“so that on you will come all the righteous blood shed on the earth.” Matthew 23:35 is similar to what Jesus said in Luke 11:50, but it was spoken at a different time and with a different primary emphasis. Matthew uses the preposition hopōs (#3704 ὅπως) instead of hina at the beginning of the verse, which puts a greater emphasis on the purpose and plan of God, whereas the hina in Luke puts more emphasis on the result than the purpose. Both purpose and result are important, and the two different Gospel records and the two different words makes that point very well.
[For more information on the conjunction hina and how Luke 11:50 puts more emphasis on result than purpose, see commentary on Luke 11:50.]
This is the second time in Jesus’ ministry that he pronounced woes on the Pharisees and said there would be a generation that would experience God’s wrath for all the bloodshed on earth. The first time was at a Pharisee’s house (Luke 11:37-52), and this second time, recorded in Matthew 23:13-36, occurred in the Temple during the week before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
God has always had a plan to rid the world of evil and bring about justice on earth, and it is a harsh reality that in order for evil to show itself there must be an opportunity for it to do so, and innocent people get hurt as a result. The situation is this: in the beginning, God created wonderful, innocent people (Adam and Eve), and gave them free will so they could serve Him from their heart and establish their relationship with Him on the basis of love, not fear. Sadly, they decided not to obey God, but followed their own desires. More sadly, the progeny of Adam and Eve, the people of earth, have in large part rejected God and there has been war, slavery, abuse, and pain on earth for millennia as a result. In any society when people serve their own interests and disobey God, other people get hurt, and that has been the situation on earth since Eden.
What God needed was a plan to rescue those people who loved Him and desired to serve Him (but fell short due to sin nature), while justly ridding the earth of selfish and evil people who have no intention of serving God, but desire to serve only themselves. The way to bring that plan to pass was to send prophets and wise, righteous people—who accepted the assignment willingly—to bring the message of salvation to the world. Of course, God knew that sending those messengers into the world put them in a dangerous position, because if no one listened to them they would be persecuted and killed (which is what happened and is still happening today), but presenting the world a message of redemption from the lips and lives of righteous people was the only way to really tell who would serve God and who would reject Him. Those who rejected Him would be “condemned to Gehenna” (Matt. 23:33), where they would burn up and be annihilated. Those who accepted Him would be granted everlasting life in the Messiah’s kingdom.
Given the purposes of God and His plan to accomplish those purposes, He sent prophets into the world so that He could bring the guilt of the world on evil people. Also, however, He sent them “with the result” that His wrath could be poured out upon the earth and the earth cleansed of evil. Bill Mounce writes: “Prophets and wise men and teachers (leaders of the early church) will be sent to them, but they, like their forefathers, will persecute and kill the messengers of God. As a result, the guilt for all the innocent blood shed on earth will fall on them.”a
Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:50 are also supporting evidence for a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Christian Church. God is righteous, and it does not seem fair of God to punish one generation of people for all the sin that happened from Adam until their generation—about 6,000 years of sin—without giving them a way to escape that punishment. After all, all that unfortunate generation did was be born at the wrong time and be the generation of the Great Tribulation. But God planned for the Christian Church and the Rapture before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and so He saw, but kept the Church Age a secret (Eph. 3:1-5).
The Rapture will end the Church Age, the Administration of Grace, and at that time everyone who believed in the Lord and got born again will be taken into heaven. That will mean that no believers will be left on earth, only unbelievers. So God planned for, but kept secret, a way to make sure that before the Great Tribulation every righteous person who believed would escape that terrible time on earth.
[For more verses in which Jesus says that his return would be soon, see commentary on Matt. 16:28. For more information about the Eden-like Messianic Kingdom that will be on earth, see Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more information about why, historically, “that generation” did not experience the wrath Jesus spoke about, and why the Rapture is a righteous act of God, see commentary on Luke 11:50. For more on the Rapture, see commentary on 1 Thess. 4:17. For more information on annihilation in Gehenna, see Appendix 5: “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.” For more information on suffering for doing good, see 1 Peter 2:20, 3:14, 17; 4:16, 19.]
“will come.” The verb erchomai (#2064 ἔρχομαι) is in the subjunctive mood, but that is due to the conjunction hopōs at the beginning of the verse. Therefore, the verb must be translated from the context, which is future (cp. HCSB, NET).
“Zechariah.” The “Zechariah” that Jesus speaks of is almost certainly Zechariah the priest that was unjustly murdered in 2 Chron. 24:20-22, the last book of the Hebrew Bible. (Unlike modern Christian Bibles, the last book of the Hebrew Bible, then and today, is 2 Chronicles.) Thus, Zechariah would be one of whom the religious leaders would have said, “If we had been in the days of our fathers we would not have been partners with them in the blood of the prophets” (Matt. 23:30) but actually they would have. The religious leaders could not deny that Zechariah was unjustly murdered, because it is in the Old Testament. As Zechariah was dying from being stoned to death, he said, “May Yahweh look at it and repay it” (2 Chron. 24:22), and Yahweh will repay the people of earth for their evil in the Great Tribulation, which Jesus speaks about in Matthew 24 (cp. Mark 13 and Luke 21).