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Matthew 24 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Matthew 24 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

(24:3, 7) "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? ... Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes."
The end of the world will be signaled by wars, famines, disease, and earthquakes.

2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

(24:13) "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
What must you do to be saved?
BOM: 1 Nephi 22:31; 2 Nephi 31:15, 31:16; Alma 32:13, 15; 3 Nephi 15:9, 27:6; Mormon 9:29
(24:14) "Then shall the end come"
Jesus says the gospel will be preached to all nations "and then shall the end come." But in Matthew 10:23, he said the end would come before the gospel was preached to all the cities of Israel.
In any case, this is a false prophecy since the gospel has been preached throughout the world (as Paul says in Romans 10:18) yet the world hasn't ended.
When will the world end?
(24:15) "Whoso readeth, let him understand"
If you see the abomination of desolation in the holy place, try to understand. God is trying to say something.
(24:16) "Let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains."
Why? Can't God find and kill them there, too?
(24:19) "Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days."
Why? Does God especially hate pregnant and nursing women?
BOM: Helaman 15:2
The author of the SAB interprets this text as if it were a command to do something: to endure to the end. As a reward you would be saved. But the opposite is true: endurance is a fruit of faith, it follows faith and is a sign of it. It is not because of their endurance that Christians will be saved, but because of Christ.

14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

See chapter 10:23. But even in this place it is most likely that Jesus is actually talking about the end of Jerusalem, the destruction of it. Not about the end of the world. As John Gill comments:

not the end of the world, as the Ethiopic version reads it, and others understand it; but the end of the Jewish state, the end of the city and temple: so that the universal preaching of the Gospel all over the world, was the last criterion and sign, of the destruction of Jerusalem; and the account of that itself next follows, with the dismal circumstances which attended it.

This explanation will make the next verses much clearer.

15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

Let me first rephrase this and the next verse: “Therefore, when you shall see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, of which Daniel the prophet has spoken, flee into the mountains if you live in Judea at that time.” The text which the readers have to understand is found in Dan. 9:27.
The holy place is Judea and specifically the temple and the abomination of desolation was the Roman army as is explained in Luke 21:20.
Jesus is prophesying here the coming destruction of Jerusalem and telling people when to flee the destruction of Jerusalem.

16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

John Gill tells us that Christians indeed noticed the sign and fled:

accordingly it is observed, that many did flee about this time; and it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of (Ed: see chapter 19) with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden, without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made; and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few mouths after, there was not a Christian in the city, but they had fled...

17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

Being with child is a blessed condition so it certainly is not condemned here. But the woe is that due to this condition they would not be able to flee speedily because of the coming destruction. Jesus expresses here pity. And his warning and prophesy is intended to help them so they can flee in time and not have to endure these things.

20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

"False Christs, false prophets, great signs and wonders"
Jesus says there will be "false Christs" that will "show great signs and wonders." Well, Jesus himself, according to Acts 2:22, fits this description.
If there are false Christs it must mean there is a true one as well.

25 Behold, I have told you before.

26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

"The moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven."
Apparently, Jesus believed that the moon produces its own light, and that the stars are lights held in place by a firmament only a few miles above our heads.
And I beheld when the moon became as blood
Let me quote Sir Isaac Newton on texts like this:

"For the understanding of the prophesies," says Sir Isaac Newton truly, "we are, in the first place, to acquaint ourselves with the figurative language of the prophets; which is taken from the analogy between the world natural, and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politic."

Quite right. In this case the moon signifies the ceremonial law, such as the sacrifices in the temple, which would stop. The stars are the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees who setup their own interpretations and law above the scripture. The powers of heaven are the Jewish religious and political bodies who governed Judea.

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

"They shall see the Son of Man."
Will Jesus' second coming be visible to all?
These verses, as argued before and as will be argued hereafter, are not about the second coming of Christ, but if the author of the SAB wants to read it that way, John 14:19 is not a contradiction as that particular verse does not describe the second coming at all.

