Matt. 12:39-42, “But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah… The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”
- Have we stopped to consider all that this passage is saying? We all see the inference of Jesus speaking of His death and resurrection and how he would be in the heart of the earth for three full days/nights, but have we asked ourselves what would the Old Covenant Hebrew people who knew their own history be hearing? This is very important, because after all, it is to them He is speaking.
For further light on this, let’s Read the Parallel in Luke 11:29-32, “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn “them,” for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”
- Do we see the comparison Jesus makes in vs. 30 regarding the sign? What is a sign? Does not a sign tell us something? If we see a stop sign it indicates: obey and be safe, but disobey and potential danger, as well as breaking the law. What sign was Jonah to the Ninevites…what message did he have? Was it not a message of imminent judgment, and “repent or perish?”
**Let’s look back at Jonah, (read) Jon. 3:1-4, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’”
** Turn back to Luke 11 vs. 30 – Jesus is saying the exact same thing to the OC Hebrew audience He is speaking to: just as Jonah was a sign/warning of “repent or perish,” so, I too, say to you here before me, “…the Son of Man will be (a sign) to this generation.”
- Then look how clear His message becomes in vs. 32, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented…”
- Those very people who repented will rise up with the believers of this 1st century time at the judgment and condemn these unbelieving OC Hebrews. We must remember John the Baptizer’s words, and the repeated imminence warnings throughout we have been seeing – it was “about to” happen (Greek: Mello. An event right on the doorstep to happen within a soon time from the present). And their utter destruction and judgment in AD 70 by the Romans was truly within that generation as promised.
- In vs. 31 the Lord doubly impresses this pending judgment upon them, by stating how the Queen of the South will also, “…rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn ‘them.’”
** Jesus Christ was their (OC Israel’s) sign to “repent or perish” and they rejected Him and sealed the same fate that the Ninevites would have had upon themselves if they had not repented.
- Nineveh was given 40 days to repent or be destroyed – they did repent and were saved.
- Is it a mere coincidence that it was 40 years from the resurrection of Christ in AD 30 until AD 70 when God used the Roman armies to carry out judgment, destroy, and completely shatter the power of OC Israel, to never exist since?
- In Matt. 23:31-38 Jesus promised judgment to the OC Israel audience He was speaking to, standing right in front of Him, and He said it would all be “within that generation.” Yet, even after OC Israel committed the most heinous crime history has ever known – crucifying their Messiah – the Son of God!, they were still provided 40 years of proclamation and a call to repentance (an entire generation – His 1st century generation). This was their “sign of Jonah,” repent or perish – and most of them did not (only those few who did repent and believe were saved – only a remnant).
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 6 Old Covenant Hebrews in the New Testament Times”]