Killing to Prevent the Inevitable
Matthew 23:33-38: A Preterist Commentary: Summary and Highlights
In Matthew 23:33-38, Jesus predicts that Jerusalem would soon kill Jesus’ followers and the city would be punished and the Temple destroyed. Jesus’ was right. The people of Jerusalem did ultimately kill many of the leaders of the early Christian church after Jesus’ death. And shortly thereafter the Roman army besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and destroyed the city and its temple. See the following Preterist commentary on Matthew 23:33-34 for details.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
Killing to Prevent the Inevitable
Matthew 23:33-38: A Preterist Commentary Intro: What was the Motive for Jesus’ Execution according to the Bible?
Throughout his ministry, Jesus publicly denounced the hypocrisy of the teachers of the Law and Pharisees. In the presence of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, Jesus declared the following in Matthew 21:43: “Therefore I say to you [the teachers of the Law and Pharisees], the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” The teachers of the Law and Pharisees understood the kingdom of God to be the Messianic kingdom. Feeling threatened by Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:43 and especially Luke 19:27, the chief priests and Pharisees feared that they would lose their positions of authority and perhaps even their lives if Jesus became the king of the Israel. Therefore, after Jesus said these words they plotted to have him killed in order to prevent his coronation as the Jewish Messiah as indicated in Matthew 21:43-46:
‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.’ When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
Here one can see the true motive for Jesus’ execution. The chief priests and Pharisees feared what would happen to them if Jesus became king of the Jews. From that point on they searched for an excuse to have Jesus arrested or killed. The first strategy they used to have Jesus arrested or executed was to turn his ambition to be the Jewish Messiah against him.
Jesus’ enemies understood that Israel was a Roman province. That being the case, declaring any man the sovereign king of Israel would be an act of treason and an overt declaration of war against Rome. Therefore, in John 11 these men called a meeting of the Sanhedrin where they justified their intentions to kill Jesus under the guise of avoiding war: “If we let him [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation (John 11:48).”
This plot to have Jesus arrested or killed for being the Messiah backfired because throughout his ministry and while in the presence of Pilate Jesus declared that his kingdom was not on this world: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36) If Jesus believed himself to be the king of a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly kingdom, then Jesus would, therefore, pose no direct threat to Pilate and his reign in Israel nor would Jesus be a direct threat to Roman rule in the region.
Desperate to stop the spread of Jesus’ popularity among the common people, the chief priests and Pharisees arrested Jesus and brought him before them. At that time they found another motive to have Jesus executed: blasphemy. After telling the high priest that he would see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven, the high priest shouted, “He has blasphemed!” (Matthew 26:65) In response, the chief priests declared, “He deserves death!” (Matthew 26:66)
Before settling on this motive for arrest and execution, these men intent on saving their own skin carefully followed Jesus’ ministry searching for a charge to bring against him so that they might find grounds to have him killed. Aware of their intentions, Jesus accuses these men of being the sons of those who murdered the prophets in Matthew 23:29-32. In the following verses, Jesus continues to voice his anger:
33“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the blood that has been shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. 37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 23:33-38: After Jesus’ Death, Jerusalem killed the Saints, and the City was destroyed in that Generation as Punishment.
After successfully having Jesus killed, the Jewish authorities immediately raised their hand against the Christian church in fulfillment of v 34. This mass persecution recorded in Acts 8:1 and Acts 26:10 is also mentioned by the church historian Eusebius:
First they [the Jews] stoned Stephen to death; then James the son of Zebedee and the brother of John was beheaded; and finally James, the first after our Saviour’s Ascension to be raised to the bishop’s throne there, lost his life in the way described, while the remaining apostles, in constant danger from murderous plots, were driven out of Judaea.
In v. 34 Jesus predicts that the Jews would pursue the Christian saints from town to town. The fulfillment of v. 34 is mentioned in Acts 9:1-2 in which Saul is said to have gone to the high priest to ask for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus so that if he found any Christians there he might bring them back as prisoners to Jerusalem. This persecution of the saints by their fellow Jews extended well beyond Damascus and is alluded to often in Acts. It is also confirmed by Suetonius who says that “the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Jesus Christ][.]”[2a] Because the persecution of the early church began and was ultimately instigated in Jerusalem, Jesus says that all the blood of the righteous saints would fall on Jerusalem in v. 35. In other words, the blame for the unjust deaths of the saints regardless of where they were killed would ultimately fall on Jerusalem.
Despite the efforts of the chief priests and Pharisees to avoid a war with Rome by killing Jesus, the war with Rome came anyway. In A.D. 66 the Jewish zealots successfully dragged Israel into war. The house left desolate in v. 38 is the temple in Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, less than forty years after Jesus spoke these words. Jesus was right when he said, “I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.”
Fulfilled! Matthew 24:34 Commentary: Another Connection between the Exodus and the End of the Age . . .
Numbers 32:13 implies that a generation is about forty years: “The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.” Interestingly, there was a generation or forty year interval from the time Jesus began his ministry, around Tishri of A.D. 29, to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple in A.D. 70. See Daniel 9:24-27 Commentary: Daniel 9 Miraculously Fulfilled! During this generation or forty year interval, Jesus’ promise of judgment came to pass and the wicked people of Israel were purged from the land by death and exile as a consequence of the war with Rome. At the time of the exodus, God killed off the wicked generation of Israelites that he had taken out of Egypt over a forty year timeframe thereby preventing them from entering Israel, the Promised Land. Similarly during the time of the end, God also killed off and exiled that wicked generation that had killed the Messiah and many of his people over the course of a generation or forty years. Neither generation was allowed to enter or stay in Israel, the Promised Land.
According to Hebrews 3-4, Israel, the Promised Land, is itself a symbol or earthly reflection of heaven. This fact also says something about the fate of that wicked generation in the afterlife. In Matthew 24, Jesus reveals more about the war expected to occur within that generation.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERISTstruggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
 Matthew 23:36. Don Preston notes the fact that the punishment for the murders of the saints of old was to fall upon that generation ultimately points to the judgment at the time of the resurrection. (Don K. Preston, We Shall Meet Him in The Air: The Wedding of the King of Kings!, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2010), 197.)
 There were almost forty-one years from the time in which Jesus began his ministry until the fall of Jerusalem and the resurrection of the dead at the last trumpet.
Matthew 23:33-38: A Preterist Commentary: Conclusion
As explained in Matthew 23:33-38: A Preterist Commentary, Jesus was correct in his prediction. The people of Jerusalem did ultimately kill many of the leaders of the early Christian church, and shortly thereafter the Roman army besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and destroyed the city and its temple.