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

(24:32-34) "Learn a parable of the fig tree"
Based on these versese, Hal Linsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth predicted that the end of the world would occur before 1988. The fig tree represents Israel, Israel came back to life in 1948, and Jesus said the end would come within one generation (40 years).
But Jesus does not describe the second coming in these verses, but he foretells the destruction of Jerusalem within the generation of his hearers.

33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

"This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
Jesus is a false prophet, since he predicts that the end of the world will come within the lifetimes of his disciples. [more]
With the earth last forever?
What the Bible says about the end of the world
Jesus does not predict his the end of the world here, but the destruction of Jerusalem, which came within the generation of his hearers, as he had foretold.

35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

(24:36) "Not the angels of heaven, but my Father only"
The best and earliest Greek manuscripts say, "not the angels of heaven, neither the son, but the Father only." But apparently it bothered the scribes that there were some things Jesus didn't know, so they fixed it by omitting the phrase, "neither the son."
(Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (2005), p.95)
(24:37) "As the days of Noe were"
Jesus believed that Noah's flood actually happened and he had no problem with drowning everyone on earth. It'll be just like that when he returns.
AIG: The Gospel -- Evidence for Creaion
According to the author of the SAB, the scribes had to cover up something by removing a few words from this text. They didn't do a good enough job it seems because Mark 13:32 still has “neither the son.” As we all know, the NT was huge open source project where the whole of antiquity was busy trying to scrap and invent new sentences so it would be in line with protestant thinking 1500 years later.
But I digress. It is actually far more likely that copyists added the section of Mark 13:32 to these section in a few manuscripts. Not that these manuscripts weren't known to translators. I assume for example that the author of the SAB refers here to the Codex Bezae. How on earth he can call these reliable is something I leave to the reader to figure out, because frankly I couldn't.
On The Flood, the evidence is overwhelming and plain to see for any geologist and paleontologist. Thousands of stories from all over the world, from America to the Pacific, tell about a global flood. Why would the author of the SAB not expect Jesus to find the Bible reliable? What is really unexpected are so called Christians who don't find the Bible reliable and who, unlike Jesus, do not believe in Noah's flood.
The author of the SBA also claims that Jesus “had no problem with drowning everyone on earth.” Why would Jesus prophesy about it here in order to warn the people so that they could flee in time?

37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant?"
For JWs, this is the most important verse in the bible. It is the basis of their central dogma, that the governing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses is the "faithful and wise servant," or as the NWT puts it "the faithful and discrete slave." As such, the governing body must be obeyed in all matters and all of their teachings must be accepted. Those who do so will survive Armageddon; those who do not, will not.
I don't think the Bible distinguishes between important and less important verses. There are of course clearer and less clear passages. But the meaning of this passage is clear, and it has nothing to do with obeying an earthly master.
Servants in this verse are those that are apostles and ministers of the word. The translation “servant” is appropriate, given that Luke 12:42 has the word “steward”. That ministers of the gospel is meant and not just Christians is clear from the phrase “has made rulers”. The household is the church of God. The lord of this household is Christ.
The giving of meat is preaching the word of God. For more, see John Gill's explanation.
Faithful means preaching the whole word of God, not concealing anything or rejecting anything. Wise means having become a fool for Christ's sake in order to attain wisdom, 1 Cor. 4:10.
It is clear that this verse goes against the whole teaching of the JWs. They will have nothing to do with Christ being the Lord of His Church. And using a Bible verse to turn your members into slaves so they will serve you is abominable.

46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

The "evil servant" ("evil slave" in NWT) is any of the 144,000 anointed Jehovah's Witnesses that are (or were) going to heaven, but have since left the organization. They are collectively called the evil slave class.
But it is clear (verse 49) that evil is associated with a person doing evil. Not with leaving an organisation.

49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"And shall cut him asunder"
God will come when people least expect him. Then he'll "cut [them] asunder." And "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
What the Bible says about torture
The Bible's guide to torture
God punishes those that assault others, that smite their fellow servants (verse 49). Does the author of the SAB believe that violence and assault should not be punished? At least that is what the particular icons for this verse seem to indicate.