refugee02I received the following question:

I’m going through Matthew and have a quick question for you in chapter 10.  When all those flee to the mountains who are living in Judea, are the 12 disciples not part of this living outside the land?  It seems that they will be going from city to city but won’t get through all of them till Christ comes.  Any thoughts?

The twelve disciples most certainly will be among those who flee to the mountains from Judea. For one thing, Christ’s instructions regarding this are specifically to them. “‘Therefore when YOU see the ‘abomination of desolation,‘” “And pray that YOUR flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath,” “Then if anyone says to YOU,” and so forth in Matthew 24 (emphasis mine). They are to remain there in the mountains until the parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is hard to align with the idea of them going from city to city until Christ comes. But first of all we need to remember that the usual word for His coming is parousia, which doesn’t mean coming at all, but means His personal presence because of Who He is and what He does. This word for “come,” however, has nothing to do with parousia, but is a form of the Greek word erchomai, and just means “to come” (or “to come into being,” but obviously it does not mean that here.) So this does not have to have anything to do with the parousia.

The Lord is giving instructions to His disciples here in Matthew 10. The immediate instructions were for a mission He was even then sending them on. He seems to only have this mission in mind up until verse 15. However, at verse 16, it appears that He takes a broader view, and speaks of things that would happen to them in the Acts period. That is, it seems to us that this must be so, for we have no record that these things happened to them before they returned to the Lord. However, since we have no real record of what happened to them on this mission, it is difficult to say this for sure. When the disciples left the Lord, the gospel record leaves them, and we do not see them again until they returned. So it seems to us that these words must cross over into the Acts period, though we do not know for sure. However, is there any evidence that these words also cross over into the tribulation? I find nothing in the passage that would suggest it has to do with the tribulation other than this one verse. When we realize that “come” does not have to do with the parousia, we have to ask ourselves, does this verse have to do with the tribulation at all, then?

If we think that it did not mean the tribulation, then what of the Acts period? If we would look there, we would find that the disciples generally did not go out. They were the ones who stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1.) They did go out on certain occasions (like Acts 8:14-25,) but it did not work like Christ set it forth here, and they did not go throughout the cities of Israel. Yet those other believers who believed through their word and did go out did go through all the cities of Israel, and the Lord never came.

I would suggest that during the mission the Lord was giving them in Matthew 10, the disciples did face persecution, even then during the gospel period while the Lord was still with them on earth. That they would shake out the dust of their feet against certain cities is made plain in verses 14-15. I would suggest that some of these cities persecuted them, and forced them to flee. They followed the Lord’s instructions, then, and fled to another city. However, the Lord came to them to recall them from their mission before they had visited all the cities of Israel. This brought an end to their mission, and brought them back into the company of the Lord. This, I believe, is what He meant by the fact that “you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This was something that happened during the mission He was then giving them in Matthew 10. It had nothing to do either with the Acts period, or with the tribulation to come, when the instructions for the disciples will be quite different.