 23-24: If I were dividing the verses, I would probably have made JST verse 24, “Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake,” as the last part of verse 23. The verse divisions reflect the thinking of an editor rather than the understanding of the Prophet. Would you divide these verses as I would? as the editor did? in some other way? How does each way of dividing them change the meaning slightly?

When did Jesus tell them these things before (JST verse 24)? In this sermon or another? What is he telling them that he has told them before?

What would Jesus’ warning about wars and rumors of wars have meant to his disciples? What does it mean to us?

JST verses 25-27: Against what is Jesus warning them when he tells them not to look for him in the desert or in “secret chambers” (i.e., secret meetings or meetings in hidden rooms). What does JST verse 26 tell us his Coming will be like? The word “eagle” in JST verse 27 would be better translated “vulture” or “carrion bird.” What is the point of the metaphor in that verse?

JST verses 28-29: These verses repeat the warning of JST verse 23. How is the intervening material (JST verses 24-27) related to the theme of impending war?

JST verses 30-36: Jesus repeats the message of JST verses 10-11. Why? Why is the waning of love, its waxing cold, such a terrible thing? Why is the waning of love the consequence of iniquity?

Does JST verse 33 tell us that there will be a second abomination of desolation or is it referring to the same one referred to in JST verse 12? Given the meaning of that phrase when used to speak of what happened in 168 B.C. and then to speak of the events of 70 A.D., what might it refer to in the last days?

To what does “this generation” (i.e., “this time period”) refer in JST verse 35? In what sense will earth pass away? heaven?

Why would all of the tribes of the earth mourn at the Coming of Christ? Is it relevant that Jesus says tribes will mourn rather than all the people of the earth?

JST verse 39: What does it mean to treasure up the words of Christ? How does doing so protect us from being deceived? Why is protection from deception so important?

JST verses 41-43: What is the point of the parable of the fig tree? What does it mean to say that Christ is “near, even at the door”? In what ways can he be near? Why is verse 43 important to us? (It is repeated in D&C 39:21 and 49:7.) In how many ways is it important? Is Alma 5:29 relevant to JST verse 43 or vice versa?

JST verses 44-48: Do these repeat the same theme as verses JST 13-17 or a different theme? How are they the same? different? Does Jesus speak of signs in these verses (e.g., JST verse 44)? In JST verses 44-45? What do these verses suggest about what it means to be watchful?

Verses 49-58: We see the theme of diligent watching in this parable. How would a person know if a thief had dug through (“broken up” in the King James translation”) the mud-brick wall of his house at night? What is the point of JST verse 49 and JST verse 51? What does that teaching have to do with us?

What does the Lord find the servant doing when he returns (JST verse 53)? What is the blessing that the Lord gives the diligent servant (JST verse 54?

To whom is the evil servant (JST verses 55-55) comparable? Jesus uses an extremely disagreeable metaphor to describe the punishment given the evil servant (JST verse 55): dismemberment. How is that metaphor apt?

The Mosaic Law speaks of being “cut off from among the people” (JST verse 56) in many places (e.g., Exodus 30:33 and 31:14, as well as Leviticus 18:29). Is that also a version of this disagreeable metaphor, though one that, perhaps, we’ve gotten so used to that we no longer recognize its original meaning? Or does it mean differently? From what people will the wicked be cut off? How will they be cut off? In what variety of ways do we see or will we see this happen?

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